Author Archives: Carolyn Crist

Carolyn Crist

About Carolyn Crist

Carolyn Crist (@cristcarolyn) helps AHCJ’s freelance members find the resources, tips and contacts they need to create and run a successful business. A freelance journalist and author, Crist covers health, medicine and science stories for national news outlets such as Reuters, Runner’s World and Parade. She also writes for trade and custom publications. Contact her at carolyn@healthjournalism.org.

Freelancers, this is the time to diversify our sources

Three women sitting together and discussing work

Photo: Fadi Dahabreh on Scopio

After a wave of online conversations unveiled issues with inclusion at some of the nation’s top publications and media companies, freelancers can step up now by thinking more critically about the sources they interview for their stories. Several groups have created databases in recent years to encourage reporters to extend their limited perspectives and typical networks, and now seems like a good time for a reminder and a nudge.

“Inclusive reporting” beefs up your stories with a variety of viewpoints that come from a different race, gender, sexual orientation, lifestyle or culture than your own. Plus, a diversity of sources adds credibility, accuracy and context to your work. Continue reading

Freelancers, be wary of assignment scams by email

Photo: Trending Topics 2019 via Flickr

In recent weeks, many freelance writers have received the same email — a consultant says she needs help with a writing project for an upcoming workshop. She wants to create an article on a specific health topic that will be given to the workshop attendees as a handbook. She’s already drafted an outline, and she wants to know if you can help.

I received this email, as have several AHCJ members, and a few of us responded to this email. The request looks both legitimate but also suspicious based on the phrasing and vague details. If you respond, the consultant often replies with additional information, including the word count, a $1/word rate, and a deadline. Continue reading

Good time to keep careful track of freelance payments

Keep track of freelance payments right nowFor some of AHCJ’s freelancers, payment issues were already a hassle before 2020. Now they may be even more difficult, depending on the publication or editor. In several writer groups online, fellow freelancers have cheered for a surge in work but also bemoaned payment hiccups. Individual situations vary, of course, but a few common threads have appeared.

To start, freelancers should know that nonpayment is unacceptable. If work has been completed, it’s illegal to withhold payment. The Freelancers Union and The Freelancer have written about this and offer options, and the Freelance Isn’t Free Act may be useful for those in New York City. Continue reading

AHCJ beat-reporting award winner and freelancer targets military health care

Photo: The National Guard via Flickr

Health care issues in the military are becoming increasingly important to uncover, especially as the nation watches the response to the pandemic. At the same time, reporters may find it challenging to dig into this niche and understand what to cover.

Freelance journalists, in particular, may face difficulties in approaching sources and obtaining documents. Experienced health care reporter Patricia Kime has focused on these issues during her career, and continues to tackle them as a self-employed writer. Continue reading

Sources, studies and self-care: AHCJ freelancers give advice on COVID-19 coverage

reporter-taking-notesAs many health care journalists have reported that they’re covering “all COVID, all the time” during the past two months, AHCJ freelancers offered their advice about the best ways to approach reporting and writing, as well as their own mental health while working on assignments.

Overall, the advice highlights many of the principles that reporters already hold dear — choose your sources carefully, review the science behind published studies, and find ways to carve out personal time from a 24/7 news cycle.

Related to news coverage at this moment, the freelancers also suggested doing background research with new webcasts and press briefings online, finding story ideas in new communications and newsletters created by trusted sources, and creating a routine to stay on top of the most recent research.

Continue reading

Emergency grants available to freelance journalists during COVID-19

Photo: BigOakFlickr via Flickrv

During the current coronavirus outbreak, freelancers have reported a mixed bag — some work is on pause, but other work is booming. Whatever your situation, several journalism organizations have stepped up to offer emergency relief and reporting grants.

While reviewing the list below, the most important factors to keep in mind are the eligibility requirements for each application. In some cases, the grant is meant only to support those who have contracted COVID-19 and lost work because they were sick. In other cases, the grant is designated for particular types of reporting work. Continue reading