SUPPLEMENT 7: Compare: Focusing the story

Our task was to read the following information, then decide what are the different possible ways to focus this story? Which focus is most appropriate for a story In the Cardinal Connection? In the Charleston Gazette? Why?

Who: Christine Hruskovich is a senior majoring in Professional Communications and minoring in Theology.

What: A rented truck was stolen.

Where: The truck was stolen from the parking lot near Ignatius Hall at Wheeling Jesuit University.

When: Hruskovich discovered and reported the theft this morning.

Why: The truck was full of clothes, toys, food, and baby supplies.

How: Hruskovich thinks she may have left the key in the truck's ignition.

Backup information: (The following points are not necessarily in the best order for a news story.)

The truck was a Mack CS Midliner Series on loan from the Olsen Truck dealership in North Wheeling. The truck was full of clothes, toys, food, and baby supplies that Hruskovich and other students from the Wheeling Jesuit Life Club had collected for distribution to poor families in Mingo County through Sacred Heart Parish in Williamson. This is the third year that Olsen had loaned a truck to Hruskovich for her annual clothing drive. Each year since she was a freshman, Hruskovich has organized a drive to collect clothing, toys, food, and baby supplies. Each year more and more students have helped—especially the students in the Life Club. Hruskovich estimates that the truck contained over 1,000 pieces of children's clothing, 500 toys, "over a ton" of food and baby supplies.

"Olsen made the truck available to us yesterday morning," Hruskovich said. "I picked it up in the morning. We spent all yesterday loading the truck. I was going to drive the truck down to Williamson this morning. I got going a little late because we didn't finish loading the truck until 1:30 this morning. It was about 8:30 in the morning when I got up. I looked around my room but couldn't find the keys. I went out to the truck wondering if I had left them in the truck by accident. But the truck was gone. It was just gone. I must have been so tired last night that I just left the keys in it."

After reporting the truck theft, Hruskovich called her pastor, Msgr. Thomas A. Quirk, rector of Blessed Sacrament Cathedral where Hruskovich's family are members. Together they helped launch a community-wide effort to replace the stolen clothes and toys.

"Hruskovich is a shining example of all that is right about young people today," said Father Joseph Smith, S.J., president of Wheeling Jesuit. "It saddens me to think that someone could be so shortsighted as to steal a truck of gifts for the poor just before Thanksgiving. But rather than be discouraged, Hruskovich has helped turn the theft into a beautiful outpouring of community generosity."

Father Smith said he had just been contacted by the West Virginia Governor's office about the fact that Hruskovich has been selected as one of 10 Model West Virginians by the Governor for her clothing drives and her work organizing student relief after a flood in Mingo County.

A local effort spearheaded by the Wheeling Ministerial Association, the Sisters of St. Joseph, Wal-Mart, and the local chapter of West Virginians for Life to replace the clothing, toys, food, and baby supplies is already underway. The group says it has already received pledges from local businesses that will more than make up for the supplies that were stolen.

"It was easy to get pledges," said Msgr. Thomas A. Quirk, rector of Blessed Sacrament Cathedral where Hruskovich's family are members. Once people learn what happened, they open up their hearts and give what they can. Olsen's has already promised to provide a truck and a driver. Msgr. Quirk said they will provide a second truck if that is needed."

The most obvious possible focus is the truck theft.

But there are at least two other possible focuses:

  • The outpouring of community support IN RESPONSE TO the theft

  • The selection of Christine Hruskovich as one of 10 Model West Virginians for this year.

Here are possible focus sentences for each approach:

  • Focus #1: A truck full of clothes and toys for poor kids has been stolen from a Wheeling Jesuit parking lot.

  • Focus #2: Wheeling business leaders have opened their storerooms to make up for last night's clothing drive theft at Wheeling Jesuit.

  • Focus #3: Wheeling Jesuit senior's plucky response to clothing drive theft is one more reason why she has been selected as one of this year's Model West Virginians.

Focus #2 would be most appropriate for the local Wheeling paper. Focus #3 would be most appropriate for the Cardinal Connection and The Charleston Gazette.

Why? When focusing a story, you should always ask yourself who your audience is and why they should care. For a paper serving the Wheeling community, the community's response is the most appropriate focus. For the Cardinal Connection, the student honored is most directly relevant to readers—even more than the community response. For a statewide paper like The Charleston Gazette, a profile of one of this year's Model West Virginian winners would be most relevant to a statewide audience.