Why is Jack Jablonski a news story? (5×8 – 1/9/12)

The nature of humanity, the curse of the branded building, the 60 Minutes stem cell fraud story, falling through thin ice, and when the bungee cord breaks.

The Monday Morning Rouser:


In the middle of last week, a follower of mine on Twitter asked, what I thought of the “absurd” (her word) coverage of the case of Jack Jablonski, the high school hockey player paralyzed when checked from behind. She compared it to the coverage of a three-year-old boy in north Minneapolis, killed by an errant bullet, which she said had been “swept under the rug.”

First, I responded, Terrell Mayes’ killing wasn’t swept under the rug, though the killing hasn’t gotten anywhere near the attention of Tyesha Edwards, the unintended 11-year-old victim of a drive-by shooting in 2002.

The Jablonski story is a little bit different, partly because he’s alive and paralyzed, suddenly facing an entirely different future, partly because the story is about how young people are processing their first encounter with fragile nature of life, and partly because of the focus on a sport in which a kid can end up paralyzed.

That’s a lot of angles to squeeze into one week of coverage. But soon enough, the media will move on. It’s only been a week.

Nonetheless, a letter writer to the Star Tribune echoes a similar complaint: What makes Jack Jablonski any more newsworthy than anyone else’s tragedy?

Audry Hanson writes:

However, the response also amazes me in that there are many people suffering down the street and across the world who go unacknowledged every day.

Why isn’t there the same response for people without food, for people without any form of shelter in downtown Minneapolis or St. Paul, or for the thousands of citizens of African countries dying of AIDS every day?

I am not trying to belittle Jablonski’s untimely injury, but rather to bring attention to a different perspective. He may very well take his new circumstance and do something constructive to better his situation and those around him.

All I’m asking is for society not to choose which tragedies are worthy of such a response and support, but rather to give equal attention to the misfortunes occurring throughout our lives, so that we can look for solutions to all of them.

I’ll take that one. How do people know about people without food, the scourge of AIDS, or the homeless? The coverage has been extensive over the years and it’s illogical to suggest we shouldn’t tell the story of Jack Jablonski as long as there are homeless people or AIDS in Africa (mentioned in this piece I wrote last week, by the way).

There also is a similar outpouring for many “bigger” issues, as the reaction to the earthquake in Haiti, the Christmas-time charities, and even this story about a memorial service for people who died homeless in Minnesota attests.

A year ago yesterday, there was a shooting in Tucson, which got more attention than any shooting in Minneapolis. And when a victim last night led observers in the Pledge of Allegiance, that was news, too.

Why? Because we identify with individuals more than the overarching issues. It’s the nature of humanity. But at least it is humanity. It’s also the gateway to the larger issues any individual story represents.


There is a special place … somewhere… for the likes of the con artist whom 60 Minutes exposed last night, a doctor who claimed his stem cells could heal a severely disabled young man. The stems cells were mostly dead.

It was like the old days of 60 Minutes…

The reaction to the story, judged by the comments on the show’s website, have been surprising: People believe it was a piece about stem cells, not about crooks preying on the hopes of the most desperate individuals:

This is pretty irresponsible journalism, making all stem cell work seem fraudulent. I went with my brother (in his early 30s and legally blind since birth) to China so that he could undergo an experimental stem cell treatment and his vision went from 20/400 to 20/100 in about six weeks. While there my brother, his wife and I saw and talked to other people with different various problems that were helped by the same procedure.

I think it is good to expose the frauds in the system, but by your very title alone you paint too broad of a brush and scare people away from something that could actually help a lot of people. Going after some low life conman and making it look like they are the same despite the fact that there are legitimate hospitals out there doing good work is cheap and easy journalism.


Another man on thin ice fell through. The Brainerd Dispatch reports the man fell through on Platte Lake while pulling a fish house with his ATV.

“Those choosing to venture onto area lakes are urged to use extreme caution, expecially during non-daylight hours,” the sheriff’s office reported in a news release. “Let someone know where you will be and when you will be returning. Periodically check ice quality and thickness as you go farther out onto area lakes.

“Finally, make sure you have adequate cold weather gear and celluar telephone readily available in case of emergency.”

But some good is coming from the warm weather and thin ice — old-timers’ fish stories about the last time conditions were this bad. There’s an entire thread of tales at LakeStateFishing.com. Like this one:

Back in the ’60’s, one January thaw we had fish tied to the door knob of the fish house on a stringer. There was quite a bit of water on top of the ice then. Flick a cigarette butt out the fish house door up wind and it blew back through one of the holes. Lose a fish in the hole and it could swim away on top of the ice as far as the eye could see. Walking to the fish house one of those days, as maybe an 8-9 year old, I fell down and got soaked. The old man had me sitting on his coal burning fish house stove drying out–madder than hell at me!

Eventually, however, the thread turns to one of the most emotional conversations among fishing people on Mille Lacs: gill netting by Native Americans under the Mille Lacs Treaty.

Anyway, if you’re going to ignore the ice warnings, you probably should watch this:


Drive along the highway for any length of time, and you’re bound to find a building where a business once stood, that now has had its signs removed. Still, you can tell what chain once was housed there because the buildings were constructed with the chain’s theme. The old Best Buy store in Maplewood is once such example. Ed Kohler at The Deets says the closed Taco Bell on East Lake Street in Minneapolis is another.

He considers whether city planners should think about these sorts of things when they approve building designs.

Kohler refers us to Cyurbia, which considers this question of reuse of branded buildings, and where we learn that there’s actually a website — Used to be Taco Bell — devoted to creative (and not. Check out the old Taco Bell that’s now a Japanese restaurant!) reuse of Taco Bell buildings. God bless you, Internet!


This will probably make you cross “make a bungee jump over Victoria Falls” off your bucket list.


Late last year, President Obama signed a defense spending bill that provides for indefinite military detention of anyone suspected of terrorism, including American citizens. The law has sparked widespread criticism from civil-liberties groups and others. Today’s Question: Was President Obama right to allow indefinite detention of citizens without due process?


Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: President Obama’s new consumer protection agency.

Second hour: Books, film, and music for the new year.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: Dr. Jon Hallberg discusses medical issues in the news.

Second hour: From the Aspen Ideas Festival: Supreme Court justice Stephen Breyer and former justice Sandra Day O’Connor discuss the role of the Supreme Court in our democracy.

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: How big a military do we need?

Second hour: The role of independent voters in the presidential election.

  • I think the Jablonski story has more attention because it is essentially a challenge to conventional thinking about high school hockey, which remains a big cultural touchstone throughout the state. There are indeed many more tragic stories, arguably more “important” stories out there, but this one resonates with all the parents driving their kids to the rink early in the morning or spending weekends in hotel rooms in the state’s far-flung corners. It’s not really about the kid. People are thinking “what does this mean about hockey?”

  • BenCh

    I think the Jablonski story is also gaining a lot of coverage because of his age. He is at a time in his life where anything was suppose to be possible. If he got the grades, or worked hard at sports, he could do whatever he wanted. We almost all had that opportunity. However with the injury, many of those chances have been taken away. I am not saying he will not go on to accomplish anything, but his dreams of playing sports may well be over. I think it is that “he’s too young for something like that to happen” factor.

    RE: Bungee jump-

    Well I am glad they replaced that faulty bungee cord!

  • bobh

    Bob Collins, I think an angle you missed regarding the Jablonski story is that it’s yet another example of how cheaply athletes’ lives are regarded by the people in charge of their sports. If authorities really cared about these young folks, checking would be prohibited as of yesterday. If that would make hockey less fun for those driven by bloodlust, so be it.

  • Mark

    Scapegoating the bungee cord… sad state of affairs. Whatever its deficiences, the cord’s shortcomings wouldn’t have been a problem if the lady had just defied gravity… in the video I see no evidence that she even tried. At what point does personal responsibility enter the equation?

  • Joanna

    While I am sympathetic to the underlying reminder that bad things that happen to middle-class white people get more media attention than bad things that happen to the poor and people of color (but not that the remedy is a one-for-one “equal time” accounting system), I also think that the Jablonski story got a lot of deserved attention because it came on the heels of all the coverage of “hockey enforcer brain damage” stories, related to Boogard’s death. There needs to be more serious discussion of how common practices in youth hockey are affected by how pro hockey is played, and whether or not certain practices should be banned: body-checking is not allowed in some youth leagues, but it is in others. Fighting is cause for serious penalties in some places, but not others. Is it an out-of-control culture around hockey, or the very nature of the game as it is played today, that is causing life-destroying damage to young people and pros? what, if anything, should be done to change this? Given how many kids–girls and boys– play hockey in Minnesota, it’s an important topic, and one that deserves more serious attention beyond the coverage of sincere gestures of sympathy by the public.

  • Disco

    I was downtown Saturday afternoon and saw on the marquee of a pub: “Get Well Soon Jack Jablonski.” It did not say “Rest In Peace Terrell Mayes.”

    Maybe it’s for the same reason that nobody clicks on articles whose headlines must be templated by now: “[Weapon type] attack kills [number dead] in [middle east city]” — because that happens nearly every day.

    The media loves a good sob story about an upper-middle-class white kid. A story about a black child being shot and killed will make the news — but won’t be cause for much fuss.

    I seriously doubt that hockey or his age have anything to do with it. Remember the girl who was disemboweled in that swimming pool?

  • Bob Collins

    //Remember the girl who was disemboweled in that swimming pool?

    I do, but what’s the point on this point?

    //The media loves a good sob story about an upper-middle-class white kid.

    Two words: Guadalupe Hernandez

  • John P II

    Collins – “Because we identify with individuals more than the overarching issues. It’s the nature of humanity. But at least it is humanity. It’s also the gateway to the larger issues any individual story represents.”

    I find this both insightful and inspirational, and a great antidote to my all too easy cynicism.

  • Kassie

    I think another reason the kid is getting a lot of attention is because not much is happening news-wise other than the primary in New Hampshire.

    But, I do agree way too much attention is given to this kid. He was in an accident and left with a disability. This happens all the time. And, unlike what most Americans think, disabilities are not the end of the world. I work with numerous people with significant disabilities. They are lawyers and program managers and policy experts. Because of his age and how it happened, it was news, but it is not news 11 days later.

  • Cara

    Remember, JABs wasn’t the only high school hockey player injured in the recent past. There’s a girl hockey player with the same sort of (though less severe) injury from just last week.

    I don’t think ‘middle class white kid’ has much to do with it, as evidenced by Guadalupe Hernandez.

    AIDs, the homeless, drought in Africa, those things are long long term issues that had their brief moment in the spotlight, and who come back into view periodically.

  • Bob Collins

    // And, unlike what most Americans think, disabilities are not the end of the world.

    There’s a fair bit of irony in this point. One of the guests on Midmorning today was Matthew Sanford who was paralyzed in an accident, who made the same point pretty darned clearly.

    And that’s my point about the Jablonski case being the gateway for a discussion about bigger issues.

    So if we recognize that Americans don’t know enough about these sorts of disabilities, dampening the opportunity to inform them isn’t a logical response.

    It’s true, the Jablonski story 11 days later isn’t news IF it’s the same news being told, and not additional angles and information that we agree have value. I would submit that that’s what’s happening..

  • Brenda

    I agree with bobh.

    The reason for so much press? I would think the reason would be becasue it shouldn’t be happening. Someone near and dear to me no longer plays hockeyu. They, too were hit with a dirty check from behind. Completely unnecessary and coaches, parents and school leaders still do nothing about it.

    Now we have a second victim to the checking. When are we going to stop this and hold the checker liable for their actions?

    To echo Mark:

    “At what point does personal responsibility enter the equation?”

  • Jamie

    Just want to chime in briefly with a mundane* observation: I’d say that *I* have seen about equal coverage of Jablonski and Mayes.

    *Mundane as opposed to others’ broader thinking here…

  • kennedy

    Why debate which injured child is more deserving of attention? Both stories resonate with ‘viewers’ and hopefuly resulted in better awareness and some positive change.

    If you are going to deride ‘news’, start with anything containing the name Kardassian.

  • Jeff

    Thanks for posting the ice video. Helpful tips that anyone who goes on ice should know.

  • We care because it’s new and different. Drive by shootings aren’t different anymore. Bungee cord failing? That’s different. An angle is what you get when you try to make something that isn’t different interesting.

    Also, having pictures and video really helps a story get attention.

    I’m guessing an editors train of thought goes like,”That’s stupid, that’s horrible, that’s different, that’s weird. Do we have pictures or video? Run it.”

    It is up to us to give our neighbors suffering equal attention. And it doesn’t need to be in the papers.

    I too agree with bobh.

    Coaches and parents teach kids to be very physical to win. Accountability anyone?

  • Jim Shapiro

    Thin ice and bungee jumping in the third world are marvelous Darwinian tools that help to foster the evolutionary advancement of the human race.

  • Will Young

    I was in Victoria Falls two years ago and eyed the bungee jumpers jealously (I’ve done a couple of jumps here in the States). However, my in-laws made it clear they would probably disown me if I did it in front of them.

  • Kassie

    I heard the guest this morning talking about life after a spinal cord injury. And he was good. But I’d rather hear from the guy who went on to have a career that has nothing to do with disabilities, like an ad executive or engineer or something.

    And I love that kids getting hurt playing hockey is “new and different” and drive by shootings “aren’t different anymore.” Are you kidding? Hockey injuries happen all the time. Drive by shootings are very rare, especially involving children. Three in five years for the drive bys vs two in two weeks for the spinal cord injuries from hockey.

  • Steve

    Great question about the Jablonski story. As noted, accidents like this happen all the time…. why the overwhelming response and media coverage in this case?

    Frankly it is because of the attractiveness of the kid and family. I am reminded of the Chelsea King murder case in San Diego a couple of years ago. Superstar high school kid, very attractive, very popular, upper middle-class, with attractive articulate parents. And white. The coverage and community response to that case were off the charts. Same thing here.

    Nothing against Chelsea or Jack (or their families). Great kids and families. But these cases reveal a bias within the media and culture at large toward attractive people.

    If a poor, minority, inner city kid got paralyzed in a sports event, the media and community response would be nothing like this.

    Guarantee it.

  • bob collins

    I wonder if you could list the last three high school kids in Minnesota who were paralyzed playing hockey?

    Also can you provide the particular stories in minnesota that were ignored because it involved an unattractive young person?

  • Elena kulmanovsky

    The hockey community is a very small one. Somebody knows somebody from accris the country because the kids used to play on the same team. We are a tight community. We support each other, no matter what state we live in. That is why I take this story personally: my boys play, my husband play college, his teammate was parslized during practice. This strory is very personal for us. It’s not about who has it bad today. The author missed this point or most likely didn’t know .

  • Elena kulmanovsky

    The hockey community is a very small one. Somebody knows somebody from accris the country because the kids used to play on the same team. We are a tight community. We support each other, no matter what state we live in. That is why I take this story personally: my boys play, my husband play college, his teammate was parslized during practice. This strory is very personal for us. It’s not about who has it bad today. The author missed this point or most likely didn’t know .

  • kate karl

    This story is evil! There’s a boy laying in bed who will never walk again. Ur mad he is getting attention? I will never read this paper or listen to ur station again. Very very poor taste.

  • Kassie

    No, I can’t list the last three kids who got paralyzed playing hockey, but I can name two since they happened in the last couple weeks. And being paralyzed is no where equivalent to being dead. And quite honestly, I can’t actually name any of the dead kids without scrolling up and finding their names. I can barely remember my co-workers names some days.

    And I’m not saying it isn’t tragic or horrible or any of that, I’m saying it is not 11 days of news newsworthy. The hockey player’s life has changed forever and probably, at least in the short term, in a very bad way. Do a touching “where is he now” story in six months as he goes back to school and all his friends rally around him in front of the cameras.

    There are much more newsworthy stories not being covered.

  • Bob Collins

    // or listen to ur station again

    I’m sorry, I’m again missing the point. What is MPR’s crime here?

  • Bob Collins

    // is no where equivalent to being dead.

    I alluded to that in the original post. When you’re dead the story stops.

  • Steve

    Follow up to earlier post about role of attractiveness…

    To be fair, it may not be a direct media bias.

    But, I would maintain that it is the big driver of the community response in general. Number of Facebook posts, tweets, support events, etc. from the general public on Jablonki are off the charts. Same thing with the Chelsea King case, as noted earlier. It’s because these kids are super attractive and popular.

    The huge media coverage follows.

  • Bob Collins

    // t’s because these kids are super attractive and popular. The huge media coverage follows.

    I was just looking for your data sample for your conclusion. If it’s based on attractiveness, there would be a data set of similar stories involving UNattractive people in similar situations that weren’t covered.

    I’m looking for that dataset from a Minnesota perspective, which is where this story is being reported and for which, presumably, the conclusion is being drawn.

    It’s rather like the tweeter who compared the story to the killing of the boy which she said was “swept under the rug.” It would be a better argument had the killing been swept under the rug, had there been no Tyesha Evans, and had there been no Guadaloupe Hernandez.

    But there was.

    The other common response here was “these injuries happen all the time.”

    That’s why I asked for some details of the last time it happened.

  • Steve

    Not specific feedback from a MN perspective. It’s an observation on the role of attractivenss and popularity in general. Every high school kid in America knows about this first hand.

    Per editorial in Star Trib from Rachel Tschida yesterday, “More than 11,000 people experienced a spinal-cord injury resulting in paralysis in the United States last year”

    Obviously only a subset of these are kids, and fewer still sports injuries. But of the cases in those categories, few will generate the community response and publicity of the Jablonski case. Just saying.

  • Bob Collins

    //But of the cases in those categories, few will generate the community response and publicity of the Jablonski case.

    I’m not convinced of that at all. It’s a “local” story, for one thing. If there were XX number of injuries involving high school aged kids, how many went unreported in their local media?

    And what is the breakdown of attractive vs. UNattractive. That’s what I’m primarily interested in her since the assertion is that Jack Jablonski’s injury was news because he was “attractive” as an individual to people making the news call in Twin Cities newsrooms.

    As I’ve already written, I think that’s a questionable assertion in this case considering all of the interesting angles the story presented (will anyone dare do the obvious stem cell opponent angle?)

    Now, clearly in some national news stories, the appearance of a ‘victim’ is important. and that’s true even in Minnesota where Dru Sjodin got plenty of coverage while a missing north Minneapolis woman did not. That much certainly is true.

  • Maureen Skiba

    Jack Jablonski is an example of the dangers of hockey and especially the dangers of checking would SHOULD NOT be allowed in high school. My heart goes out to Jack Jablonski and his family. It’s a heart-breaking story for such a young kid to suffer such severe injuries. Why did these boys hit Jack so hard? There should be criminal charges against these kids. I’ve never even heard of a hockey player being injured that bad even in the pros.

  • maureen skiba

    This is a reply to Bob Collins comments: How could you write something so shallow as to say Jack Jablonski is only getting press coverage because he is attractive???? Will his looks help him to walk again??? You are a sick dude!

  • Jim Shapiro

    Yeah Bob. You’re sick! And you’re a dude! And I’m very very very very very upset! And I’m never gonna listen to your radio station or read your newspaper or watch your tv show again! Do you have a restaurant? If you do, I’m never gonna eat there! How about an airlines? You guessed it, bub. I’m never gonna fly it!

  • Maureen Skiba

    Audry Hanson if you’re so concerned about the people in Africa-get on a plane and do missionary work or donate to their charities. Your bleeding heart views are tiring.

  • Bob Collins

    //This is a reply to Bob Collins comments: How could you write something so shallow as to say Jack Jablonski is only getting press coverage because he is attractive???? Will his looks help him to walk again??? You are a sick dude!

    How could I? I couldn’t. And I didn’t. You need to slow down and read this thread VERY VERY carefully again.

  • maureen skiba

    it’s speculation on what news should get more attention, hockey is an extremely popular sport, therefore it ranks higher in news importance, the hockey world is very shaken by such an injury. When was the last time a hockey player was completely paralyzed from being checked. This type of injury doesn’t even happen in the pros.

  • JJ

    I am glad to see this thread. For the last week I’ve been wondering why the excessive coverage of “Jabs”. Now KDQB is in the fray. 4/6 stories on the Kare11.com website were dedicated to this kid on Sunday. One of the stories was actually that Randy Shaver’s kid wrote a song about “Jabs”. What gives? Is this news? Is it because he was a rich kid who went to an expensive private school? I also wondered why there wasn’t as much coverage of Terrell Mays. The media bias is very evident.

  • Bob Collins

    //as much coverage of Terrell Mays. The media bias is very evident.

    We talked about this earlier. The difference is the young boy in North Minneapolis is dead, which precluded a developing story.

    That’s why I mention Guadalupe Hernandez, which is a closer parallel.

  • MJ

    I have only read some of these posts, but I can hardly believe anyone would say there is too much coverage about a 16 year old boy paralyzed from the neck down playing a high school sport. I am a nurse and I know that this is a horrific injury to manage for the rest of his life. There are many people like me that also have boys that play sports, and this hits home with us. I have never thought just because an event gets less coverage it is any less important.

  • NJN

    Middle class white boy? I consider myself middle class and there is no way I can afford to send my son to a HS with a tuition of $12,600/yr. Which brings me to MY concern about the never ending fund raising and publicity that is going on for this boy. His injury is tragic, no one can argue that, but I find it almost insulting how much money is being raised for this boy. I am no expert, but I’m pretty sure this boy has health insurance if his family can afford a private high school. Granted we all know how difficult insurance can be and with this being a permanent lifestyle change, there are many many things that will need to be modified. What takes me to my boiling point, is we would never see this kind of support if that child was black and if the game was basketball. Or how about the young homeless 17 yr old boy Blake Anderson who just died of Leukemia, I bet bed hopping makes it a little difficult to avoid infection during chemo! There was a “building story” there and yet we only heard about it after he died.

    Minnesota loves them some white upper class hockey players though!