April 12, 2007

City Hall Personnel Surprisingly Helpful, MPD Website...not so much

The first thing I did when starting this assignment was to look up online exactly where to get a crime incident report. I went to the Minneapolis Police Department’s website and found out that I would have to go downtown to the MPD. After taking the bus I arrived at the supposed address, which turned out not to exist. After walking around the block a few times I spotted a small widow sign that read: Traffic Incident Reports. I went inside and inquired about my assignment. The very nice police officer told me through the Plexiglas window that I would have to go to city hall to find the information I was seeking. Luckily for me, city hall was only three blocks away. Upon arriving at city hall I was directed to Room 31. In the room there was a huge stack of listed crime reports from the past two months. I looked up burglary and assault reports from the Uptown area and printed them out. Finding the place was a bit tedious, but printing the reports was easy and only cost me 75 cents.
I found a report of a burglary at the Evolution Salon on Lyndale Avenue. I am familiar with this place so I may go there to try to get an interview about what happened. I also found an assault and a residential burglary on Girard Avenue. Girard is a mostly residential area, but the numbers of muggings that occur there have been increasing. Two months ago a man and his mother where mugged on Girard Avenue around 10p.m. after eating dinner at a nearby restaurant. According to an article I found on the Minnesota Public Radio website the victims surrendered their belongings willingly, yet the assailant still shot the man in head before taking off. I have two friends who also have been mugged in Uptown and even after giving up their wallets without resistance, they still both got beaten by their attacker. This trend of simple robbery turning violent is something I want to examine in my news feature.

April 10, 2007

Protest in Najaf

I found this article via the New York Times website. A massive rally was held Monday in the Iraqi city of Najaf to protest the American occupation. Reports of between 5,000 to 7,000 people participated in the protest by burning American flags, shouting "death to America" and wrapping themselves in Iraqi flags. The rally consisted mostly of Iraqis loyal to Moktada al-Sadr, a Shiite cleric and Iraqi nationalist. A smaller group of Sunnis also participated in the demonstastration, despite the accusations that Sadr's militia are killing Sunnis. The protest took place on the fourth anniversary of the fall of Baghdad. Sadr's militia and other Iraqi forces still continued fighting in Diwaniya, despite his call for peace among the groups, leading some to believe he may have lost total control over his followers. Sadr's whereabouts is still unknown.
A challenge the reporter faced when covering this story is keeping track of exactly who is fighting who. The rally protested American occupation of the country, but the article was also about fighting between Iraqi military groups. Sadr is a Shiite whose militia may be responsible for killing Sunni Iraqis, but some Sunnis still support him. The one thing both groups agree on is they hate America. The author did a good job of clarifying a complicated situation, but sometimes the article felt like two separate stories.
I found this article on the Washington Post's website. This article said that more people participated in the protest that the NY Times article. Also this article focused more on the protest itself by using more quotes from the participants and gave more of a background on Sadr's influence. The article gave more of a visual descritption of the protest as well.
I found both articles to be interesting. The Post article kept the focus of the story more and gave the reader a better idea of the protest itself. The Times article gave a broader spectrum of what impact the rally had on other areas of Iraq.

February 23, 2007

Buona Fortuna Romano

I found this article on the New York Times Web site. The Italian Prime Minister, Romano Prodi, resigned Wednesday after only nine months in office. The traditionally unstable government in Italy finally broke after a Senate vote on continuing to supply troops to Afghanistan and the expansion of an American military base in Northern Italy. Prodi supported aiding the U.S. in their military efforts, but the vote was defeated when two of his own party members abstained, essentially pulling the rug out from under his political standing. Italy’s foreign minister, Massimo D’Alema, gave a stirring speech in support of the Prime Minister’s stance saying that Italy’s support of the war in Afghanistan is justified because military action in Afghanistan was U.N. approved. It was all in vain. The vote was lost, mostly due to the two abstentions which set the vote at 158, just shy of the 160 needed to support Prodi’s plan. Just moments after the vote was solidified Italian senators shouted, “Resign! Resign!? in the direction of D’Alema. Unlike the Prime Minister, D’Alema’s resignation is not confirmed, but the Italian government is in desperate need of re-structuring. President Giorgio Napolitano will consult with Italian political parties to try and form a new government and make plans for another election. One possibility for Prodi’s replacement is Silvio Berlusconi, a former prime minister who Prodi defeated in the last election. Berlusconi is the only prime minister to date that has actually served out a full 5-year term.
A challenge the reporter faced when writing this article was sorting through all the different Italian political parties and their views. Prodi alone resided over a coalition of nine different political parties. The Italian governmental structure is vastly complicated with viable parties ranging from communists to extreme right-wing Catholics, so the reported did a good job of cutting it down to the relevant topics and not delving too deep into the government’s intricacies.
I read another article on CNN.com that is more recent. Prodi is now seeking to stay in power, but will need the full support of his parties. It is up to President Napolitano to determine if Prodi can hold the government together. This article gives a good update on the story. They gave the crucial facts of Wednesday’s story on why Prodi resigned, but mainly stuck to the breaking news.
I think this story is a good example of how supporting or not-supporting the United States plays such a huge role in other nation’s political systems. In a way, some yahoo from Texas just single-handedly destroyed Italy’s entire governmental structure. I honestly feel bad for poor Prodi.

February 16, 2007

Congress Excels at Repeating Themselves

I found this article (by David Stout) on the New York Times website. This article is about the resolution being debated in congress that opposes President Bush’s new strategy in Iraq. The resolution will be voted on later today and is expected to pass. Democrats hope to force debate on this resolution on Saturday during the Senate session. According to C-SPAN, this resolution has taken up 44 hours of debate in the past three days and most comments have been decidedly partisan. Democrats (and a few republicans) want to pass the resolution. Though the resolution has no practical application, they want to send a message of change for the U.S. policy in Iraq and open the door for more major steps in curbing the president’s spending power. Republicans think the resolution will send a message of surrender that will ultimately hurt national security and discourage our troops. The article quotes a whole list of representatives on the issue, but mostly they all keep saying the same things over and over again.
I think that a challenge in this article was coming up with new insights into the story. This story has been in the news for weeks now and the arguments are sounding a bit redundant.
I also found a story via Google News from an Alaskan news source, the Alaska Report. This article gives much of the same information as the Times article, but doesn’t have nearly as many quotes. This article also delves further into what impact the resolution will have as far as spending for the war and the power of the president during wartime.
I think the Alaskan article was slightly biased. It used a great quote from Speaker Nancy Pelosi as its headline, “No more blank checks for President Bush on Iraq,? but by using it as a headline it sets a tone for the article that lends more support to the democrats. Also, the article only has one section tacked on at the end that gives the republican point of view.

Samuels Gets Burned

I found this article on the Strib website. This article is about Minneapolis City Council member Don Samuels and the response to comments he made about North High School in this month's Mpls.St.Paul magazine. In the magazine article he was quoted as saying, "I've said burn North High School down! I can't be paying as a taxpayer for the education of my neighbors and 72 percent of them are failing." The comments caused outrage among students, parents, faculty, and North High community members. At a special committee meeting Thursday held at the school, Samuels apologized yet again for the comments and tried to explain that he meant well. In his speech he outlined plans for improving the school by creating a partnership with Minneapolis schools and bringing in educational experts. The crowd of about 250 people was not very receptive. Students and faculty spoke on their personal experiences at North and criticized Samuels for looking down on their community. Faculty and community leaders hope the meeting will force Samuels to follow through on his plans for improving the school’s conditions.

I think this article is a pretty straightforward follow-up story. It was good that the author included the original quote from Samuels that caused the controversy. The article gave a good description of what the community thought of his comments, but didn’t really elaborate on his defense. The meeting was described as being a chance for Samuels to speak to the community about what his comments and explain, but the article only included two sentences about what he actually said.
I couldn’t find another article in the PPress to compare this to. So instead I searched the Strib archives for the original story. The original story gave much more insight into the incident. After reading the follow-up I didn’t get a sense that his comments were racial in nature, but the original story is mostly about black community leaders speaking out against Samuels. The original article even said they called for his resignation and protested at Minneapolis City Council meetings. The original article also makes reference to a future meeting with Samuels at the school which is the basis for the follow-up story.

After reading both articles, I think that the follow-up story would have been more effective if it included more of Samuels’ plan to rectify the situation. After the story broke it was the reaction of the community that made it newsworthy, but the follow-up just reiterated the same points instead of giving Samuels’ response.

February 11, 2007

Putin Potificates, Gates just Grins

I found this article on the Washington Post website. The article is about a speech given by Russian President Vladimir Putin at a conference in Munich Saturday. Putin harshly criticized the U.S. for its unilateral military approach in the Middle East and said “the United States has overstepped its national borders in everyway.? Putin criticized NATO for placing military forces on Russia’s borders and expressed disapproval for the U.S.’s desire to put antimissile systems in Eastern Europe. He also defended Russia’s arms sale to Iran and said, “we don’t want Iran to feel cornered.? Some U.S. politicians in attendance criticized Putin for his comments as did the White House. Spokesman Gordon Johndroe said in a statement, “we are surprised and disappointed with President Putin’s comments.? Putin always disapproved of the U.S.’s action in Iraq and drew parallels to the Cold War in his speech. Many U.S. politicians weighed in on the speech, but when asked to comment, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates who attended the Munich conference just “smiled and shook his head.?
The challenge for this article is explaining all the different motivations behind the comments made by Putin. The issue of Iraq is multifaceted enough, but the relationship between the U.S. and Russia is even more complex. It is a challenge for the writer to report on all the opinions and factors involved in this issue without going over the reader’s head. Someone that has no background in history at all may find this article a bit confusing, but the author did a good job of sticking to the matters being discussed now with minimal background information.
I also read a New York Times article on this subject on the website. This article gave much more detail about what Putin actually said in his speech. It also gave a broader perspective on what the international community thought of Putin’s comments. The article included that the EU is also facing tensions with Russia over a dispute on natural gas prices and the independence of Kosovo. This article quoted German Chancellor Angela Merkel at length on Europe’s relationship with Russia.
The Washington Post article focused more on the reaction of the United States to Putin’s speech while the Times article gave a more global sense of what is going on. My vote is for the Times article.

Well Done Sister Suffragette

This is an AP article that I found on the Star Tribune website. The article is about Harvard appointing Drew Gilpin Faust as the new president of the university, the first woman to hold the position. The previous president, Lawrence Summers, created controversy over comments he made regarding genetic differences between men and women in the scientific community. These comments led to debate about equality at Harvard. In response, two faculty task forces were formed at the university to examine gender diversity, both headed by Faust. Faust was the dean of Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Studies and taught history at the University of Pennsylvania. The article also includes information on Faust’s background growing up in the south and quotes her book on southern history. The appointment of a new president at Harvard was a matter of some secrecy, but the article also points out that several candidates asked to be removed from consideration.
The challenge with this article is to attribute properly. The author deals with many touchy opinions in this article, especially with the controversy surrounding the previous president. The subject matter makes the story an easy one to make assumptions about, so the author had to be sure the attributions were fair and accurate. http://www.boston.com/news/education/higher/articles/2007/02/11/fausts_path_to_harvard/?page=1
I also read an article on the Boston Globe’s website. This article was not so much about the Harvard appointment, but more about Faust’s life. The article quotes her books and gives a more in-depth description of her life and how growing up in the south influenced her life. It also has quotes from her colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania and details her educational background which, coincidentally, doesn’t include Harvard. The article goes on to give small summaries of books and articles she’s written.
The Boston Globe's article is more of a feature article. Since Harvard is in Massachusetts it would make sense that a newspaper would provide a more personal story about Faust. The AP article gets right to the point and gives a good amount of information for those of us that didn’t even know Harvard was in the market for a new president.

Flu Scare

I found this article on the Pioneer Press website. The article is about the increased demand for flu vaccinations. Three children in Minnesota died this year because of the flu causing parents and children to flood clinics in order to protect themselves. The article interviews a family at Children’s Hospital in St. Paul. Children’s Hospital vaccinated more than 1,500 people Saturday. The article also lists information from the CDC on groups that have a higher risk of flu infection such as the elderly and young children. The author (Rachel E. Stassen-Berger) included a quote from a mother whose children attended school with one of the children who died from flu. The article ends with contact information for getting vaccinated.
I think one challenge the author faced when writing this article was to not sensationalize the danger of contracting flu. She included the fact that 3 children had died from the virus, but didn’t try to scare the reader. Instead she laid out how easy it is to get vaccinated. She used a lot of informal sources to make the story more colorful, but also included information from the CDC and the director of infectious disease at Children’s to give the story more credibility.
I also read an article from the Star Tribune’s website about flu vaccines. The Strib article (by Maura Lerner and Josephine Marcotty) told the story from a different angle. The article was about whether or not vaccinations should be done in schools. This article included most of the same statistics as the PPress article and even quoted the same person, but it went more in-depth.
I think the Strib article is more interesting. It includes the same basic information as the PPress, but touches on a bigger issue. The PPress article was almost more like PSA, whereas the Strib article brought up an issue of controversy.

January 26, 2007

Riots Explode in Beirut

I found this article in the StarTribune today (Jan. 26th, A3). On Thursday, university students in Beirut, Lebanon escalate a "lunchroom brawl" into a full-blown riot that leaves four people dead and 150 injured. The violence sparked from tensions between students who support the Western-backed Lebonese government and those who support the Iranian-backed Hezbollah. The animostity had been increasing since Tuesday when Hezbollah leaders called for a strike to protest a gathering of donar nations in Paris. The $7.6 billion promised at the gathering will go to support the Lebonese government and Prime Minister Fuad Saniora. Army troops were able to disperse the riots and called for the first curfew to be implemented in Beirut since 1996. Each side blames the other for the violence despite the fact that both Prime Minister Saniora and Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah have urged thier supporters to allow security forces to step in.
This article does a good job of reporting on the specific occurence in Beirut, but also ties it in with how theses tensions impact other nations. A side note to the article gives a brief list of the major donars supporting Prime Minister Saniora (United States, France, European Union, Saudi Arabia) and the amount of thier donations. It becomes clear to the reader that the violence stems from tensions between the United States and Iran as well as Sunni and Shiite Arab nations.
I read another article on this on the New York Times website.http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/world/AP-Lebanon.html?_r=1&ref=world&oref=slogin This article offers the same basic information as the Strib article, but goes into more detail about how leaders are trying to stop the violence. The Times states that both sides want to prevent civil war and this article makes reference to previous conflicts in Lebanon. The Strib article uses the words "curfew" and "university" in its headline, but doesnt really focus on the aftermath of the riots. The Times article gives more of an overview on how Beirut is cleaning up after the violence and how the university is dealing with the situation.
I think both articles pick up where the other one lacks. The Strib article gives more information on how the riots impact western support of the Lebonese government and the response from Hezbollah to that support. The Times article gives the reader a sense of what is happening in Beirut now and what the different factions plan to do to keep the peace. I think a combination of sections from each article would make for a more comprehensive story.

January 25, 2007

Bush's Plan Shot Down By Senate: Shocking Isn't it?

I found this article in the StarTribune. The article focuses on the Senate's reaction to President Bush's decision to send 21,500 more troops to Iraq. The Senate Foreign Realtions Committee has already openly opposed this plan and has created a resolution asking that the responsibility for securing Iraq be transferred to Iraqi soldiers. The resolution will be debated by the whole Senate next week, but according to Vice President Dick Cheney in a CNN interview with Wolf Blizter, "the president has made his decision." Voting in the Senate is still decidedly partisan, but more and more Republicans are voicing their discontent with Bush's decision and the general way he is proceeding in Iraq.
The Iraq War is something that is constantly in the news and being debated. For a person who may not follow the news regularly (or perhaps was trapped under a rock, in orbit or a coma for the past few years) this subject can be a bit complicated. So at the beginning of the article, the author (Renee Schoof) included a brief synopsis of the president's current plan for Iraq, the stance of the Senate on this plan, and the president casually ignoring this stance. This summary helps the reader better understand what this artcle is about.
I also read New York Times article about the Bush v. Senate situation. The Times article was a lot more detailed and gave a clearer description of what will actually be debated by the Senate next week. This article gave a more in-depth analysis of the Foreign Relations Committee's resolution as well as another plan being proposed by Virgina Republican Senator John Warner. The Strib article barely makes mention of Warner's plan and instead focuses a large part of the article on Dick Cheney's uncomfortable CNN interview.
In my opinion, the New York Times article was more interesting and informative. The Times article had better quotes and included more information about how a partisan Senate is trying to come together on this issue. Focusing on what will be decided by the Senate next week seems to be more productive than retelling Cheney's disgruntled response to Wolf's prodding about his daughter. On a side note, Dick Cheney bares a striking resemblence to Yertle the Turtle, and that's not my opinion...it's fact. http://somehavehats.typepad.com/photos/uncategorized/mertyle.jpg

Cruella DeJailed

This article was on the front page of the StarTribune today (Jan. 25th). Basically, it's about a St. Paul man receiving Minnesota's first lifetime ban from pet ownership. Last summer, 20-year-old Kimanie Carter was charged with snapping the necks of 10 puppies, a felony charge. The act was an attempt to terrorize his girlfriend into giving him a ride. On Wednesday, he pleaded guilty and now faces up to 12 months in prison, behavior counseling and is banned from owning an "animal companion" for the rest of his life. Though lifetime pet bans have been used as crimminal punishment before in Virginia, Maine and New York, this is the first time such a sentence has been given in Minnesota.
This article is obviously eye-catching because most puppies are pretty adorable and most people would agree that there are very few things a puppy could do to warrant an untimely death. The author chose to mention they way the puppies were killed in the lead to add some shock value and draw the reader in, but kept the rest of the article almost void of more gruesome details. Instead, he chose to focus more on the meaning behind the sentencing and cited Minnesota as one of only 11 states to have laws banning people from pet ownership.
The Pioneer Press also did an article about this incident, but not as a front page story. The PP article didn't focus so much on the sentencing or animal rights legislation, but rather on the incident itself. It gave more detail about the build up before Carter offed the puppies and how he elluded capture from St. Paul police.
In my opinion, The Strib article was more effective. In class, we discussed how including the latest information gives a jounalist a competetive edge. The PP article just recanted information that was already known where the Strib focused on the most recent developments and expanded the significance of what happened to a national level by including information on other states dealing with simliar cases. After reading both these articles I am ultimately more informed about animal rights legislation and am left with a strong desire to watch 101 Dalmatians and have a good cry.