The reporters examined legal records—yes, there have been lawsuits. And they looked at government reports like the one from the Government Accountability Office, which revealed that too many devices were going via the fast-track process when they required more intense testing. They talked to consumer advocates. Lisa McGiffert who heads a patient safety project at Consumers Union, observed: “The industry keeps saying we’re going to stifle innovation, but it’s not innovative if it’s not safe and does not work.”

They also talked to industry lawyers. One said: “If you want to review the safety and effectiveness of every device starting from scratch, you’re not going to have any medical devices. The device industry would grind to a halt.” The Register presented two sidebars—one, a case study of the device, which delved into how the Newport Beach hospital came to choose the Xoft product, and the other, a case study of Kelly’s medical troubles. Both added oomph to the piece.

The Register’s story sets a high bar, and it offers plenty of consumer warnings. “At least with cancer, we knew we could go in and cut it out,” said Kelly. “With tungsten we’re shooting in the dark. We’re all lab rats.” The Register also shows that digging and dot connection can still produce fine journalism even in this era of declining resources at legacy media. And I expect Orange County Register readers appreciated it.

Trudy Lieberman is a fellow at the Center for Advancing Health and a longtime contributing editor to the Columbia Journalism Review. She is the lead writer for The Second Opinion, CJR’s healthcare desk, which is part of our United States Project on the coverage of politics and policy. Follow her on Twitter @Trudy_Lieberman.