Columbia Journalism School


Rose Tibayan, M.A. ’11, covers California dental disaster

August 23, 2011

As a 2011 recipient of the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Media Internship in Health Reporting, Rose Tibayan M.A. ’11 knew to expect an intensive twelve weeks of covering health issues. But during her time at KTVU-TV, which serves San Francisco, Oakland and the Bay Area, Tibayan had the opportunity to research, write and present an extensive three-part report on children’s dental health in the area.

“I've previously worked as a general assignment reporter for WPVI-TV in Philadelphia but never had the opportunity to exclusively cover unique community health issues,” Tibayan said. “KTVU-TV, the dominant market-leader in the Bay Area, is located in Oakland, in Alameda County which, as a result of being such a diverse community, has a host of cultural and economic challenges -- including the worst children's teeth in California.”
California’s Alameda County has some of the worst statistics in the nation for children’s dental health, an important issue that has sometimes been neglected. A 2006 report had outlined the crisis, and Tibayan had initially intended to explore the progress that had been made in addressing the problem. When she found that little progress had occurred and the situation had in fact gotten even worse, she realized that she had an important story on her hands – a story that evolved into a three-part series.
“I hope to inform parents that their children's dental health is really part of overall healthcare and that baby teeth shouldn't be taken for granted,” Tibayan said. “I hope that more dentists reach out to families of poor communities and increase the number of patients they accept for Medi-Cal. There is so much need and very few resources since healthcare budgets were cut.”
Tibayan feels that lessons learned during her time at the Journalism School were significant to her journalistic process for this story.
“In the M.A. program, I was taught how to read and understand scientific research papers," she said. "This skill was taught in my Evidence and Inference class with Dean Lemann and also in my Science Journalism Seminar with Professor Jonathan Weiner. Without this knowledge I don't think that I would have the confidence to examine, dissect, and translate research papers on my own.”
Rose Tibayan is pleased with the impact her story has already had on the community.
“For a journalist, there is nothing more satisying than knowing your story will make a difference,” she said. “After my inquiries for this story, Alameda County announced that it will unveil a new plan for dental care in September. My mentor, John Fowler, will follow up and update my story now that I am no longer at the station. KTVU-TV has been granted first exclusive rights.”

Watch Tibayan's full story here


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