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On Structures

In The Associated Press article on the sixth U.S. death this year from a brain-eating amoeba, the story is not told in the style of a hard-news story. The lead sentence creates an interesting scene, mentioning a 14-year-old boy asking his dad if he was going to die after he came down with a headache that wouldn’t go away. With the next anecdote, in which his dad says, “And here I am: I come home and I’m burying him,?the reader is effectively sucked in to reading further. The reporter goes on to answer the “what,? detailing what it was that was bothering the boy. The greater scope of the problem is brought up next, transitioning to the larger issue of the rise in cases of this amoeba. Many of the known details are then fleshed out: where the known cases have been, where the amoeba comes from, what it does to its victims, how to avoid it, and what’s being done to deal with it. The reporter then returns to the focused story that was introduced in the lead involving the 14-year-old boy, ending with sad anecdotes from his father. This part is told in chronological order, detailing the events that unfolded from the time that the boy went swimming to when doctors figured out he had been infected with Naegleria.
This story could have been written differently, with the side story of the boy told in chronological order after (or before) discussion of the larger issue, but this seemed to be the most effective way in which to relay the message. By starting out with the sudden death of the boy, the reader’s interest is piqued. A father and family lost their son and brother to a hidden evil. We want to find out what that evil is, how to avoid it, and why so many have been affected. And by the end, when we already know that the boy was killed by Naegleria, the events can effectively be told in chronological order. We know what’s coming, and so the suspicion continues to build until the heartbreaking end quotes from a grieving father.