Recently in Local News Category

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.

The article Same driver stopped twice in same hour in Minn. for going at least 100 mph by Paul Walsh in the March 26 Star Tribune is an example of a brief, local news story.

A motorist was ticketed in northwestern Minnesota for going at least 100 miles per hour. Twice. Within the same hour.

Walsh's lede is short and concise. It gets to the point in an interesting way. The only problem is that it lacks the "when" or time element (if you do not count "within the same hour"). It also uses a passive sentence right in the beginning, "was ticketed."

The first time Murat Ayamba Ndikum, 31, of Grand Forks, N.D., was stopped in his 1994 Toyota occurred shortly after 6 p.m. March 13 on westbound Interstate 94 near Alexandria, the State Patrol reported Monday. The vehicle was clocked at 100 mph.

This is a solid nutgraf. It elaborates on the lede by giving more specific detail of the incident. Walsh again goes passive with "was stopped" and could have easily fixed it by saying "police stopped him." He again is passive by saying "was clocked" and could have said "State Patrol clocked him at." The detail he gives paints a nice picture, like the model of his car and exactly where he was driving. Walsh also did a good job of sourcing his information to the State Patrol. The only thing I wonder is why, if this incident happened March 13, the State Patrol only made a statement Monday, March 26.

The second time, on westbound I-94 near Barnesville, Ndikum was stopped after touching 106 mph, the patrol said.

Walsh does not elaborate as much on the second stop as on the first, which is good for clarity and length. The speed increase of six miles per hour was interesting to note. However, he again used passive voice for "was stopped."

The speed limit in both instances was 70 mph. The driver told the trooper during the second stop that he has difficulty realizing how fast he's driving.

I am bothered by the reporter's use of present tense in this paragraph. It should read "he had difficulty realizing how fast he had been driving." If he was not going to quote the man directly, I think the paraphrase should have remained consistent with the tense of the rest of the article.

The average cost of a speeding ticket in Minnesota is about $120 for 10 miles over the limit. Motorists stopped at 20 mph over face double the fine. Those ticketed traveling more than 100 mph can lose their licenses for six months.

This was good detail to include, but it should have been sourced. Obviously, driving over the limit is frowned upon, but people may not know the real consequences unless it is spelled out for them. It was good that he showed the gradual increase in penalties as the speed increased.

During a statewide speeding enforcement campaign last July, law enforcement officers handed 73 tickets for those zooming along at more than 90 mph.

I think this is a terrible ending. Yes, the speeding enforcement thing is interesting as well as the statistic, but he could have done so much more. I get that it was just a brief, but I want to know what the punishment was for this guy? What does it say about Minnesota's law enforcement and its new plan that this guy sped twice before getting caught? Walsh also should have sourced the 73 ticket fact. His use of "zooming along" is cute, but as my editor once told me, there is no room for cute in journalism.

In all, this was a pretty good article, but it seemed like it was written up quickly. Some more time and attention could have improved the writing, such as eliminating passive voice. I also think a few more sources and some quotes really would have benefitted the piece. Some sources could have been the State Patrol, the officers that pulled him over, the actual speeder himself, or a legislator who voted for the speeding enforcement action. All of these could have tightened the angle on the story of why this guy got away with speeding with just a ticket, why he had to be pulled over twice, and what this says about Minnesota law enforcement.

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