Association of Health Care Journalists, Master the Conversation

The health and medical journalism program recently attended the Association of Health Care Journalists 2012 conference held in Atlanta, GA. The University of Georgia (UGA), along with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Emory University were conference hosts. Children’s Healthcare and Emory University provided participants with field trips and UGA sponsored a high-tech workshop designed to help improve video skills, social media engagement, and master Google. 

The main point I took home came from NPR’s Matt Thompson and that is “master the conversation.” By master the conversation, Thompson is referring to the online conversation. Whether it’s happening on Twitter, Facebook, or blogs, journalists need to master and engage their followers. Too often journalists write their stories or blogs, read the comments section and never bother to respond to readers. Thompson argues that their is tremendous value in using the comments section to further the conversation. So the next time you see someone wrote a comment in response to your blog or tweet, engage them, asks questions, and most of all create interest!

The highlight of the conference had to be the Bio-curious flashmob. Hmj’ers performed a flashmob version of the official “Let’s Move” dance. Check it out,




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6 responses to “Association of Health Care Journalists, Master the Conversation

  1. williamwickey

    Interesting. Do you think the idea of “using the comments section to further the conversation” applies to all forms of journalism?
    I think its great for authors to respond to comments for online content. However, it seems like it would be tough to get someone writing for the New York Times to respond to the comments on their article when it is posted online. Moreover, some of those articles have so many comments that it would become really tough to decide who to respond to and who to ignore.
    Where do you think the line should be drawn?

  2. I agree that the comments section can get pretty lengthy and that it would be tough for journalists to respond to all the comments. That being said, journalists want to know what type of dialogue their pieces generate so they check these comment threads pretty often. If they don’t at least respond to some of the comments they miss a powerful opportunity to connect with their readers. I think that in this new journalism climate, journalists have a responsibility to engage with their readers. Even if it’s just moderating the conversation by posing additional questions.

  3. I think that this is very relevant for public relations practitioners as well. Engaging with your audiences through comments, tweets, Facebook posts, etc. is vital to build relationships with the people you are trying to reach. I agree with both your points; it is difficult to respond to every question and every comment, but journalists and practitioners should make as much of an effort as possible.

    I think especially in the case of journalism it seems that today it’s more important than ever to brand yourself and by fostering these connections with the public it may help to set you apart from the rest.

    • I agree Anna. Social media platforms should be used as an engaging tool. Too many public relation professionals solely use these platforms to make announcements, in doing so they miss a great opportunity to build a relationship with stakeholders.

  4. cameronellis88

    I totally agree with the notion that journalists must now not only provide information but engage. If you want to check out a journalist who replies to almost all tweets and comments look at David O’Brien who covers the Braves for the AJC. He does a great job of engaging in his readers’ conversations.

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