Recently in Notable and Analysis Category

Data Analysis

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By Sarah Barchus

In the article Elephants are Dying Out in America's Zoos from the Seattle Times, reporter Michael Berens compiled data from various sources to form an intriguing and sad story about the failing efforts to sustain the species.

Berens used information from a multitude of reports and logs and other zoo documents and found that the elephant infant mortality rate is 40 percent, triple of that in the wild in Africa and Asia.

The Times also did an analysis of 390 elephant deaths that occurred over the past 50 years, which showed unfortunate realities like the fact that for every one elephant born, two die and that elephants could become "demographically extinct" in the next 50 years. The information revealed common causes of death such as foot and musculoskeletal problems associated with captivity conditions.

Organization was probably the most important skill for this story. The reporter needed to sort through and make sense of many individual elephant cases to identify commonalities and trends. Computer programs such as excel may have been helpful to compile and sort the information.

Berens followed several elephants, among them a pair named Thonglaw and Belle and their baby Packy. The Seattle Times made this information interactive by creating a Thonglaw's family tree. The tree is animated and shows new family members pop up as a moving bar keeps track of the year on a timeline moves forward. The graphic is color-coded to show those alive and those dead and also to show the relationship between the various elephants.

The Seattle Times also displayed information in an interactive map of the United States where readers can see where and why an elephant died. Additionally, readers can view photos of elephants at the zoos.

The graphics, graph and pictures engaged readers by helping them visualize the data beyond numbers and even beyond words.

Culture Analysis

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By Sarah Barchus

In an article from the Pioneer Press, reporter Ruben Rosario told the story of a Somali youth group breaking a stereotype of violence and receiving the FBI leadership award.

While the Ka Joog youth group's actions are what truly slashed at the stigmas about Somali youth, Rosario highlighted the group's triumph in a way that helped readers see more to what may be perceived as a violent demographic.

Rosario first explained that many Somalis get caught up in gang-violence and missions to join terrorist groups back in Somalia. Thus, he outlined the general view on Somali youth and recognized that this is what usually is discussed in the news.

He then shattered this image with the story of the youth-run Ka Joog group that develops mentorship programs and activities to interest Somali youth in education, music and the arts to combat, peacefully, as Rosario put it, the "violence and radicalization that has claimed too many of them."

In order to accurately depict the group, Rosario included perspectives from the Farah brothers Mohamed and Abdifatah, who founded the group, and active group member Abdul Mohamed, who extended the group's reach by helping inner city kids have an outdoor experience.

Rosario also used quotes from FBI Special Agent Chris Warrener and Abdirizak Ali Bihi, co-founder of the Somali Education and Social Advocacy Center, to emphasize the group's impact on their community.

Receiving the FBI's award was an outward sign of the inward changes the Ka Joog are making within their community. By telling this story, Rosario showed newsreaders that not all Somali youth have succumbed to violent influences. Rosario broke the negative, and perhaps stereotypical, Somali youth news stories by sharing the positive side.

Number Analysis

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By Sarah Barchus

In an article by the Cable News Network, the reporter effectively used numbers to inform readers of the size and composition of the LGBT community according to a recent Gallup poll.

The reporter said that 3.4% of Americans identify themselves as LBGT. This percentage is helpful to understand the portion of the American community that the LGBT comprise.

The reporter also uses percentages to break down the ethnicity, gender, political affiliation, age and education demographics of the LGBT population.

Again, these percentages give readers an idea of who is the LBGT community.

The reporter did use math in one paragraph to make clear how many men and woman consider themselves LBGT. The reporter said 3.6 percent of woman identified themselves as LBGT, compared to 3.3 percent of men. This is helpful for understanding the proportion of LBGT people within their gender categories. The reporter helped readers understand the numbers further, by telling them that 52 percent of the LBGT community is women. This puts the numbers in a different context and thus, gives them more meaning.

The reporter decided to include the number of same-sex partner/spouse households taken from the 2010 census, which measured sexual orientation for the first time. This is a different way of telling readers information because it gives them the exact number, which may help them picture the statistics in a different way.

The numbers were not overwhelming because they were the story. The reporter structured the story and separated the numbers in ways that were easy to read. My eyes were not numbed by the numerals.

The reader could have potentially used numbers in a different way by saying "so many out of so many were this." Sometimes that makes percentages more visible.

Obituary Analysis

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By Sarah Barchus

In an obituary about Gerhard Haukebo, who innovated language learning by creating the Concordia Language Villages in 1961, reporter Jim Buchta for the Star Tribune began with an alternative lead.

The lead was like an introduction to the nut-graph portion of the standard obituary lead. Buchta characterized Haukebo as a small town boy with big dreams and added in a cute blurb about how he believed he could dig a hole to China.

The little anecdote cleverly led into the next paragraph, which used the mention of China to introduce Buchta's travels and to start hinting at the news value of the man's life. This second line of this paragraph is where the reporter stated when and where Buchta died.

Buchta's death had news value because he started Concordia Language Villages, camps in the United States and China that have taught 15 languages to over 11,000 children from around the world. This accomplishment is significant, not only because of its widespread impact, but because Buchta's idea was ahead of the times when he proposed it 50 years ago, Christine Schulze, vice president for Concordia Language Villages at Concordia College said.

Besides Schulze, Haukebo sourced the daughter, Heidi Winter, who spoke about who her father was beyond his accomplishments.

The obituary was different from a resume because it contained those personal elements. The only resume-like features were the mention of his involvement in the Marine Corps, where he attended school, and the a couple significant job positions he held. These facts were scattered throughout the piece to keep it from becoming list-like and mechanical.

Speech Analysis

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By Sarah Barchus

In a Cable News Network article that addressed Hilary Clinton's statement about the Benghazi attack, the reporter exemplified the traditional speech coverage structure and connected the event to its effects on U.S. politics to help readers understand the overarching importance of the statement and the event.

The lead included the who (Secretary of State Hilary Clinton) because she is well know, the date (Monday) and the most important point of the statement (the claim of responsibility).

The lead is followed by a long quote that supports the main point mentioned in the lead. The second paragraph begins with "I take responsibility," which clearly connects to the overall theme of Clinton's statement and the article.

The next paragraph summarizes what Clinton said about the current investigation, which is then followed by a block quote reiterating the summary in Clinton's own words.

Next, the reporter chose to remind readers what happened in Benghaz. The reporter then introduced a context paragraph referring to the Vice Presidential debate and what Joe Biden said on the issue.

The reporter used two more block quotes by Clinton further iterate the issue's effects on America's political climate in light of the upcoming election. The reporter used these quotes as a natural transition to introduce the opposition's view on the matter and to present reactions from Republicans on Clinton's statement.

To close the article, the reporter summarized Clinton's goal to prevent future attacks and ended with more direct quotes on Clinton's aims and strategy.

Because the reporter used substantial direct quotes, the article focused on Clinton's words and thus maintained a common thread. The reporter also gave the readers a picture of the broad effects of the Benghazi attack by including other people's quotes and background content outside of Clinton's statement.

Multimedia Analysis

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By Sarah Barchus

The Cable News Network and The New York Times online websites both have multimedia elements. But as far as variety and flavor go, The New York Times site would not only take the cake (picture-wise), but also would have video of someone blowing out birthday candles, interactive graphs of people's favorite cake flavors, maps one can manipulate to find the best cake shops, and perhaps for icing on the top, full length news stories to accompany the fancy features.

From what is immediately evident on the website, CNN has video and picture slideshows to enhance news stories. These add a great visual element to news stories; video can put the reader in the action and pictures help the readers savor the scene. The video itself does not usually contain text, other than to identify location or perhaps add subtitles, as the clips are often segments taken from broadcast news. The picture slideshows are captioned with appropriately clipped cutlines that explain the picture and then place it within the context of the accompanying story.

The New York Times offers interesting interactive content beyond video and pictures such as maps, graphs and simulations that can be manipulated by the user's mouse; thus the Times' site is tactile beyond the type. One example of an interactive graph allows users to explore student debt across the nation. The graph is prefaced by the first paragraph in the full story to explain the graph. Other text serves to label different groupings of information. The graph also has a link to the full news story. This multimedia strategy displays data in a way that is easy to digest.

Spot Follow Analysis

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By Sarah Barchus

In an updated article on the cross-border firing between Turkey and Syria, the Cable News Network changed the lead, added to body and revised and moved existing paragraphs to reflect the current status of the situation.

The earlier story led with Turkey striking back at Syria in retaliation for citizens' deaths. That lead focused on the action against Syria and the wrong Syria had committed; it was fully action based. The current lead reports that Turkey is continuing to strike back, which shows more action, but also immediately includes Turkey's mindset that it has "no interest in war with Syria." That partial quote alludes to the US official's statement in the earlier article that both countries have an would have an interest in avoiding war. Turkey's mindset and plan of action is the main focus of the article.

CNN used a revised version of their first lead in the second paragraph of the current article to remind readers what has taken place. The next few paragraphs describe the relationship between Turkey and Syria, which puts the event in context. This contrasts with the earlier article, which focused more on details of the initial shelling and Turkey's reaction through quotes by government officials and concerned citizens and detailed the relationship later in the article.

CNN advanced the story by focusing less on information about the initial shelling and more on updated details like which Syrian sites Turkey targeted and Turkey's plan for moving forward. CNN reported on the resolution before the Turkish parliament, which it is not to be considered a war resolution, but rather a resolution to protect the border and retaliate when necessary. These paragraphs expand upon the partial quote used in the lead and show Turkey's mindset. CNN also broadens the scope of the story by including Russia 's reaction to the situation (the country is a friend to Syria) and the events taking place in Damascus.

Structure Analysis

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By Sarah Barchus

In an article by the Cable News Network about Julian Assange's planned speech to the United Nations, the reporter followed the martini glass layout for her story.

The reporter began with a lead that concisely revealed the purpose of the story: to discuss Julian Assange's upcoming speech. She described, but did not name, Assange and announced the time of the speech.

She used the next paragraph to add detail such as naming Assange, his location and recipients of his speech, the UN.

The next paragraph is even broader and summarized the context of the speech and topic of its content.

At that point the reporter slid to the very long stem of the martini glass and discussed over the course of many paragraphs Assange's controversial history, including allegations against him and the conditions of his asylum.

Throughout the story's stem, the reporter added quotes from relevant sources such as a noted attorney and a United Nations war crimes expert. The reporter also related Assange's predicament to the similar case of Bradley Manning.

The reporter ended her story with a sentence discussing Assange's potential move to the Ecuadoran Embassy in Sweden.

This was an effective way to compose the story because readers receive the new news right away and can read on if they are curious to know more. In this case, the martini glass is the most effective story structure. The inverted pyramid would lack background and a full chronological report would clutter the story with unnecessary detail at the beginning.

Attribution Analysis

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By Sarah Barchus

In an article by the Central News Network about "Operation Fast and Furious" the reporter uses a variety of sources from both sides of the issue including personal quotes, official's statements, and official reports. Theses attributions are woven throughout the article to strengthen it and maintain the story's thread.

On one side of the issue CNN cited the Justice Department's Inspector General Michael Horowitz whose office produced the investigative report on "Operation Fast and Furious." CNN used both a direct quote from Horowitz as well as content from the report to flesh out the article.

CNN also cited Larry Alt, one of the ATF agents who blew the whistle on the operation. CNN quoted Alt on his opinion on his coworkers' execution of the operation.

Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, who brought ATF whistleblower complaints to the department's attention in early 2011, was also quoted criticizing the government's lack of oversight on the operation.

Rep. Darrell Issa, who pushed for the contempt vote against Holder as chairman of the House Oversight and Government Affairs Committee, was quoted toward the article's end criticizing Holder and appealing to Obama to hold the program accountable.

To balance the article CNN included quotes and a statement from Acting ATF Director B. Todd Jones accepting responsibility but also portraying the optimistic view that the organization will continue fighting and tackling hard cases.

Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer's November apology for not passing along information promptly was referenced.

Furthermore, CNN quoted Attorney General Holder on his position that the Justice Department didn't hide facts and that it suffered baseless accusations, which he thinks the report confirms.

CNN named all of the attributions because they are recognized government members. This adds credibility to CNN's report. CNN effectively highlighted the content of the story by using mostly disappearing attribution words such as said and told and in the case of the report, found and shows. As a general rule said came after the name. To keep long titles from clogging the content they were placed in commas after the name. CNN streamlined the story by using a mixture of paraphrasing and direct quoting, which was sometimes separated by the speaker's name to prevent large, long-winded blocks

By Sarah Barchus

This lead is functional for a hard-news story. It covers the who, what, where, when and why in a concise sentence that gives readers a clear understanding of the story's direction.

The strong, active verbs capture attention and focus the story on the most important element of the lead, in this case the what.

The Central News Network describes the who first in order to create an active voice. The story says "thousands of Chinese protestors." This gives enough detail that the readers can grasp the general idea of the gathering, but doesn't distract them with unnecessarily precise figures.

The what is the action/event (the protest), and the main focus in the lead. CNN says protesters "hurled bottles and eggs." "Hurled" is a fitting verb that has more flavor than "threw." CNN details the types of objects thrown to further enhance the readers' picture of the scene.

CNN provides the where, "outside the Japanese embassy in Beijing," and the when, "Saturday," which allows readers to place the event. These details are clear but not so specific that they slow the story's speed.

Lastly, the lead touches on the why with the segment "amid growing tensions between the two nations over a group of disputed islands." This segment provides context for the protest and allows the writer to add more meat to the article later on by connecting the single event of the protest to the overarching issue of the islands dispute.

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