By Sarah Barchus
In an obituary about Gerhard Haukebo, who innovated language learning by creating the Concordia Language Villages in 1961, reporter Jim Buchta for the Star Tribune began with an alternative lead.
The lead was like an introduction to the nut-graph portion of the standard obituary lead. Buchta characterized Haukebo as a small town boy with big dreams and added in a cute blurb about how he believed he could dig a hole to China.
The little anecdote cleverly led into the next paragraph, which used the mention of China to introduce Buchta's travels and to start hinting at the news value of the man's life. This second line of this paragraph is where the reporter stated when and where Buchta died.
Buchta's death had news value because he started Concordia Language Villages, camps in the United States and China that have taught 15 languages to over 11,000 children from around the world. This accomplishment is significant, not only because of its widespread impact, but because Buchta's idea was ahead of the times when he proposed it 50 years ago, Christine Schulze, vice president for Concordia Language Villages at Concordia College said.
Besides Schulze, Haukebo sourced the daughter, Heidi Winter, who spoke about who her father was beyond his accomplishments.
The obituary was different from a resume because it contained those personal elements. The only resume-like features were the mention of his involvement in the Marine Corps, where he attended school, and the a couple significant job positions he held. These facts were scattered throughout the piece to keep it from becoming list-like and mechanical.