Category Archives: Tools

Journalism organizations that offer training, networking, industry news and more—recommendations from AHCJ members

About Barbara Mantel

Barbara Mantel (@BJMantel), an independent journalist, is AHCJ’s freelance community correspondent. Her work has appeared in CQ Researcher, Rural Health Quarterly, Undark, Healthline, NBCNews.com and NPR, among others. She helps members find the resources they need to succeed as freelancers and welcomes your suggestions.

Photo by GotCredit via Flickr

AHCJ is my favorite journalism association. I have made many friends networking at the annual conferences, found editors through PitchFest, obtained access to expensive journals, and discovered a variety of valuable resources on the website.

I also belong to other journalism organizations to supplement what AHCJ offers. I regularly visit websites such as the Poynter Institute and the National Press Club Journalism Institute for expert panels or tip sheets that would help me grow my business or improve as a journalist.

After asking other core topic leaders and members of AHCJ’s freelance committee for suggestions and doing my own research, I’ve compiled a list of links to organizations that I encourage all AHCJ members to check out. The list can be found at the Freelance Center’s Running a Business tab under the Networking and branding heading.

Freelance medical writer and editor Erin Boyle, a member of AHCJ’s freelance committee, recommends the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA). “AMWA has been a great resource for me, particularly as an independent journalist, in providing me with the nuts and bolts of setting up my freelance business from sessions at its regional and national conferences,” Boyle said.

“It’s also a great organization to meet and network with a diverse group of medical writers and receive more education about the medical writing side of things,” Boyle added.

Fellow freelance committee member and independent journalist Katja Ridderbusch praises the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ). “ICFJ has plenty of international fellowships, grants and educational opportunities, from webinars to conferences, and for journalists interested in international reporting or just tapping into an international network of journalists, this is a great organization to connect with,” Ridderbusch said.

Ridderbusch, who is originally from Germany, received an international reporting fellowship 20 years ago through ICFJ that brought her to the United States for three months. It was an “amazing experience that really opened my horizon, made me a better reporter and, literally, changed the course of my life,” she recalled. “I probably wouldn’t have immigrated to the U.S. without the experience.”

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How to cover the 2021-2022 flu season

About Bara Vaida

Bara Vaida (@barav) is AHCJ's core topic leader on infectious diseases. An independent journalist, she has written extensively about health policy and infectious diseases. Her work has appeared in the National Journal, Agence France-Presse, Bloomberg News, McClatchy News Service, MSNBC, NPR, Politico, The Washington Post and other outlets.

Photo courtesy of the CDC

As it does every fall, the CDC is urging Americans to get their annual flu shot. Last year, flu was rare because Americans stayed home and wore masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19. This lack of flu from 2020 to 2021 (flu season generally occurs between October and May) could mean a potentially severe season this coming winter, CDC director Rochelle Walensky, M.D., M.P.H, said.

“When there is an active flu season one year to another, then we have…some protective immunity from the season prior,” Walensky said at the Oct. 7 flu season media briefing co-hosted by the CDC and the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID) and several health providers. “We do not have a lot of protective immunity from last season and because of that, we are worried” about the most vulnerable populations including children, pregnant people and those 65 and older.

Last year, public health officials warned of a “twindemic” of both COVID-19 and the flu, but the worst of their fears did not materialize. Public health experts believe behavior restrictions implemented to prevent the spread of COVID-19 (i.e., social distancing, mask-wearing and online learning in schools) also prevented the spread of the flu. This year, with many of the COVID-19 restrictions lifted, the public health community is bracing for a surge.

Public health officials are concerned that possibly because of vaccine fatigue, 44% of Americans were either unsure or didn’t plan to get vaccinated against the flu, and 25% of them are at high risk from flu complications, according to this NFID survey.

“Frankly, we are alarmed by the large number of people who said they won’t get vaccinated,” said William Schaffner, M.D., NFID’s medical director and professor of preventive medicine and infectious diseases at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

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Toolkit offers COVID-19 vaccine story ideas, survey findings on vaccine attitudes

About Tara Haelle

Tara Haelle (@TaraHaelle) is AHCJ's medical studies core topic leader, guiding journalists through the jargon-filled shorthand of science and research and enabling them to translate the evidence into accurate information.

One of the video resources available at the NAB-RJI Vaccine Education Toolkit.

Image & video: NAB-RJI Vaccine Education ToolkitOne of the video resources available at the NAB-RJI Vaccine Education Toolkit.

Journalists reporting on the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine have a new tool to guide their coverage: a Vaccine Education Toolkit that includes survey results on audience attitudes and needs, B-roll and multimedia, webinars, recommended experts and tips on reaching specific audiences. This resource may be a helpful complement to the AHCJ’s extensive resources on reporting about the pandemic.

The bilingual website was developed by three groups: the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute (RJI) and the National Association of Chain Drug Stores (NACDS). RJI is a part of the Missouri School of Journalism and the NACDS is an industry trade group representing traditional drug stores, supermarkets and mass merchants with pharmacies. Continue reading

New resources for covering the virus that’s changed our world

About Bara Vaida

Bara Vaida (@barav) is AHCJ's core topic leader on infectious diseases. An independent journalist, she has written extensively about health policy and infectious diseases. Her work has appeared in the National Journal, Agence France-Presse, Bloomberg News, McClatchy News Service, MSNBC, NPR, Politico, The Washington Post and other outlets.

What a year it’s been for health care journalism to shine.

On Jan. 5, 2020, the World Health Organization issued a press release announcing a pneumonia of “unknown-cause” was circulating in Wuhan, China. By mid-January, Chinese scientists identified the cause as a coronavirus, eventually dubbed SARS-CoV-2, and publicly shared the virus’s genetic sequence. The disease caused by the virus was named COVID-19. Continue reading

Freshen your skills with online course on reading medical studies

About Tara Haelle

Tara Haelle (@TaraHaelle) is AHCJ's medical studies core topic leader, guiding journalists through the jargon-filled shorthand of science and research and enabling them to translate the evidence into accurate information.

F. Perry Wilson

F. Perry Wilson

When it comes to feeling competent about understanding, interpreting and reporting on medical studies, one under-appreciated fact is that this is a long-term learning process. I first began to really understand how to make sense of medical studies at an AHCJ annual conference workshop.

Still, it wasn’t until I attended that same workshop two more times — and attended a Medicine in the Media workshop at the NIH and did some studying on my own — that I reached a point where I felt I knew what I was doing. Continue reading