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Analysis: Computer Assisted Reporting

by Matt Carlson

Today more than ever there is a reliance on digital technology in order to produce and publish news content.  From blogs to Facebook and back to traditional news websites, computers are essential to modern reporting.

In an article published in the New York Times, famed director Peter Jackson discusses on of his upcoming movies called The Lovely Bones.  The story is nothing spectacular nor necessarily unique, but it definitely demonstrates the benefits of computer assisted reporting.

The story is presented in three parts.  There is a text article, an audio interview with Jackson, and then a slideshow, which is matched with Jackson's audio.

Computers essentially make this entire story possible because not only was it published online, the only place where it could be assembled the way it was, it was also produced using a computer.

I think this is definitely the future in terms of reporting and possibly newspapers.  I think news agencies will always be around, but paper media may not.


Analysis: Spot/Follow

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by Matt Carlson

The original story is linked here, and the update, written by the same reporter the next day is here.  The articles are from the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

The second article is noticeably longer, likely due to the added information.  The lead changes, but does not mention the name of the dead man.  His name is mentioned in the second paragraph of the follow article.  The second lead simply adds the body has been identified and that it was a government worker.

The stories between the two articles seems to be almost the same, in respect to the information told, the one exception being the name of the dead person.  However, the follow article seems to be almost completely rewritten. 

The second story also fills in a little background information about the dead body found.  They state his role at the company and also mention that counselors or "assistants" as they say will be available to the dead man's associates.

Something interesting about the first article that I noticed was that the police said they thought the body was of someone who disappeared.  The second article confirmed the suspicion laid out in the first, saying it was indeed the government worker who had gone missing.  This was one way they advanced the story, but at the same time tying back to the original article.

Structure: Analysis

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by Matt Carlson

This article in the Pioneer Press is about a criminal act and it demonstrates the use of news organization well.  The article begins with the latest developments in this particular story, that of a man who exploited his mother for money, and fills in the important details of the case later on in the article.

The strange thing about this article's structure is that, although similar to the martini style organization, it doesn't have the abrupt segue into the chronological information.  The article is essentially written in inverted pyramid style, with the important facts coming first, yet the entire article is in chronological order.  The last few paragraphs of the article violates this ordering, but leaves the reader with some important overall facts of the incident.

I think it is an effective way to present the information, given the story is somewhat complex and have taken place over months.  Also, there just simply isn't a better way to say the information as the content consists of many dates and figures that must be written out.

The Article maybe could have been done differently if the columnist had chosen not to print the background information relating to the charges.  It certainly isn't necessary to learn the entire 18-year history this article covers in order to know a man in Roseville was exploiting his 95-year-old mother's bank account.

The article was mostly fair, being neutral throughout the article in reference to the alleged offender, Joel Allen Berntsen, yet the last line of the article was unnecessary I thought.  The last line read, "Berntsen was previously convicted of felony second-degree criminal sexual conduct in 2000 and driving over the legal limit in 1997. Both convictions were in Ramsey County District Court."

Analysis: Attribution

by Matt Carlson

I've chosen to analyze an article about crime to explore how attribution is used in the news.  I figured it would a be a good topic considering most articles about crime require detailed attribution, given that the reporters are not usually the ones who witnessed or investigated the crime.

 

The story I'm analyzing is about a Hofstra University freshman woman, who falsely accused five men of rape.  I found the story in the crime section of CNN online.

 

The attribution was important to this story, both because of what I noted before and because the story was told mostly through the words of someone other than the author.  The article starts off with the use of attribution right in the lead, "Criminal charges will not be filed against the 18-year-old college freshman who falsely accused five men of raping her in a dormitory bathroom at Hofstra University, an official said Friday."  The nondescript use of "an official" is the attribution here.  The official's affiliation at this point is unclear, whether it's a school official or law enforcement is unknown.

 

Later on in the article, though, the attribution is very clear, and almost overused.  The columnist begins to talk about the criminal implications for the female who falsely accused the men of rape.  The facts laid out in the article come from the district attorney handled the case.

 

The DA was attributed in the following manner,

"Instead, Danmell Ndonye must participate in a year-long psychiatric program and spend 250 hours in community service for lying to police about what was a consensual sexual encounter with four of the five accused men, Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice said in a written statement."

Later in the article the DA is referred to as "she " and "Rice" in related quotes and facts.

 

Surprisingly, two pieces of important information about the students were not attributed.  The sentence, "Ndonye said she did not engage in sexual activity with Rondell Bedward, the only one of the men who attends Hofstra University. He has returned to classes," was not attributed nor was, "Hofstra University has suspended Ndonye."

Analysis: Leads

by Matt Carlson
Sometimes, the quick and concise dissemination of information is crucial when a major event looms upon society.  This was the case in a CNN article titled, "CDC: 3.4 million inhalable H1N1 vaccine does available soon."  The lead used in this article was a textbook example of how a lead can be brief, yet tell the reader what he or she needs to know quickly.  In this article the lead reads, "Health officials expect more than three million doses of H1N1 flu vaccine to be available in the first week of October."  It tells the concerned reader the very things he or she wants to know including the quantity of vaccine available, when it will be ready and that this announcement was made by health officials themselves.

In general, the lead is strong and has strong news elements such as what, when and who.  However, the lead fails to detail a few important criteria.  This article is from a national source and the lead gives no information as to where the three million doses will be distributed.  Also, upon first glance, the amount of vaccine could cause alarm.  Three million is not that much, give our country is home to over 300 million people.  The lead could have used a less finite number or use a phrase such as, "initial round of H1N1 vaccine available first week of October." 


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