Tag Archives: Public records

On the health beat, public records can be a lifeline

Michael Morisy

About Michael Morisy

Michael Morisy is the founder of MuckRock, a non-profit that works for a more informed democracy. He was previously an editor at the Boston Globe and contributed to the New York Daily News' Pulitzer Prize-winning series on the deadly health conditions of Ground Zero workers.

In honor of Sunshine Week, AHCJ invited organizations devoted to government transparency to write about how their work can help health care reporters. Here is the last of four.

MuckRock, a nonprofit that assists journalists, newsrooms, and others requesting public information, has helped thousands of reporters file public records requests all across America, digging out information from federal agencies and local inspection boards alike.

Time and again, public records break essential stories and shine light on dangerous lapses — but only if someone knows to ask.

Here are some tips on using freedom of information laws to get great stories while juggling everything else you need to get done. Continue reading

AHCJ continues to advocate for release of hospital inspection reports

Irene M. Wielawski

About Irene M. Wielawski

Irene M. Wielawski (@wielawski), an independent journalist based in New York, is a founder and former board member of AHCJ and serves on the organization’s Right to Know Committee.

See the full comment at Regulations.gov.

AHCJ has submitted a statement to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services supporting the agency’s proposal to open hospital inspection reports to the public.

The proposed rule change applies to inspections by private accrediting organizations, which are often kept secret, even though they detail patient safety shortcomings of potential interest to the public.

Continue reading

Ruling takes one step closer in releasing SNAP data

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates AHCJ's social media efforts and edits and manages production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

The public’s right to information was bolstered by a federal judge’s decision that the U.S. Department of Agriculture should release data about how much taxpayers pay to retailers through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

The decision was in response to a lawsuit filed by Argus Leader Media in South Dakota, which had filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the “annual sales amounts of every business in the nation that participates in SNAP. USDA refused to release the data, and the paper filed suit in 2011.” Continue reading

Survey of AHCJ members finds biggest access problems at federal level

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.

Source: AHCJ member survey, 2016

Source: AHCJ member survey, 2016

Health journalists seeking information from government agencies often encounter obstacles, especially at the federal level, according to AHCJ’s recent survey. The biggest roadblocks involve delays, bureaucracy, scripted replies, and barriers to interviews, survey respondents said.

Three-quarters said it is difficult to get the information they need from the federal government, and two-thirds reported difficulty getting adequate responses from state government. Continue reading

For successful information requests, be familiar with guidelines for HHS public affairs staff

Irene M. Wielawski

About Irene M. Wielawski

Irene M. Wielawski (@wielawski), an independent journalist based in New York, is a founder and former board member of AHCJ and serves on the organization’s Right to Know Committee.



A year ago, AHCJ’s Right to Know Committee brokered an appeals process with the leadership of the Department of Health and Human Services media office for reporters facing unreasonable delays or inadequate responses from agency public information officers.

I’m happy to report that we’ve had a number of successes since then in clearing information logjams for individual reporters and policing violations of HHS’s media policy. But a year’s experience with this process has also made us wiser about what we need from AHCJ members to be effective. Continue reading