February 2012 Archives

Analysis: News organizations' use of multimedia

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Many news organizations are attempting to emphasize multimedia options for their stories. One interesting example of this I found on the Star Tribune's website called "Frozen face of Minnesota." This news story was actually based off of multimedia rather than the other way around.

Renowned British photographer Martin Parr spent some time in Minnesota documenting the ice and how people interact with it. The Star Tribune had a reporter shadow him while he was here and narrate his trip. The story ran with Parr's photographs, the reporter's writing supporting these photographs, and a video clip of the reporter and another Star Tribune employee discussing the experience in an interview-type setting.

Although this was not a hard news story, it was very interesting to see an example where the writing hinges on the multimedia. In this way I thought they were very complementary, because without the narration of the story, we wouldn't have known as many details of what was happening in the photo. Each section of the story included description and anecdotes of the places Parr took photographs.

I also thought it was interesting the way the Star Tribune included the video of the two reporters discussing the story in addition to the slideshow of Parr's photos. With the story right there, I didn't expect to see a video that basically reiterated the same information, but this was another example of emphasizing multimedia rather than print.

Another example of a news organization emphasizing multimedia is the Minnesota Daily. Many stories are accompanied by single photographs, graphics, or photograph slideshows. The story "Painters today, leaders forever" includes a written story and is accompanied by large main photo and a slideshow of others.

In this case, the photographs complement the writing by helping the reader visually see students putting in time and effort to a nonprofit organization rather than simply reading about it. The dramatic lighting in the photos can catch readers' eyes and draw them into the story perhaps more than the title of this piece could.

The Minnesota Daily also includes videos that are not part of a longer story, but only includes a caption. The recent feature, "The Gopher Chauffeur", is an example of this. A videographer shadows the employees of the late-night free taxi service sponsored by the University to create a documentary-style video. The video includes candid responses from the employees, rowdy students using the service, and even a puke shot.

This story was entirely multimedia, and included almost no text besides the short caption. I felt a story or at least a longer, more descriptive caption would have been a benefit to this story, because although the video was very interesting to watch, I had almost no idea what it was about and under usual circumstances I probably wouldn't have clicked on it.

Santorum criticizes Obama for Quaran burning apology

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By Alysha Bohanon

GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum accused President Barack Obama of showing "weakness" on Sunday in his apology to the Islamic world for the U.S. military's recent burning of Qurans in Afghanistan, news sources report.

Santorum also said Afghanistan should apologize to the U.S. for the deaths of four U.S. soldiers during six days of violence sparked by the incident, according to the Star Tribune.

Copies of the Muslim holy book and other religious materials had been thrown into a fire pit used to burn garbage at Bagram Air Field, a large U.S. base north of Kabul, according to the Star Tribune.

More than 30 people have been killed in clashes since the incident emerged Tuesday, the Star Tribune reported.

"There was nothing deliberately done wrong here. This was something that happened as a mistake. Killing Americans in uniform is not a mistake ... when that is occurring, you should not be apologizing for something that was -- an unfortunate -- say it's unfortunate, say that this is something that should have been done," Santorum said on a Sunday appearance on ABC News, according to the Huffington Post. "To apologize for something that was not an intentional act is something that the president of the United States, in my opinion, should not have done."

"It suggests that there is somehow blame, this is somehow that we did something wrong in the sense of doing a deliberate act wrong," Santorum said, the Huffington Post reported. "I think it shows that we are -- that I think it shows weakness."

Virginia abortion bill suspended at last minute

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By Alysha Bohanon

A proposed Virginia legislative bill involving abortions was abruptly suspended Thursday after it had been passed by a Senate committee to be seen by the full body, news sources report.

The suspension came one day after Gov. Bob McDonnell ordered Republicans in the House of Delegates to soften the original version of the bill, which required a woman to undergo a vaginal ultrasound before having an abortion. After the bill drew fire from Democrats and women's advocacy groups, the bill was altered to require a noninvasive abdominal ultrasound, the New York Times reported.

According to the Washington Post, the lawmakers hadn't originally realized that for an ultrasound to determine the age of a fetus, as mandated by the bill, it would usually require a vaginal probe.

"This is a major disgrace for the Republican leadership," said Don Blake, who runs the Virginia Christian Alliance, a conservative group that backed the bill. Republicans should have had the votes to pass the bill, he said to the New York Times.

After the measure began to receive media attention and opposition, it was suddenly suspended. There was broad speculation that McDonnell was behind the move, according to the New York Times.

McDonnell is a Republican and possible candidate for vice president, and it is believed that he may not have wanted to put his name on such a strictly conservative bill, according to the Washington Post.

"Pro-life groups are concerned that the governor had a hand in this," Blake said to the New York Times.

By Alysha Bohanon

Suicide bombers attacked a police station and killed three officers in Pakistan early Friday, news sources report.

The attackers were armed with assault rifles and grenades as they attacked the station in Peshawar, a northwestern Pakistan city near the lawless tribal belt, a stronghold of Taliban and al Qaeda-linked militants, the Wall Street Journal reported.

City police chief Imtiaz Altaf told the Associated Press that three militants attacked the main gate then entered the compound. When police returned fire, they blew themselves up, he said.

Three officers were killed and four more were injured, according to the Wall Street Journal.

"They wanted to occupy this police station, but they failed," Altaf told reporters, according to the Associated Press.

That assault is thought to be an act of revenge for offensive attacks against nearby strongholds, authorities told the Associated Press.

Peshawar has been a frequent target of militant attacks. On Thursday, a car bomb killed 12 people at an outdoor minibus terminal in the city, according to the Associated Press.

4 NDSU freshmen killed in crash Monday

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Four freshmen college students died in a crash Monday on Interstate 94 near Alexandria, news sources report.

The driver was identified by the State Patrol as Lauren J. Peterson, 18, of Prior Lake. The car's three passengers Jordan N. Playle, 19, of Elk River, Megan R. Sample, of Rogers, and Danielle R. Renninger, 18, of Excelsior were also killed in the crash, the Pioneer Press reported.

The victims were driving along the interstate near Alexandria around 3 p.m. in a snow storm when their car crossed over the median and was struck by an SUV, which was hit by a third vehicle, the Pioneer Press reported.

The women were all students at NDSU, and three of the four victims were roommates. They were all on their way back to the the Fargo, N.D., campus after a long weekend at their homes in the Twin Cities area, the Star Tribune reported.

Three people in the two other vehicles weren't seriously injured in the crash and were taken to area hospitals. Lawrence Akers, 58, of Harwood, N.D., was the driver of the sport-utility vehicle. Kari Christensen, 48, of Ramsey, was driving the car that rear-ended the SUV, and Joann Bieker, 71, of Hopkins, was the car's passenger, according to the Pioneer Press.

By Alysha Bohanon

The Minnesota Viking's stadium agreement still isn't finalized, but a deal may be struck soon, news sources report.

All of the major stakeholders, except officials from Minneapolis, met for an hour Tuesday, according to the Star Tribune. The deal seems to hinge on the Minneapolis' City Council.

Both Gov. Mark Dayton and Vikings owner Zygi Wilf emerged from the meeting and said the issues standing in the way of a deal for stadium at the Metrodome site should be resolved within a week and the stadium financing package would be released, the Pioneer Press reported.

But Dayton is wary to speak in definite terms about the stadium, the Star Tribune reported.

"I'm hopeful. I don't use the word 'optimistic' with this project any longer," Dayton said, according to the Star Tribune. "The number of issues that remain are limited, and can be overcome if all the parties are willing."

"I'm never going to say never," Wilf told the Pioneer Press about the possibility of the Arden Hills site, but added "we're very close on hammering a deal right now for the Minneapolis location at Metrodome."

It is estimated that a Minneapolis stadium deal would cost the city $150 million, the team $428 million and the state $340 million, the Pioneer Press reported.

But the stadium talks are far from over. Even if an agreement for a Minneapolis stadium is reached, the plan has a long way to go, the Pioneer Press reported.

Duluth man shot, killed by Superior police

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By Alysha Bohanon

A Minnesota man is dead after a shootout with Wisconsin police Friday, news sources report.

Police say they had to shoot 34-year-old Luke Daniel Anderson of Duluth after he raised his gun as officers tried to investigate him for an attempted car theft, the Star Tribune reports.

The violence broke out about 4:45 p.m. Friday at a Walgreens in Superior, according to Fox 21 News.

Superior police responded to a call reporting that a man took a woman's car keys at gunpoint. Police say when he couldn't start her car, he fled in his own vehicle and lead officers on a chase, according to the Star Tribune

The suspect got out of his car and ran. Police say he pointed his gun toward officers, and they were forced to shoot, Fox 21 News reported.

Minneapolis teen dies "train-hopping"

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By Alysha Bohanon

A teenaged Minneapolis boy died Thursday night while "train-hopping" with a friend, news sources report.

Christopher Hanson, 15, was found dead near railroad tracks in northeast Minneapolis by a railroad employee at about 10:20 p.m., the Star Tribune reported.

One of the boy's friends told Hanson's mother, Melissa Standal, that the two had jumped on a moving train earlier that night, but Hanson didn't jump off at the same time as his friend.

Hanson's body was discovered less than 2 miles from his home. He had sustained multiple blunt-force head injuries, according to the Star Tribune.

Standal said she knew Chris had jumped on and off trains in the past and had been telling him to stop, according to KARE 11.

"We just talked about it Wednesday actually," she said. "And the next day he died doing it."

Now Standal is hoping the tragedy could serve as a warning to other kids. "These are not toys," she said to KARE 11. "Please stay away from trains and tracks."

Dutch prince severely injured in avalanche

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By Alysha Bohanon

The Dutch prince was severely injured Friday in an avalanche at an Austrian ski resort, news sources report.

Prince Johan Friso, 43, was skiing outside the bounds of the resort Lech am Arlberg, a popular skiing area in western Austria, when an avalanche occurred and he was buried beneath the snow, according to CNN.

Friso was rushed to the hospital, where he is in intensive care. He had a stable night, but "his life is still in danger," according to a statement cited in the Huffington Post.

Friso is the second son of Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands. Europe has experienced record snow falls in recent weeks. According to the Huffington Post, the regional avalanche warning issued for the day was four on the five-point scale, meaning the danger was high.

Friso reportedly did not obtain any external injuries, but suffered from lack of oxygen. He was buried in the snow for 20 minutes, according to the Huffington Post.

The prince was wearing an electronic beacon that helped rescuers find him, according to CNN. The prince's companion, an unidentified Austrian, escaped unhurt.

By Alysha Bohanon

The future of Newt Gingrich's campaign for presidency rests on his performance in the Georgia primary, the Republican presidential hopeful suggested during a campaign stop in Georgia Friday, news sources reported.

Gingrich represented Georgia during his 20-year congressional career, CNN reported, and has high hopes for the state.

"I would hope to win here and I think, given the years that I spent both helping represent the state in Congress but also helping grow the Republican Party, I think I have some reasonably good likelihood of winning here," said Gingrich, according to CNN.

The state will hold its Republican primary on March 6, along with 10 other states scheduled to hold primary elections or caucuses on Super Tuesday. Georgia has the most delegates at stake that day, according to CNN.

Gingrich told reporters that Georgia would be a "very, very important state," MSNBC reported. "We actually have a very good chance of doing well here and that gives us a springboard then to go across the whole country."

Gingrich has been campaigning across the state with fellow Georgian and former candidate Herman Cain.

Gingrich assured supporters that despite rough patches in nomination race, he will continue campaigning in the hopes to win Georgia.

"The fact is I have never seen anything like this nominating process. It has been wild. It will remain wild for a while," he said, according to MSNBC. "Some places we've won and some places we've lost, but we are in the hunt."

Analysis: Follow up story for federal building shooting

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By Alysha Bohanon

An interesting example of changes between a original and a follow up story is found in the Associated Press's original story "2 Dead, 1 Hurt In Calif. Federal Building Shooting" from WSLS 10 News and their follow up story a few hours later, "1 dead, 1 hurt in Calif. federal building shooting" from the Associated Press website.

Although both of these stories ran on the same day, the rapid developments in the story (as shown in their titles) demonstrates the changes that occur in follow up stories.

Between the original and follow up story, the AP learned many new details about the incident. The most drastic of these was a correction: only one person was dead, not two as the original reported. The headlines quickly announce this change, but the new details are further explained in the leads.

The original story's lead stated, "Two people were fatally shot and one was wounded Thursday at a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Long Beach, a law enforcement official told The Associated Press." This lead has the incorrect number of people killed, but it also has no information on who the shooter or the people are.

The follow up story's lead stated, "A federal immigration agent shot and wounded a colleague at their office, before the gunman was killed by a third agent, the FBI says." This lead has the correct number of victims, but it also gives many more specifics about the incident. We now know that all of the people involved were federal agents and that the shooter was the one person who died after a third agent stepped in.

The first story addressed what was known from a law enforcement official first then moved on to a statement released by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The follow up story described the events that were known of the incident in chronological order, then went on to list what was still unknown, such as names and the specific reason for the dispute, and quotes from sources. It also explains why the original report had the wrong death count.

The follow up story greatly advances the story by including the correct number of deaths, a much more detailed account of the incidient, more description of who the people involved are and what happened to them, and more quotes from sources.

The follow up story is an Associated Press update to their earlier story, and does not appear to be shaped by any competing news agency. It does reference the Los Angeles Times, but it doesn't appear this reference drastically shaped the update. It seemed more of a competition to simply stay ahead of other news sources, which was made evident by the page frequently refreshing on its own with new updates.

By Alysha Bohanon

A major supporter of GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum's campaign made a remark about contraception Tuesday that has many women's advocacy groups firing back, news sources report.

Santorum's billionaire donor Foster Friess, a retired mutual fund executive from Wyoming, he suggested that in his days, birth control was less expensive because women just squeezed an aspirin between their knees to prevent them from having sex, the Los Angeles Times reported.

"You know, back in my days, they'd use Bayer aspirin for contraceptives. The gals put it between their knees and it wasn't that costly," Friess said in an interview with NBC, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards called his comment "insulting and irresponsible," according to CNN. "Birth control is basic health care and used almost universally by women," Richards said. "It is not something to belittle on national TV."

The National Organization for Women President Terry O'Neill called on Friess to "immediately apologize" to women, CNN reported. "Mr. Freiss' comments today on MSNBC that women use aspirin between their knees for contraception were not only offensive, but demeaning and disrespectful to women," O'Neill said in a statement to CNN. "Santorum should also use this time to renounce his anti-birth control stance."

Friess gave $330,000 to a Santorum super PAC last year, which made up half of the super PAC's total proceeds. Friess has said he contributed at least $250,000 more in the last month, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Santorum told reporters Thursday night that Friess was a "well-known jokester" and said he was not responsible for claims made by his supporters, according to CNN.

"Obviously I don't agree with the basic premise," he said, according to CNN. "It was a joke. It was a stupid joke. It was bad taste."

Analysis: Structure of hotel shooting story

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By Alysha Bohanon

The article "Man dies after being shot at hotel on Nicollet Mall" from KARE 11 News generally follows the inverted pyramid format, by beginning with the most important information and narrowing down to details near the end.

The story begins with a two-sentence lead. The first sentence briefly describes the shooting. The second explains why it is significant: it is the first homicide in Minneapolis this year. The next two paragraphs give more additional details on who and where.

After the who (except the name of the suspected shooter), what, when, and where are answered, the story goes on to include less important details. This included quotes from two sources: the police spokesperson and a guest of the hotel. The story concludes by asking anyone with information about the shooting to contact police.

Because this was a breaking news story, it generally followed the inverted pyramid, the usual format for hard news. I thought this was effective overall, because in a story such as this I just wanted the facts; however, it diverted from this structure in some instances, such as the quote from the hotel guest. I found this to be ineffective. As I was reading the story, I just wanted to know the 5 W's, and I was still waiting on the why when the story was quoting a seemingly random hotel guest who had no connection to the shooting and wasn't even aware it took place until the next morning. As a reader, I didn't care. I wanted to know why the man was shot, or I wanted the reporter to tell me police didn't know why. Instead, I was holding out for an explanation for the rest of the story and I thought this quote in particular simply slowed me down.

By Alysha Bohanon

Iran has cut off access to the Internet, leaving more than 30 million people in the country without access foreign email services since Thursday, news sources report.

The news comes from a Saturday report from the Mehr agency, an Iranian news agency, according to the Associated Press.

An individual inside the country confirmed that Gmail, Hotmail, and Yahoo email as well as Facebook are no longer available, CNET reported.

"The interesting thing is that when asked, they deny the fact that all these services are all blocked," an unidentified Iranian told CNET.

According to CNET, it is possible for to circumvent the government by using proxy servers over VPN connections.

This is not the first time Iran has restricted Internet access. During the turmoil following the 2009 elections, the country blocked websites including Facebook, Twitter, Voice of America and the BBC Farsi service, the Associated Press reported.

Man dead after shooting in downtown Minneapolis hotel

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One man is dead and another is in police custody after a shooting in a downtown Minneapolis hotel early Saturday, news sources report.

Jeremy Robert Shannon, 33, a Minneapolis resident was shot several times and killed at about 2:30 a.m. on Saturday. according to KARE 11 News.

The shooting occurred in a room at the Millennium Hotel on the 1300 block of the Nicollet Mall. Shannon was pronounced dead at the scene, KARE 11 reported.

It is the first homicide of the year in Minneapolis, KARE 11 reported.

According to witnesses, the suspect then fled to a hotel across the street where he was arrested, according to the Pioneer Press.

Brian Vincent Griffin, 33, was being held without bail at Hennepin County Jail awaiting murder charges, the Pioneer Press reported.

By Alysha Bohanon

A man nicknamed the "Piggyback Bandit" was banned from all Minnesota high school games Friday because of his habit of jumping on the backs of student athletes across multiple states, news sources report.

250-pound Sherwin Shayegan, 28, has been accused of jumping on the backs of athletes in Washington state, Montana, North Dakota, and Oregon, and banned from games in each state, according to CBS News. He was then cited in Minnesota, which lead to the ban.

Shayegan plead guilty Wednesday to two assault charges for jumping on the backs of two players at a Montana high school soccer tournament in October. Shayegan was ordered to pay $730 and given a one-year suspended jail sentence, CBS News reported.

Shayegan told a judge, "I made a mistake. I was just trying to be funny and get a piggyback ride," according to CBS News.

"Go back to Seattle and behave," the judge said. "It's not funny. It could be dangerous."

On Wednesday, Shayegan was seen at a college basketball game in Moorhead between Concordia and St. Olaf, the Pioneer Press reported. On Thursday, he was spotted in St. Cloud, and there was a reported sighting in Minneapolis on Friday.

Minnesota State High School League executive director Dave Stead banned Shayegan from all Minnesota high school sports events, and sent out a notice for schools to keep an eye out for the "Piggyback Bandit," according to the Pioneer Press.


Obama's contraception requirement draws fire from all sides

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By Alysha Bohanon

The recent Obama administration rule requiring all employers, including religious-affiliated organizations, to provide health insurance plans that offer free birth control to women has many legislatures up in arms, news sources report.

The requirement was issued last month as part of Obama's health care overhaul. Church-affiliated organizations were given an extra year to comply with the mandate, but the White House has still been facing intense pressure, the Washington Post reports.

After growing outcry from religious leaders, the Obama administration sought a compromise by promising to "explore ways to make it more palatable to religious-affiliated institutions," such as allowing such institutions to make these insurance plans available to employees but not directly paying for the contraception aspect of the plan, according to the New York Times.

Congressional Republicans seized the opportunity to act on the kind of social issue that motivates unifies their base, another article by the New York Times reported. "The fight over the contraception rule offered a possible way to regain their political footing . . . It is potentially a powerful wedge issue that could unite what has been a fractured conference."

But Republicans have not been the only legislatures to voice their disagreement with the measure. Many Democrats are deeply divided about the issue as well.

"This is not only unacceptable, it is un-American," the Washington Post quoted Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., as saying.

The Washington Post also suggests that certain Democrat's break from their party could have to do with the upcoming election season. Manchin is a Catholic up for re-election this November, and West Virginia is a very religious state. According to the Washington Post, the political upside for Manchin and other critics of the mandate is a fresh opportunity to show their independence from the president.

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida introduced a new bill Thursday to expand the religious exemption and undo the Obama policy by allowing religious organizations to opt out of providing health care benefits to which they had a conscientious objection, according to the New York Times.

But not all Democrats are opposed to the mandate.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., on Thursday promised a "fierce debate on women's rights if Republicans tried to repeal the policy," the Washington Post reported.

"We're here to stand up for the women of America who deserve to have access to free preventive care through their health insurance," Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said, according to the Washington Post.

Women in military moving closer to the front lines

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The Pentagon announced Thursday that women would be officially permitted to fill certain positions closer to the front lines, but women soldiers are still not allowed to serve in combat, news sources report.

After a yearlong Pentagon review ordered by congress, the decision "allows women to be permanently assigned to a battalion -- a ground unit of some 800 personnel -- as radio operators, medics, tank mechanics and other critical jobs," according to the New York Times.

The word "permanently" is key. Many critics view the move as a very small step forward, because Female troops have been informally serving in such positions in Iraq and Afghanistan for years on a "temporary" basis, and the decision largely formalizes existing arrangements, the Times reports.

About 150 women soldiers have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan so far, the National Journal reports.

Because the guerilla conflicts don't have fixed front-lines, women serving in support roles have found themselves in dangerous combat positions such as firefights with insurgents, flying helicopters into active battles, treating injured soldiers and other tasks typically reserved for the front-lines, according to the National Journal.

Critics say the current policy of restricting women from serving in the infantry, in combat tank units and in Special Operations commando units unfairly holds women back and keeps them from promotions contingent on serving in such assignments. Supporters of the policy say the physical demands are too strenuous for most women, and there is a psychological barrier preventing male soldiers and Marines from trusting women in combat, the Times reports.

"I think the infantry in me will have a very hard time ever accepting that I'm going to rush against the enemy and there's going to be a female right next to me," Capt. Scott A. Cuomo, a company commander of 270 Marines in Afghanistan and a strong supporter of women in the military, said in an interview in 2010 to the New York Times. "Can she do it? Some might. I don't know if this sounds bad, but I kind of look at everything through my wife. Is that my wife's job? No. My job is to make sure my wife is safe."

The Pentagon's announcement said more positions may be opening up in the future. Defense Department spokesman George Little said that each of the military's branches had been directed to conduct a six-month review of what other positions could be opened to women, the National Journal reports.

By Alysha Bohanon

The story "Amy Senser's lawyer claims hit-and-run victim was on drugs" in the Star Tribune is an interesting example of attribution because most of the information in the story was based on a motion written by Senser's lawyer to dismiss the case.

The information in the story is mostly attributed to this motion. In some cases, partial quotes contained in the motion are used in the story and attributed to Senser's attorney Eric Nelson, who wrote the motion. Therefore, even when the story credits Nelson with a quote, that quote was taken from the document rather than a verbal statement.

Other sources were briefly mentioned within the story, such as the Phanthavong family's attorney Jim Ballentine and the Minnesota Supreme Court.

Perhaps because the number of sources in this story was fairly small, the author also mentioned two potential sources who could not be reached for comment: Hennepin County attorney's office spokesman Chuck Laszewski and Phanthavong's family and their attorneys. This was slightly confusing to me, however, because later in the story the author said Ballentine was the Phanthavong's family attorney, and he is attributed with a paraphrased quote. The author may have meant the family's other attorneys, but that was not clear.

The motion was mentioned many times throughout the story; sometimes multiple times in the same paragraph. Because of this, the author had to attribute the motion in many different ways. The author placed attributions at varying locations throughout the paragraphs, and used different verbs such as contended, pointed out, states, said, and according to within the attribution.

Overall, I felt this method was an effective way of attributing information, but it was not perfect. It wasn't confusing, but I didn't like the use of "points out." To me, the wording was informal and distracted me from the information more than it should have.

By Alysha Bohanon

A motion filed Friday said the man who Amy Senser, struck and killed with her car on a Minneapolis freeway ramp last summer had "high amounts" of cocaine in his system at the time of his death, news sources report.

The motion is seeking to dismiss the charges against Senser, the wife of former Vikings player Joe Senser, on account of the cocaine.The motion also contends that although the state has used "blatantly manipulated" evidence in the case, it has not been able to prove that Senser, 45, knew she hit a person according to the Star Tribune.

An autopsy report states that Anousone Phanthavong, 38, had cocaine in his system when Senser's car struck him as he put gas in his stalled car on the on-ramp to Interstate 94 at Riverside Avenue last summer, the Star Tribune reports.

"A person with this amount of cocaine in his or her system is likely to be moving erratically and unpredictably," Senser attorney Eric Nelson wrote in the 26-page motion to dismiss the criminal vehicular homicide charges against his client, according to the Star Tribune.

Nelson also said Senser's activities after the accident, which included parking her damaged car in her driveway and falling asleep on the couch, were those of a person unaware she'd even been in an accident, the Pioneer Press reports.

Senser has acknowledged she hit Phanthavong. Her defense is that she was unaware she'd struck a person. Prosecutors must prove she knew it was a person she hit, rather than an object, according to the Pioneer Press.

The recently-filed motion did not mention whether or not Senser had been drinking, which prosecutors had implied earlier in the case. According to Nelsen, "Even if, assuming hypothetically, Ms. Senser was impaired at the time of the collision, this would not assist the state's case as impairment would reasonably negate the element of knowledge to the charged offenses," the Pioneer Press reports.

Senser's trial is scheduled for April 23, according to the Pioneer Press.

Four bodies recovered in Papua New Guinea ferry disaster

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By Alysha Bohanon

Four bodies have been discovered in rescue efforts along the east coast of Papua New Guinea, authorities said Saturday, after a ferry carrying around 350 people sank there last week, news sources report.

About 250 survivors of the approximately 350 passengers have been rescued so far. Nine aircraft were being used to locate the 100 missing passengers despite rough weather conditions, CNN reports.

The ferry was was transporting passengers from the town of Kimbe on New Britain Island to Lae when it sank. It is believed weather contributed to the accident, as there were high winds at the time in what is a "notoriously dangerous area," according to CNN.

The bodies were found within the search area, which rescuers had expanded on Friday. "It appears that the debris and any other persons unaccounted for are now situated almost 50 nautical miles to the southeast of the location where the vessel had capsized," PNG's National Maritime Safety Authority said in a statement, according to the New York Post.

Although reports that the 100 passengers had been trapped inside the ship when it went down were a cause of concern, the warm water temperatures provide some hope in the search, according to the New York Post.

"We haven't given up hope," said rescue coordinator Captain Nurur Rahman. "I'm very positive myself because the water temperature is still high and there's still chances of survival for people for another day or so," the New York Post reports.

NYPD in hot water over scandals involving Muslim Americans

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By Alysha Bohanon

Two scandals in two weeks involving Muslim Americans have left more than 30 Muslim and legal advocacy groups urging the New York attorney general to investigate the New York City Police Department, news sources report.

The Associated Press published a secret 2006 NYPD report, "U.S.-Iran Conflict: The Threat to New York City," which recommended that officers "expand and focus intelligence" at Shiite mosques through increased spying and through an assessment of the region's Palestinian community to look for possible terrorists, the Washington Post reports.

Last week, news sources reported that "The Third Jihad," a documentary film that critics say demonizes Muslims, was shown during anti-terrorism training in 2010 to nearly 1,500 officers. NYPD spokesperson Paul Browne originally claimed only a small number of police officers had viewed the film. This discrepancy sparked charges of a cover-up, and civil rights groups have called for NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly and Browne to resign, according to the Washington Post.

Activists were planning to protest the NYPD's actions by holding a rally near police headquarters Thursday, the Wall Street Journal reports.

"The need to hold the NYPD accountable for its flagrant use of discriminatory policing practices has never been more glaring and urgent," the Muslim and legal advocacy groups wrote to New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Asad Sadiq, the mosque president of Bait-ul-Qaim in Delran, N.J, one of the mosques on the list to receive special watch, spoke out against the NYPD's actions. "Just because we are the same religion [as other terrorists] doesn't mean we're going to stand up and harm the United States," Sadiq said to the Wall Street Journal. "It's really absurd."

Maturi to step down as athletic director

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By Alysha Bohanon

After a decade as the University of Minnesota's athletic director, Joel Maturi announced at a press conference Thursday he will step down from the position when his contract expires June 30, news sources report.

Maturi's ten years as AD were marked by the construction of the first new Big Ten football stadium in a half-century, struggling sports teams and controversial staffing decisions, the Washington Post reports.

The University's president Eric Kaler joined Maturi at the press conference. Kahler said he and Maturi spoke several times and mutually decided it was "simply the right time for Joel to retire," according to the Washington Post.

While Maturi will no longer be in charge of the athletics department, he will still be involved in the university. Maturi will serve as a special assistant to Kaler for one year. His duties will include fundraising, teaching, helping the transition for his successor, and other "special projects," the Washington Post reports. Maturi's $351,900 annual salary will continue with benefits through June 2013.

During his tenure, Maturi has been accused of making poor hiring decisions, being too patient with losing teams and piling up big bills for the University when he did fire losing coaches.

The firings of head football coaches Tim Brewster and Glen Mason and men's basketball coach Dan Monson racked up a $4.1 million tab in contract buyouts for the athletics department, the Minnesota Daily reports.

"It makes a lot of sense to make a change now," The Minnesota Daily quotes Maturi as saying at the press conference. "We have a new president, and we have an old athletics director."

By Alysha Bohanon

Washington is on its way to becoming the seventh state to allow same-sex marriages after the State Senate voted to pass a bill Wednesday allowing gay and lesbian couples to wed as soon as this summer, news sources report.

Supporters had expected the State Senate to be the more difficult chamber in which to pass the bill, but it was approved after a relatively short debate by a vote of 28 to 21, the New York Times reported.

The bill now moves on to the House of Representatives, which could take action on it as soon as next week and is expected to approve it. Gov. Chris Gregoire is a supporter of the measure and has said she will sign it into law, according to NPR.

If passed, opponents of the bill plan to challenge the measure with a public referendum. To bring the issue to the ballot, they must collect 120,577 signatures by June 6, according to NPR.

If opponents are unable to college the required number of signatures, the measure will take effect and allow gay and lesbian couples to wed in June. If the signatures are acquired and the measure is challenged, same-sex couples would have to wait until the results of a November election, NPR reports.

New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont, Iowa, and Washington, D.C. already allow same-sex marriage, according to the New York Times.

Although the measure would allow gay and lesbian couples, it could not guarantee its success, noted Senator Steve Litzow, a Republican of Mercer island speaking in favor of the bill, according to the New York Times.

"We cannot guarantee the outcome of that pursuit," Litzow said. "The legislation's good, but it's not that good."

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