What’s the takeaway for reporters? Sanger-Katz sets a high standard for reporting on your local hospital, and shows what can result when reporters move beyond the press releases and ribbon-cutting ceremonies. Her reportage is fresh, engaging, and realistic. And she did it by using old-fashioned reporting techniques—reading and asking questions of a lot of people—the stuff that made the Philadelphia Inquirer reporting duo of Don Barlett and Jim Steele so famous. Sanger-Katz shows the value of skepticism, which good reporters need in large doses to understand that what the conventional wisdom says is true may not be true at all.

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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.