By Paul Levy
Star Tribune, Saturday, February 10, 2007
Story Structure Analysis
The story starts with, â€œWhat sounds like a gunshot is heard . . . ,â€? then quickly progresses to the most important feature of this story, that 13-year-old Alec Kruger was shot to death moments after he frantically tells the 911 operator as an intruder is threatening his family. All of this action, plus the location of the home are conveyed in the lead.
The next fact block paragraph mentions his father was also shot to death, the other most important feature of the story.
Next comes a paragraph paraphrasing the 911 transcript attributing the conversation to the Waseca County Sheriffâ€™s Office and explaining the medical condition of the third victim, Alecâ€™s mother, Hilary Kruger. This effectively introduces the direct quote sequence of the 911 call between the dispatcher and Alec, save for one line from his mother explaining to the dispatcher thereâ€™s been an intruder.
After the quote sequence the dispatcherâ€™s reaction to the possible gunshots and shrieking on the phone logically followed.
Next came a more thorough detailing of the motherâ€™s critical medical condition, attributed to her family telling the Sheriffâ€™s Office.
Next came the first detail of the intruder, starting with his name, Michael S. Zabawa, age, and paraphrasing without attribution what he was accused of.
The next paragraph included attribution and further details of his charges, and also paraphrased Zabawaâ€™s explanation to the authorities that the shooting was accidental.
The third paragraph in this sequence relating to Zabawa lists the chronology of the event as attributed to â€œauthoritiesâ€? and â€œcourt records.â€?
The penultimate paragraph starts with the Chief Deputyâ€™s last name, â€œMillbrath saidâ€? to continue the step-by-step path that led Zabawa to the Kruger home.
The final paragraph paraphrases the motherâ€™s account attributed to court records accusing Zabawa of shooting her husband, herself and her son.
The article was written in logical sequence, beginning with the most important information in the lead, with details explained in later paragraphs. Even though the basis of this article was a 911 transcript, most of it was (clearly) paraphrased and in my opinion the writer chose a dramatic segment of the transcript to quote directly.
The details of the victims were disclosed before the details of the intruder, and those paragraphs concerning Zabawa, â€œlike material,â€? were kept together. The final paragraph highlighted a powerful summary.
In my opinion 911 transcripts shouldnâ€™t be public knowledge and shouldnâ€™t be released as news stories. I know that must seem to go against everything a journalist stands for and I know that a 911 call transcript is essentially an eyewitness account and therefore extremely newsworthy, but I think that publicly publishing 911 call details may prevent proper emergency help from being administered because a person who calls 911, fearing later possible public repercussions as a result of revealing, say, details of a delicate nature, could subconsciously hold back information that would have been pertinent and vital to giving the best response for the victim. And in my opinion they should be private just because articles and news stories detailing 911 transcripts seem morbid, intrusive, too upsetting to the reader and exploitative to victims.
Waseca county officials release 911 call from shooting
In this related ABC TV News/AP story from the town where the tragedy occurred, Alec is labeled a hero and a different slice of quotes is given. This shorter story mentions the intruder in the last paragraph.