Author Archives: Felice J. Freyer

About Felice J. Freyer

Felice J. Freyer is AHCJ's president and a health care reporter for The Boston Globe.

Serving on AHCJ’s Board is so rewarding. Will you join us?

AHCJ board president

Felice Freyer, AHCJ board president (Photo courtesy of Paola Rodriguez)

Have you enjoyed learning and networking at AHCJ’s annual conferences or fellowship programs? Made use of our tip sheets, webinars, listserv — or otherwise found value and fun in being a member of AHCJ? Or have you had some thoughts on how we can improve what we do? 

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, now is the time to consider volunteering to help govern this organization. I highly recommend it. 

The annual AHCJ Board of Directors election is under way, and professional category members have until June 15 to declare their candidacy. Every year, six of the twelve seats are up for grabs, and board members serve two-year terms. 

I’ve been a board member since 2009 and consider it among the most rewarding experiences of my professional life. (But it doesn’t feel just “professional” — because I’ve made so many good friends along the way.) Let me walk you through what’s involved. 

Why should you join the board?

For starters, because we need you. To keep this organization vital and responsive, we need new people and fresh ideas. 

Serving on the board will give you an opportunity to contribute to the continued success of AHCJ and work to elevate the quality of health care journalism.

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Health Journalism 2022 — a safe, informative (and fun) gathering

Photo by Paola RodriguezAttendees listening to CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure’s keynote address at Health Journalism 2022.

Board President of AHCJ

Some 500 people gathered in Austin, Texas, two weeks ago for AHCJ’s first in-person conference in three years. Based on my observations and every comment I received, it was a great success.

Trepidation about socializing after pandemic isolation? It evaporated. The usual high-energy collegiality pervaded the four-day conference, which featured two field trips, 47 panel discussions and workshops, two dinner receptions, and the annual awards luncheon.

While attendance was lower than our last conference in Baltimore, which attracted 800 people, it was greater than expected considering high airfares and virus uncertainties. Although the precise number isn’t yet available, the conference seemed to have more first-time attendees than ever. They packed the room at the first-timers session on Thursday.

AHCJ’s signature event for freelancers, PitchFest, was fully subscribed, with 47 writers pitching their story ideas to 21 editors from 16 publications, including AARP, MindSite News, WebMD, and Kaiser Health News. “Writers and editors were enthusiastic, and we were all so happy to meet in person again,” Jeanne Erdmann, chair of the Freelance Committee, said

AHCJ took steps to prevent COVID-19 transmission, requiring proof of vaccination and booster shots to enter the event. Masks were also required, and as far as I could tell, everyone complied.

It paid off. Only four people who attended the conference reported testing positive afterward – three attendees and the spouse of one of those attendees. That strongly suggests that there was little or no spread of the virus at this conference. Thanks to all!

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AHCJ launches search for new executive director as Smiley resigns

Andrew Smiley

Andrew Smiley, AHCJ’s executive director who led the association through the challenges of a continuing pandemic and critical personnel changes, is resigning effective Jan. 28.

We are grateful for Smiley’s excellent work since he took the post in September 2020. His accomplishments include increasing reserves, helping run a new fellowship program, quickly implementing a virtual platform to offer workshops during the pandemic, and hiring three top-notch staffers — Katherine Reed, director of education and content; Andrea Waner, director of engagement, and Erica Tricarico, managing editor.

Smiley said he had not expected to leave so soon but had been recruited into a “life-changing” new job. As we search for a replacement, the AHCJ board of directors has put in place a transition plan that will keep the association operating smoothly without any changes to our offerings and activities.

Katherine Reed                    Andrea Waner

Reed has agreed to serve as interim executive director and Waner will be interim deputy executive director. Senior Advisor and former Executive Director Len Bruzzese has agreed to increase his time with us, and Jeff Porter, recently retired education director, will assist with conference planning.

As a result, our daily Covering Health blog, our fellowship programs, the annual Excellence in Health Care Journalism awards, and planning for our annual conference will all continue apace. The conference will take place in Austin April 28 – May 1.

I have appointed a search committee, which I am chairing, to look nationwide for a new executive director. Search committee members also include immediate past president Ivan Oransky, former president Karl Stark, vice president Gideon Gil, board member Marlene Harris-Taylor, and Mark Horvit, a professor at the Missouri School of Journalism, where AHCJ is based.

I’m expecting many applicants will be drawn to the opportunity to lead a vibrant organization that supports and educates journalists at a time when our work has never been more important. I urge AHCJ members to spread the word and encourage prospective candidates to submit their applications. To apply for the job, go to https://hrs.missouri.edu/find-a-job/staff, click on “prospective employees” and search for job no. 39998.

Biden administration pledges open access to briefings after AHCJ raises concerns

A spokesman for President Biden’s administration has pledged that any legitimate reporter who signs up with the White House press office will be invited to briefings and provided with embargoed background materials.

The promise came after AHCJ’s Right to Know Committee protested the practice of holding small group briefings with select reporters.

The press official denied that there had been any attempt to exclude people and objected to characterizing the press briefings as “closed.” Instead, he said, the White House press staff is working on updating its mailing lists. Continue reading

AHCJ to track access problems in real time – with your help

trouble getting informationAHCJ’s Right to Know Committee is launching a new strategy for tracking and combating the obstacles that health care reporters confront when seeking information.

Starting today, journalists can quickly and easily report the difficulties they encounter as soon as they occur, by clicking on the “Trouble Getting Information?” link on AHCJ’s homepage (on the right side, under “Advocacy”). Continue reading