About AHCJ: General News

New guidelines strengthen AHCJ's journalism commitment Date: 02/07/08

By Mike Stobbe

Truth in advertising is a motto we adhere to at the Association of Health Care Journalists, right down to the organization's name. That's the reason behind a recent update to our membership guidelines.

As AHCJ has grown in recent years, we've attracted interest from talented individuals from a variety of media organizations. It's been wonderful and allowed us last year to break our longtime goal of having 1,000 members.

Increasingly, however, we've also been receiving applications from professionals who work in public relations, health education and other fields. In many cases, applicants have worn several hats - they've been doing freelance journalism work, but also making most of their income from publicity gigs or even jobs in media relations or corporate communications.

From our founding, we have been an association of health care JOURNALISTS, and for that reason the board recently updated our membership guidelines to clarify membership eligibility.

Now, when interested individuals read our membership application form, they will find some additional guidance. To join, potential members must be able to agree to - and check off - two statements concerning their work:

"Member applicants MUST agree that both of these statements apply and check them off:

❏ I derive at least 50 percent of my income from independent journalism. Independent means for organizations that are primarily in the business of reporting news, not government agencies or companies that sell products or services in the health care field or organizations that lobby on their behalf.

❏ I do NOT make story pitches to journalists, or write press releases or marketing materials, or act as a spokesman or media liaison for any government health agency, any health insurance company, or any provider of health-care or medical services or products."

Current members who have questions about whether they still qualify for membership should e-mail us at info@healthjournalism.org. AHCJ's membership committee will continue to review current memberships to make sure members remain eligible.

Mike Stobbe is a reporter for The Associated Press and chair of AHCJ's membership committee.