Dan Kraker: A review and analysis

The art of audio storytelling. It’s evasive to master, but crucial hone. Difficult to do, but rewarding when done.

The art of writing about science. It’s evasive to master, but crucial hone. Difficult to do, but rewarding when done.

After reading and listening to the work of MPR’s Dan Kraker, it became evident to me that not only is Kraker a great storyteller, but an efficient, efficacious one as well.

In reviewing Dan’s audio work, I noticed his use of short, decisive passages. Obviously this is a basic tactic when “writing for the ear,” but it takes a certain skill and mastery to do it well and Dan has that covered. In addition to that element, Kraker does an exquisite job at allowing the interviewees to tell their story. Not only does this element add a significant amount of variety to the story, but also builds Kraker’s ethos as a storyteller concurrently.

I could go on for paragraph upon paragraph highlighting and singling out the great qualities in Kraker’s writing/storytelling. That being said, I happened to notice a unique quality in his work that many writers fail to ever posses, that quality being the ability to write about scientific topics. In efforts to further clarify my point, I am referring to the ability to write about science in a manner that allows the average American citizen to feel entertained and be educated at the same time. This concept is only brought to life through comprehensible, clear writing which, when it comes to science, is an egregious task.

(Although I did enjoy Kraker’s piece about the newly discovered tick-produced allergy, for the purpose of this response, I will be favoring and focusing on the climate change article to a great extent.)

When it comes to communicating the concept of climate change in the United States of America, attempting to pin-point the top contributor is merely a fool’s errand. With that in mind, it’s conspicuous that the scientific community and the media both play a large role in shaping the public’s view on climate change. I do recognize that both the media and scientific community have produced a great deal of content regarding climate change. However, the problem with most of this content is that it fails to communicate the message effectively. This blunder, as mentioned before, is credited to writers and media members producing content that is incomprehensible for most people and/or lacking the ability to hold the reader’s attention. It takes a journalistic genius to do both and Dan Kraker nails it in his piece titled, Climate Change in Minnesota: More heat, more big storm.

Included in that article are the following passages.

“Ice cover on Lake Superior has declined by nearly 80 percent since the early 1970s. (13) And the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has noted a trend toward lake ice melting earlier in the spring. (14) The lake with the longest data record is Lake Osakis in central Minnesota. In the past century and a half, the average ice-out date has shifted about a week earlier.”
“In Minnesota and the Midwest generally, 37 percent more rain falls in these big 2½-inch-plus storms than did 50 years ago, said researcher Ken Kunkel of the National Climatic Data Center in North Carolina. “We’ve found that the last decade actually has the largest number of these events since the network began in the late 19th Century.” (24) More energy and more moisture in the atmosphere mean that when a thunderstorm occurs, it generates more rainfall. (25)

These paragraphs serve as the perfect examples of what I revere about Kraker’s work. First, both passages reference Minnesota, which allows for the audience, which I am guessing is mostly Minnesotan, to establish a personal, emotional connection to the points being made. Aristotle would be proud, as he identifies this appeal as “awakening emotion (pathos) in the audience so as to induce them to make the judgment desired.” Credit one point to Dan!

Second, Kraker includes statistics that are easy to understand, which is an efficient way to reach more people. It’s so common to see statistics in articles about climate change that, for lack of a better term, stink. They stink not because they’re inaccurate or wrong, but because they’re exclusive, which inherently makes them meaningless to the masses. In the excerpts provided above, not only are the stats useful and informative to the reader, but also subconsciously increase Kraker’s credibility on the issue of climate change in Minnesota.

Finally, Kraker includes quotes from other individuals about the effects of climate change, allowing for the ethos of his article to continue to grow. These excerpts are crafted to perfection, serving as a perfect example of how to effectively write about climate change for the general public.

As for the “inspiration” articles that Dan provided, the commonality, in my opinion, between his stories and the stories that inspire him is clear. I think the idea of writing informative, accurate, entertaining stories, that expose the public to an issue that doesn’t get enough attention is a notion that inspires Dan. It’s evident, both in his work and the pieces he shared with us. Climate change can never get enough attention, the Asian Carp dilemma is one that many lack knowledge of, and to be honest, I did not know that the invasive zebra mussel issue is as serious as it is. To say that Kraker’s work is uninspired would be a poor attempt at humor. I can tell he cares about and enjoys the issues he writes about and in the end, that’s all that matters.

Enjoying life.

Just like the the late-great Warren Zevon once said,

“Enjoy every sandwich.”