Author Archives: Felice J. Freyer

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.

A reporter went public when denied an interview. Here’s what happened next …

By AlvesgasparOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, LinkReporter David Abel was denied access to talk to the Massachusetts state ornithologist about barn swallows.

David Abel had had enough.

The Boston Globe’s environmental writer was used to being denied interviews with state scientists and officials. But this latest refusal from the administration of Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker was just too absurd.

Abel had been forbidden to speak with the state ornithologist. (Yes, this is Massachusetts, we have such an official.) His topic was not politically sensitive. Continue reading

Oops! That ‘Open Door Forum’ won’t be off the record after all

Reporters were taken aback on Monday when they received an invitation to a national phone call billed as an “Open Door Forum” – with instructions that remarks made on this public call would not be on the record.

After AHCJ inquired, a spokesman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services stated that the call would, in fact, be on the record and that the off-the-record requirement was included by mistake. Continue reading

HHS session on covering suicide described as new effort to engage reporters

Mark Weber

The Department of Health and Human Services is sponsoring a seminar for reporters on covering suicide on Tuesday, in what the lead organizer described as an effort by HHS media officials to engage with journalists in new ways.

Mark Weber, the deputy assistant secretary for public affairs, said that media officials often interact with reporters in what he called “ATM transactions” – communicating only when one needs something from the other. Continue reading

AHCJ strengthens its ethics rules on conference funding

AHCJ has strengthened its ethical standards on funding for the annual conference, enhancing the ethics code established at our inception 20 years ago to guard against undue influence by outside groups or the perception of such influence.

You can find evidence of the recent changes in the conference program and registration form: Continue reading

AHCJ protests troubling incidents at HHS, calls on Azar to open the doors

Excerpt of the letter sent to HHS Secretary Alex Azar. Click here to see the full letter.

AHCJ this week called on the new secretary of health and human services to hold frequent, open press conferences, and protested recent incidents at HHS that were deeply troubling to journalists.

In a letter Monday to HHS Secretary Alex Azar, AHCJ President Ivan Oransky congratulated the secretary on his appointment and expressed hope that reports Azar intends to foster transparency would prove true. Continue reading

CMS decides not to extend contract of consultant who threatened Modern Healthcare

The Centers for Medicaid & Medicare Services has decided not to extend the contract of the communications consultant who threatened to bar Modern Healthcare from press calls for refusing to alter a story.

The consultant, Brett O’Donnell, had sent a Jan. 24 email to a Modern Healthcare editor saying that “we will not be able to include your outlet in further press calls with CMS” if the publication did not change three sentences about the reasons for a CMS official’s resignation. That threat followed an email exchange the day before in which Virgil Dickson, the reporter who wrote the story, declined O’Donnell’s request to alter his account. Continue reading