Author Archives: Felice J. Freyer

About Felice J. Freyer

Felice J. Freyer is AHCJ's vice president and chair of the organization's Right to Know Committee. She is a health care reporter for The Boston Globe.

Right to Know Committee resumes talks with HHS media office, affirms appeals process

Right To KnowIf you’re having problems getting information from a federal health agency, don’t give up: You might have recourse within the government.

The new assistant secretary for public affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services, Sarah Lovenheim, has recently reaffirmed an appeals process that AHCJ negotiated several years ago.

It works like this: If you can’t get what you need at the agency level, appeal to the HHS deputy secretary who oversees media affairs for that agency. (Details on how to do this are below.)

In a conversation with Sabriya Rice, vice chair of the Right to Know Committee, and me, Lovenheim agreed that reporters should get in touch with the deputy secretaries if they need help. Continue reading

A July 4 appeal to President Biden: Let the sun shine in!

AHCJ has called on President Biden to honor Independence Day by turning his attention to improving government transparency, “a cornerstone of democracy.”

In a letter sent Tuesday, AHCJ President Ivan Oransky points out that “health care reporters, especially, must have access to complete and accurate facts because what we write influences life-and-death choices that people make.”

The statement praises Biden’s cordial relationship with the media and open coronavirus briefings earlier this year but adds: “Our members tell us that getting information from the federal government remains one of their biggest challenges.” Continue reading

Survey: Lack of access to public health experts hinders COVID-19 reporting

Chart: AHCJ Right to Know Committee Source: “Covering Covid” Survey | Fall 2020See more graphics of survey results below.

Reporters covering the COVID-19 pandemic have often been unable to speak directly with public health experts, hindering access to complete and accurate information, according to results of AHCJ’s “Covering Covid” survey.

Nearly half of respondents reported that “always,” “most of the time” or “about half the time” they had been blocked from speaking with public health experts. More than half said that press briefings in their area have been led by politicians rather than health experts, and those briefings often failed to answer critical questions. Continue reading

In right-to-know victory, appeals court rules that USDA must release food stamp sales data

Photo: Eric via Flickr

A South Dakota newspaper on Tuesday won a seven-year legal battle to obtain information about retailers who participate in the food stamps program. The ruling is a victory for government transparency on an issue that has been a subject of AHCJ advocacy.

The Argus Leader of Sioux Falls reported that a three-judge panel of the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals on May 8 cleared the way for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to release information on how much money individual retailers make from participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the formal name for the food stamps program. Continue reading

Reporter shares tips on how to get good data despite privacy laws

Annie Waldman

Privacy laws, such as HIPAA, are the bane of health journalism. No matter how fervently you wish to preserve patient privacy, the legal protections often stand between you and a great story.

Unless you know the ways around them.

ProPublica’s Annie Waldman is an expert in overcoming or sidestepping privacy barriers. Continue reading