Reporter turned on-deadline account of a dental death into more than a tragic story

Mary Otto

About Mary Otto

Mary Otto, a Washington, D.C.-based freelancer, is AHCJ's topic leader on oral health and the author of "Teeth: The Story of Beauty, Inequality, and the Struggle for Oral Health in America." She can be reached at mary@healthjournalism.org.

Sammy Caiola

Sacramento Bee health reporter Sammy Caiola worked quickly to give her readers the story about the death of a young California father from complications of a dental infection.

Her reporting began at 10 a.m. on Jan. 31 when she found the kernel of the story in an email. By that afternoon, Caiola had tracked down and visited with the man’s grieving widow, interviewed a knowledgeable local dentist on the causes of dental deaths and located peer-reviewed research that added depth and context to her piece. She managed to file a basic version of her story by 2:30 p.m. and turned in a longer version of the story by the 5 p.m. print deadline.

In this new Q&A, Caiola walks us through that busy day of reporting and reflects on what surprised her most in her work on the story. She also offers tips to colleagues who might find themselves covering a dental death on deadline.

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