Dan Kraker: Environmental Journalist

Jeffery Thompson | MPR News 2015

Growing up my family and I would travel up north to Duluth, Orr, and Hayward, WI a lot to visit with friends and go hiking. Ticks were never a thought or concern to us as kids. That is until my dad was diagnosed with Lyme Disease.

After seeing your dad suffer through that and being hospitalized you become more concerned and aware about ticks. Every time you find a tick you worry, “What kind of tick is this?”, “Am I going to get Lyme disease?”. You’re slightly paranoid for weeks because you know that symptoms do not appear until two weeks after you’re bitten.

Ticks can cause many kinds diseases, like Lyme disease, but never would you think that after you get bit by a tick would you develop an allergy to red meat. Dan Kraker, an MPR News reporter, wrote a story about a woman who developed such an allergy due to a tick bite. In the article, Tick-triggered allergy surfaces in northern Minnesota, Kraker says that such a reaction is “a rare, potentially severe allergy to ‘alpha-gal’, a sugar found in red meat, triggered by a bite from the lone star tick.”

James Gathany | CDC

More and more people have been diagnosed with this allergy in northern Minnesota and it’s raising concerns for researchers. The problem? The tick that causes the allergy doesn’t live in Minnesota, it doesn’t go beyond the Iowa border. So what’s causing the allergy? The leading theory is that it is transferred by saliva when the tick, any tick, bites a human.

How do I know all this? It’s all thanks to Dan Kraker and his article Tick-triggered allergy surfaces in northern Minnesota. The way that Kraker writes and approaches his stories allows readers to fully understand what is being discussed, and picture what was going on at the time he was writing the story.

Some times with investigative pieces writers can sometimes overload the readers with facts and statistics and lose them along the way. Kraker’s way of writing this investigative piece doesn’t do that. He doesn’t just quote what his sources say and move on to the next thing, he explains it in a way that people understand but also won’t lose interest in the story.

When Kraker is talking about or quoting Suzanne Keithley-Myers, the woman who contracted the allergy, he writes it in a way that, at least to me, allows you to picture what she going through at the time. At the start of the article Kraker writes, “First came the itching — hives so maddening they made Suzanne Keithley-Myers want to claw her flesh. Then came waves of stomach pain so dizzying and disorienting they made her “kind of afraid for my life.”.”

Kraker’s descriptive writing about what Keithley-Myers was going through allows the readers to really imagine what she was going through at the time. I liked how at the end of his article he connects back to the beginning of the story and allows the readers to understand just how difficult it is to have the alpha-gal allergy.

Kramer writes, “She’s had to stop eating the meat her husband hunts. She’s also had to give up cheese and be vigilant for animal byproducts like gelatin that can also spark a reaction. “It makes things really hard,” she said. I can’t go to pot lucks and enjoy myself,” she said. “I can’t host the same way that I used to. I spent a few months really grieving it. It was a huge change.”.”

I really enjoy Dan Kraker’s writings. I like his approach to his writing, as well as his execution of his stories. I would like to find out how Kraker determines the topics of his stories and if he plans out how he’s going to write them.