Analysis: Northern Minnesota boy, 8, improving after boat accident; brothers' funeral set

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The story Northern Minnesota boy, 8, improving after boat accident; brothers' funeral set is a local news story by Steve Wagner of the Associated Press for the April 15 St. Paul Pioneer Press.

The 8-year-old Leonard, Minn., boy injured when the sailboat he was on sank, killing his two brothers, is gradually improving from injuries.

This is an awkwardly constructed lede. It gets the point across and tells the news, but the aside about the brothers dying seems out of place and distracting. I would have pulled that out and just added a second sentence after the lede with that information. Also, "is gradually improving" is a little passive. It's hard to get around, though, so I'll give the writer this one.

Isaiah Risland remained Sunday, April 15, at Children's Hospital in Minneapolis, where he is showing positive signs of recovery from hypothermia.

I could do without the "April 15." Actually, since this was printed in the Sunday paper, he could have just left it at Sunday and I think people would have understood. He could have broken this up into two sentences as well at the "where." "Is showing" is again a little passive.

"Isaiah is still gaining consciousness occasionally and responding to voice," wrote Sara Staley, an aunt, in the boy's online journal on the Caring Bridge website.

This is a well-constructed quote. My only question is why take quotes off of Caring Bridge? I understand that family members may not want to talk to the media, but if they have time to write on a website, they should want to share the story in a newspaper that will reach even more people. There are also doctors and neighbors that could be great sources as well.

Dan Risland and his boys - Isaiah, 6-year-old Zechariah and 2-year-old Jacob - were sailing on Clearwater Lake when their sailboat sank. The father swam to shore to summon help after being unable to get the boys to land.

I could have done with this information a bit earlier, maybe, just because this is the first time the reader hears about the accident. "Were sailing" is passive. How did the boat sink? Just spontaneously? This could have been covered in an earlier article, but I'm interested in the logistics of the sinking and why the dad couldn't tow these boys to shore.

The boys were wearing life jackets but spent about an hour in 40-degree water until first responders could reach them. Zechariah and Jacob died, apparently from hypothermia, while emergency crews revived Isaiah, who was airlifted to the Twin Cities.

"Were wearing" could just be "wore" to eliminate the passive. The whole "died" part seems a little harsh. I know it's news, but these are two little boys we're talking about. Also, "apparently" from hypothermia? I think that could have been easily confirmed somewhere. The airlifted part could be a new sentence to improve clarity.

"When he is conscious and someone speaks to him he will turn his head or eyes toward them," Staley wrote Saturday. "His oxygen levels have been staying up and he has overrun the ventilator a couple of times, taking more breaths than the ventilator is set to. (This is pivotal)

"He has been off the temperature control blanket for two days and his body has maintained correct temperature."

Again, it is a fine quote, I just wish it wasn't from Caring Bridge. Also, I'm not sure about parentheticals in quotes. If she wrote it that way, then maybe, but since the quote makes it seem like she said it, no one really speaks with parentheses.

There also will be funeral services for Isaiah's two brothers, 6-year-old Zechariah and 2-year-old Jacob, on Tuesday in Clearbrook.

Several benefits were planned for this week in Bemidji.

Since the writer stated the ages earlier, he could have omitted them in this sentence. I think the "on" can be cut as well. "Were planned" is passive. Who planned them? Churches? Community members? I could have done with a little more detail at the end, like where the funeral services are and where the benefits are so people could attend or donate if they wished. That might have had to be cleared by the family first, but I think it's important.

Overall, this was a pretty solid local news brief. It was clearly a follow up to a breaking news story and I think it worked well. My biggest mark for improvement would be to use more sources than just a Caring Bridge site. A little more time spent in this article with more sources and detail could have made it a lot more interesting and helpful. Also, it is a little embarrassing that the Pioneer Press needed to run this story as AP. If it happened in Northern Minnesota, it really shouldn't be that hard to get a reporter in the cities to cover it.

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This page contains a single entry by ryanx790 published on April 15, 2012 8:35 PM.

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