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Mercury Spill Closes New Brighton School

A mercury leak at St. John the Baptist School in New Brighton, Minn., forced school officials to close the school on Wednesday while officials try to determine the extent of the leak.

This article was printed in The Star Tribune, written by Tim Ford, on Wednesday afternoon. The biggest challenge for this article was to obtain enough background information to make the story important without sacrificing the key element in the story which was the danger to the students and families. To address this situation Ford worked in as many paraphrased quotes as he could to give the story weight without it looking too quote heavy.

Sam Brungardt, an information officer with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), recommended that people place shoes or clothing that may have been exposed in sturdy plastic bags to bring in for testing. Officials would ask to take and dispose of items that are contaminated. People concerned about possible contamination in their homes can contact the MPCA, Brungardt said. Several dozen students and parents already had items tested Tuesday night.

Ford did try and find several sources to back the information and this too helped the story maintain its news value while still being an important resource for the parents of the affected children. Ford inserted many references to organizations that would help or that were already helping with the clean up.

The New Brighton Fire Department, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, the state Department of Health and the North Suburban Hazmat (hazardous materials) Team were at the school to assess the leak and work on cleanup.

A second article ran in The Pioneer Press, written by Tad Vezner, about the story. Vezner’s article was more of a brief than anything and was no where near as comprehensive as Ford’s version. The Vezner version of the story did have an interesting change to the lead. This story didn’t mention the school by name until the second graph where it mentioned the name and address of the school.

A mercury spill involving chemistry class supplies at a New Brighton church-based school Tuesday afternoon has authorities checking whether some children were contaminated.
The spill at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church & School at 835 Second Ave. N.W. occurred during class time. Authorities said it appeared to have leaked from a box of chemistry supplies.

I felt after reading both stories that the Ford story was more in-depth and was more informative in nature. I felt that the Vezner version was useful but I didn’t like the brevity of his version. Both stories did a very good job organizing the information into useful sections. The Vezner version only quoted one source but used all the information from that source in one location. The Ford version used some more sources and didn’t localize the quotes from sources in one location. In this version the quotes from Brungardt were in multiple places throughout the story. And the principal of the school, Sue Clausen, was also quoted in different places throughout the story. Overall, I felt that the organization of Ford’s piece was acceptable and that the sources being used in different places didn’t distract me from reading the piece.