"Flu deaths have parents eyeing the needle" in Thursday's Star Tribune leads with the news that two more children have died in Minnesota, making parents worry and health practictioners provide more flu vaccinations. Children's Hospitals and Clinics will offer free shots in St. Paul, were are told, but we have to read all the way through to the end to find out that there will be nurses dispensing shots at 18 Cub Foods stores as well. If parents are freaked that their kids might get the flu and die, I think they'd appreciate getting that info right up front. Is this hourglass story style, with some pertinent information left for last?
It must be a challenge getting good quotes for a story like this, because nearly everyone you talk to would say the expected "We are deeply saddened by these deaths, and our sympathies go out to the families of these children," and that's exactly what this reporter got, and I think in this case, as the reporter, you would feel compelled to put that in the article, or readers would be writing the ombudsman to complain that the reporter/paper is unsympathetic.
The writer also includes an admonition to treat the flu seriously: "It's easy to think when we've had mild years that influenza is kind of, well, not a big deal," she (the health expert being quoted) said. "And while we don't want to cause panic, we do have to be respectful of the power that this virus has."
From the Strib article we also learn that this year's flu strain is no more dangerous than in other years, that Minnesota counts three of 13 deaths nationwide, and that the vaccine is in good supply. And flu clinics are gearing up for a surge, doubling the number of nurses to handle expected crowds.
Whomever wrote the headline for the Pioneer Press article on the same topic "Two more Minnesota children die of flu" didn't exert much effort coming up with a catchy headline (reporters don't necessarily write the headlines - a friend of mine is a copy editor who writes headlines). But the article is better written, despite some lack of attribution here and there, and doesn't rely on quoted platitudes. It seems like inverted pyramid-style, with some helpful bullets at the end giving information about the flu clinics, symptoms to watch for, prevention tips and what to do if you get the flu. Although this information is also given at the end of the article, this section stands out from the story and is easy to pick out without reading the whole article.