Don’t be late to #AHCJ18: Program kicks off with D.C. pros revealing how they get their stories

One journalist’s deep-dive reporting paid off when she made it to an airport just in time to witness U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price leaving a gold-colored private jet. The ensuing stories revealed Price’s penchant for luxury travel at taxpayer expense and led to his resignation.

A pair of print and television journalists teamed up to uncover how Congressional deal-making torpedoed an opioid crackdown by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. Because of their coverage, Rep. Tom Marino, who had championed the deal in Congress, withdrew his name as President Trump’s nominee for U.S. drug czar.

They are among five reporters – experts in prying news out of federal health agencies – who will share their stories and offer advice at Health Journalism 2018, the annual conference of the Association of Health Care Journalists in Phoenix.

The reporters will headline the annual workshop organized by AHCJ’s Right to Know Committee, this year titled: “Unearthing the facts in today’s Washington.”

A heads up: Book an early flight if you want to hear their stories. The two-hour workshop starts first thing on the conference’s first day: 9 a.m. Thursday, April 12.

A full hour of questions and answers will follow the presentations.

Speakers will tell how they got their scoops but they also will talk about their day-by-day work trying to get information from federal agencies for routine stories. They will provide suggestions, not only to inside-the-Beltway journalists, but also to those from regional and local media outlets who need to ferret out Washington stories from afar.

The panelists:

Bernstein and Hornblower were key members of a team that spent six months probing how drug firms and members of Congress reined in the DEA’s anti-opioid enforcement efforts. Their stories ran in 2017 in the Washington Post and on 60 Minutes. They also revealed how the DEA’s impending criminal case against the nation’s largest drug company failed due to a lenient deal struck between the company and government attorneys.

Panelist Rachana Pradhan will recount how she and Politico colleague Dan Diamond chased a tip about Secretary Price’s use of private jets. They built a database to follow his travels, pieced together his itinerary and documented at least two dozen private plane trips.

Virgil Dickson made news when he stood up to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The agency threatened to bar him from its press calls after he refused to delete three sentences from one of his published Modern Healthcare stories. Then, during a CMS call, his phone went mute. Amid publicity, CMS invited him back. Dickson can talk about what it’s like to wrest daily breaking news from federal health agencies.

Kimberly Leonard covers Congress, the White House, and the Department of Health and Human Services for the Washington Examiner. She is also co-chair of AHCJ’s Washington, D.C., chapter and a member of the association’s Right to Know Committee. In those roles she has met with public affairs officials in both the Trump and Obama administrations to promote transparency and openness. She can describe what has changed, what has remained the same, and the challenges that journalists face going forward.

For more information, contact me at or Right to Know Committee chair Felice J. Freyer at

Note: Pre-registration closes at noon CT on March 12. 

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