December 9, 2007

Dinosaur Mummies!

This is my last blog so I thought I'd focus on the very important issue of dinosaur mummies in the Dakotas. This little duck like mummy was found, very well preserved.

It uses the scientist who discovered it to explain why it's important. It then leads into science museum stuff. It gives some info on what the dinosaur was probably like, and how it ran around and did stuff. It also described its appearance, it turns out it might have been striped and camouflage, which is awesome. Certainly,we're not so far from a Jurassic Park scenario, maybe more like people in Uptown with little raptors hopping around on leashes.

Goodbye blog.

Cellphine polls in NY Times

The New York Times had a great story today about how cell phones are making accurate polling more difficult. This is relevant because we read polls every few days about the presidential election thats still more than a year away. The fact that so many people, especially young people, only have cell phones these days, means that results will be very unrepresentative. There's already all the debate about whether treating elections like a horse race (and it's Hillary by a nose), effects results, now we wonder, are the results already skewed by the technology?

The story starts by explaining how pollsters gather results and telling how prolific cell phones have become. This backed-up by a ton of stats from places like the FCC and pew center etc. It is not until more than halfway down the page that a living human talks to us, sums it all up, although he talks through email.

The article ends with quotes saying pollsters are going to meet this challenge. But, they don't describe the HOW of it. I want to know. Are they gonna figure something out with phone companies (and what do those people think)?

Love Hewitt Body Image Controversy- New or Newz?

Thank you Chicago Tribune. It seems like the "respectable" media uses the internet gossip columns as an excuse to talk about things like Jennifer Love Hewitts bikini controversy. It's not news, not really. It's an excuse to put a picture of her in a bikini on the site, and it sure attracts a lot of attention (being at the top of the most emailed story). The gist of it is that JLH was photographed at beach, people thought she looked overweight on the internet, they made fun of her, she reacted by pointing out that a size 2 is not, by any stretch of the imagination, fat. Good point right. BUT, is it news? Or "Newz"?

The excuse for it is that JLH defended herself on her website by saying,
"To all girls with butts, boobs, hips and a waist," she wrote, "put on a bikini -- put it on and stay strong."
Alright, maybe it would be relevant if she started a foundation, donated money to stop eating disorders, or some real reaction. Instead, it becomes a gossip column.

December 2, 2007

More Polls in Iowa

A new poll was released by the Des Moine Register. It shows Obama and Huckabee with narrow leads, with Clinton and Romney falling. The rest of the candidates are staying consistent. This is MORE newsworthy because a week or two back another poll showed Obama in the lead. It was covered by Fox and Reuters. The problem I have with these polls, apart from the content-free horse race aspect, is that they could be completely inaccurate. The margin of error is 4.4% points. That means that not only could Clinton still be in the lead, but John Edwards could be. THese polls also don't know exactly who will caucus, or how forcefully. TO me, it's a little bit disturbing to focus so much on these polls when, if the margin of error is taken into account, they are not definite.

Last week the Zogby poll that showed CLinton would lose to Republicans was heralded. However, reading the fine print would tell you that, unlike the previous polls, it was done online. WTF. We all know how unreliable online-ness is. Is it the media's responsibility to mention the margin of error, and explain what that means, right away? I think yes.

Teddy Trouble

Let me first say, I didn't come up with that title. Obviously, it's a reference from the Christian Science Monitor about the British teacher who allowed her students to name a teddy bear Mohammed (everyone seems to spell it differently). The story has already been broken, so what we're seeing now is analysis. The HIndu and the Christian Science Monitor both talk about how England is trying to negotiate with Sudanese authorities.

Both articles follow a similar pattern, noting that England is negotiating, giving us background, noting the protests calling for her "execution." In a way, I was a little bit skeptical of the way the media covered this story of protests. As the CSM notes, even the BBC thought protests were suspiciously well-organized. By giving so much attention to a fringe, or a government ploy, without including other more moderate views that are more representative, the media gives westerners the idea that all muslims are ridiculously extreme. The fact that the story of who was behind the protests hasn't yet come out, is a little disturbing to me. The CSM does a better job of mentioning this. It's a case where the media gets to really frame the public's perspective on a whole groups of people, very important, especially in these times.

Putin Wins

Putin's United Russia Party has won 62% of the vote with 34% of precincts reporting. The other non-Kremlin parties, including the Communists, are complaining that there were irregular circumstances. The opposition that actually opposes Putin has been in the news lately becaus ehte government has cracked-down on them. The chess player Gary Kasparov has been very active.

Because of the hostile atmosphere towards journalists in Russia, I thought it would be interesting to look at ABC coverage, in comparison to the Russian News and Information Agency.

The ABC story is much longer. Because it refers to something Americans probably don't know too much about, it spends the last 2 pages updating us on events that have already occurred. The crackdown on other opposition groups, criticisms of Putin's leadership, etc. In contrast, the RNIA just has an updates on voting totals.It then reassures the public that his party will not change the constitution. Finally, it ends with quotes form the Communist party (who play the role of the "loyal opposition" to Putin), citing voting irregularities and promising legal action. There was no mention of Kasparov or the boycott by his party. It's interesting, because not knowing whether Kasparoov is just a Western fixation (like Nader) or whether he's actually a power in pilitics that is not being covered by the media (like Ron Paul) for whatever reasons.

November 24, 2007

Poll on Chavez Constitutional Changes

USA Today has reprinted an AP article about how Chavez trailing in his attempts to amend the Venezuelan constitution. It seems that a Venezuelan company, Datanalasis, has found support for these constitutional amendments at 39% with 49% opposition. They interviewed about 1,800 people of all socio-economic and other sub-populations. In previous elections the company has accurately predicted Chavez's victories. I thought this would be an interesting story to discuss because we're looking at stats and polls in 3004 right now.

The story leads with the above info. Alread, the second paragraph explains that the company has consistently found accurate results for Chavez. This seems like an attempt to preempt criticisms of the company by Chavez supporters. That might seem strange for the United States (at least blatantly), but in Latin America, with such a history of outside and elite intervention including coups, this is just being realistic.

The next important info explains the numbers and survey. Only after that does it segue into what the heck the constitutional amendment is about. It actually only gives a little information about it, I would have appreciated some background of WHY Chavez wants these changes and what the general criticism would be.It closes with info on how the interviews were conducted before closing with a statement connecting about Chavez and his connection to Castro.

Bush Ally Defeated in Australia

The New York Times reported that John Howard, the PM of Australia, has lost both the PM position and his local seat in yesterday's elections. The Labor Party gained 28 seats overall, largely due to dissatisfaction about the Iraq War. Labor Leader Kevin Rudd will take over as PM.

What an interesting story, it will certainly serve as an example to other leaders who back the war. Or, Howard actually might be one of the last ones left. It's happened with Blair in England, Aznar in Spain, as well as a couple others. That sounds a little like a follow-up story. Including, of course, information on who has dropped out of the coalition of the willing, and the requisite discussion of whether Australian troops will be withdrawn, and how that will effect the war effort. Maybe you could even throw in some info about the unpopularity of the war internationally. It sounds like an interesting follow-up.

Russian Authorities Crack Down on Opposition

A correspondent of the Chicago Tribune reported today that opposition demonstrations are being repressed, and that Gary Kasparov, the former chess champion, is among those arrested.

First off, I'm glad to see a foreign correspondent reporting this, it's feeling pretty rare to have more than AP stories. As far as the story itself, my impression is that it would be difficult to write. There's a lot going on and deciding which aspects to focus on, and which to ignore, is a challenge. On one side you have Putin leading his party for another election, you have repression of all opposition parties except the Communists who have a sort of alliance with Putin's right-wing party, you have elections coming up next week, you have Putin's party accusing the West of interfering in Russian politics and you have leaders of all these parties being jailed. That's a lot for one story.

The writer, of course, does a great job of condensing all that information, as well as putting it into a chronology that eases the reader into the depths of the story.

It begins with the current crackdown. Paragraph tow gives details. Paragraph three explains what the "pro-democracy" group that is being repressed is. Paragraphs seven and eight explain the Russian electoral system. The closing paragraphs describe Putin's accusations that the West is behind all civil unrest. It closes with an creepy, communist-era (or Chicago '68) quote from the police accusing the demonstrators of disorder.

November 18, 2007

Torture adviser has tortured in training

The Asheville Global Report had an article that i haven't heard anything about anywhere else. It turns out that an adviser for homeland security has practiced water-boarding in Navy training, and considers it torture. The story introduces the technique of water-boarding. It then covers the debate about whether it is torture and introduces the adviser who they say has embarrassed the Bush Administration. The thing I found particularly interesting was his explanation of the technique. Every other article I've read has described it as "simulated drowning." From what the adviser says it's actually a limited drowning. The lungs are filling up with water. The fact that this hasn't been widely reported otherwise is pretty disturbing, meaning journalists weren't examining the practice closely enough. The repercussions or follow-ups for this story could involve the administrations response, or even journalist's reflections on why they weren't informed as to the extent of the practice.

Obama Criticizes Clinton for NAFTA

Obama criticized Clinton's support of NAFTA and other free-trade agreements during a speech for a chapter of the United Auto Workers of America today. The AP covered it extensively. I'm interested in how free-trade became the focus of the story.

It seems like the first thing that set it up was the context. Obama was speaking to a chapter of the UAW, jobs are obviously the focus of unions. Secondly, Clinton has taken some flack for her husbands support of these trade agreements so there's some sort of history. This last point also gives the opportunity to quote Edwards, who has been very vocal critic of Clinton's connection to the "establishment" in Washington. Third, the writer is then able to go to the PR people for the campaigns to get additional quotes. Like this: "It must be the silly season, because this is getting ridiculous," Clinton campaign spokesman Phil Singer said." I don't really know what that means, and it's interesting because the PR hacks can say pretty much whatever they want, and no one really holds them to it. And there's the story. In this case though, for all its length, I think the article says very little. It's mostly chatter. It does manage to give the candidate's individual stances on free-trade agreements in the last lines, in my opinion it would have been beneficial to the readers to know what the candidates really do rather than how their PR people do it.

Robert Fisk

Vice Magazine is a hybrid of print and electronic journalism. It started out as a smarmy hipster 'zine years back, but recently they've started to cover important issues that mainstream media won't touch. They went to Iraq and talked to refugees and did a profile of a metal band. Their reporting is more magazine-style, but it's still an interesting case of a new type of journalism for the internet age. Although much of the reporting in Vice is done in their multimedia format, VBS, they still cover a good deal of stuff in print. A recent article that I thought was interesting, and relevant to journalism, is an interview with Robert Fisk. It deals with Fisk's experiences as an international reporter, how it's changed since the "War on terror" and how people interact with him.

He's certainly up there with Bill Moyers and Walter Cronkite as widely-respected representatives of journalism, which itself isn't widely respected. Some of the more interesting points was of how coverage has changed. He's highly critical of the lack of street reporting in the Middle East. He talks about how the risk of being abducted is balanced by the need for the public to know. It's an awesome statement for a reporter who was almost killed a couple years back.

November 11, 2007

The Plague

A Wildlife biologist at Grand Canyon State Park died after being infected with the plague, presumably by a mountain corpse he dissected. This is not uncommon in the southwest for a reason which neither the article in the Arizona Republic or the Med Headlines tells us. But, in any case, it is a spectacularly frightening thing so please report it in brief everywhere. I'm not sure if med headlines is a newspaper or what, maybe they just compiled their stats from other sources, but it's still relevant because each of these publications targeted a different audience and adjusted their information accordingly.

The Arizona Republic piece was picked up by USA Today. It revolves around the guy, how he caught it, what his job was and how he would be buried. The Med one revolves around medical issues of all things. In this one the first thing that catches your eye is a graphic showing how bubonic plague is passed from rats (the rat in the graphic is also impossibly cute, I can say this because I have experienced rats with my own eyes and they are nothing like the cuddly creature pictured), to a flea, to a human. The article itself is brief but it focuses more on how the disease was transmitted, what the common carriers are, where and who normally gets infected. It's information relevant to medical staff and doctors while the Arizona Republic is a human-interest story largely revolving around the man himself.

Soccer Fan Killed in Italy

A fan of Lazio soccer club was killed by police during a rest stop confrontation with a group of rival fans. This was covered in English by Reuters and the Guardian.

The two pieces differ only slightly, Reuters being more in-depth and longer. I'll examine it through the lead, chronology of facts, and end-quotes

In the lead the Reuters story does not use the Guardian's language of "accidental," which the Guardian also does not attribute. It also brings up that the incident inspired stadium violence in four other cities. The Guardian then follows with a quote from police backing up that it was accidental. It follows with police version of the story, who the victim was, then touches on the reaction of the victim's family before ending with a description of soccer violence in Italy.

The Reuters story goes about the same direction but provides more examination of the families' reaction and descriptions of what the conflicts with authorities actually looked like. A powerful example is the Italians in this guys native city chanting, "assesino." I think we all understand what that means.

All in all the Reuters story seemed more true to life than the Guardian story.

The Democrat Party has a party in Iowa.

Last night the Democrats candidates for president attended the annual Jefferson-Jackson dinner in Iowa. It was everything that you might expect if you've been following the election narrative that has dominated articles in past weeks. There are three front-runners: Clinton, Obama and Edwards. O and E are finally criticizing C, who is in the lead. She is increasingly vulnerable and the latest polls show her lead slipping, however, O and E are "dueling" to be the C alternative and any opposition to her is divided amongst the other lower-tier candidates. The New York Times released an article covering almost exactly these points. However, and I'm as surprised at this as anyone, MTV bucks the trend and instead releases an article that bucks this narrative and focuses on the Democrat's opposition to Bush. Whether this is a blog or just an informal news article though, I can't tell. Only the last lfew paragraphs gives it away as a blog, otherwise it seems to me to be a news article, it even has a dateline. This blurring of news and blogs on media sties isn't new, it should probably be addressed more clearly though.

I'm relieved that MTV did something different, and actually points out something that would be difficult for the NY Times to ever say, that politics isn't about pageantry but about issues.
"Of course, it's easy to think that none of this, really, has anything to do with leading the free world. That chants and signs and buttons are good for the homecoming game, but they aren't going to stabilize Iraq or up your take-home pay. But if you can inspire someone to make a giant star-spangled top hat out of posterboard or to spell out your name in eight-foot tall letters festooned with Christmas lights, then maybe, just maybe, you can inspire a nation as well."

What an interesting statement to make during such a media-hyped event. Especially after that Pew Center poll of a couple weeks back that said the media hasn't been fulfilling the publics desire for real issues during election coverage.

I've stayed pretty close to the coverage of the Democrat primary, it seems like I've seen so many articles like NY TImes what, instead of showing differences, focus on the insults and slights of the candidates. Not to say the MTV article provides too much insight, but at least it's a different perspective, and, as someone who reads way too many news articles every day, I appreciate that.

November 2, 2007

Ultra-Orthodox Business in Israel

Today the New York Times included an interesting piece about business appeals to ultra-orthodox in Israel. I thought it was interesting because it took the angle of attempts to gain their business and combined it with what turned out to be almost a profile piece of the community.

It starts out by giving an example of how the ultra-orthodox guy uses his cell phone. It explains how the Rabbi must approvde it and what the differences are with other phones. it then segues into an explanation of who ultra orthodox are, what, generally, their requirements are, where they live, and how many.

The next section goes into the growing sector of business that appeals to ultra orthodox, showing a diversity. It then gives an example of a pizza shop owner who was closed and threatened by them. This is almost the signal for transitioning into more extensive critiques. They tell another story some people who were attacked. It's interesting but I'm not sure the second case was related to this angle. It demonstrated how their restrictions on themselves can lead them to try and restrict others but it wasn't related to economy in this case, like it was in the first example.

in this case I would have liked a little more background about who these people are. How did they form (actually they have a super interesting history that you wouldn't expect, it's relatively youthful movement even though it looks very very old.)

October 31, 2007

The Debate

The leading democratic candidates debated last night in Pennsylvania. I chose two distinct sources to look at the coverage. The first is MTV. The Second is CNN. They both have the same essential storyline. Clinton is under attack by everyone else. John Edwards is the most effective attacker. Obama isn't really holding his own.

The CNN story is more stripped down. They essentially rely on the quotes of the candidates themselves along with a background of generic wisdom. It uses the same quotes and structure that most other stories did, setting it up with Obama's Rocky quote, and ending with a moment of levity at the expense of Kucinich. A funny thing, there has been very little coverage (in either story actually) of how the main candidates were focused on. In other stories it's noted that Kucinich and Richardson both interrupted to protest not being included in the debate somewhere around the 20 minute mark. The MTV article actually does touch on this focus, but without including the interruptions.

The MTV article is suprisingly hardy. It uses articles that appeared in the New York Times to provide background as well as touching on the last major election and techniques that were used. It gives too much time to a pundit, quoting him a ridiculous amount. Its tone is also more "fun" or whatever, and more interesting to read, and, in the end it is a more substantial and balanced piece. Relatively.

Project for Excellence in Journalism

The Project for Excellence in Journalism has released a study showing that the media has focused ridiculous amounts of coverage (something like 60%) on election tactics, strategies and fund-raising and largely neglecting the issues (15%) even though most Ameriocans, according to a Pew Center poll, say they want more coverage of ideas and content.
It's interesting and I think a reaction to 24 hour news mentality of news organizations. Rather than cover the boring ideas, or even the personalities, of the candidates they focus on the flashy psuedo-opinion style pieces. To me this means that for every ten articles about the election, odds are only 1 and a 1/2 are relevant information to the public. People would have to be very informed, constantly plugged in to news, to be able to learn about all the positions of all the candidates.
The report also shows that the election has focused on 5 main candidates largely neglecting the rest. Obviously they will justify it by popularity but the truth is that candidates like Roon paul have become hugely popular outside the confines of mainstream media so obviously some of what they are saying resonates with people (the irony of this now being that the only time he gets mention is in stories about how popular he is outside the mainstream media).
To me this seems not only to be a matter of bias, but a result of laziness, taking the easy angle. Looking any candidate name up on google-news will leave you with groupings of up to 200 similarly angled stories. Why is it that these appeal to the mainstream media? Aren't there other possibilities for stories? Is it just cheaper to do analysis where you grab a couple quotes and then spout some generic wisdom? I mean, seriously, hjow many articles must mention John Edwards haircut but don't mention his stance on drug companies or the war? Which is more telling and which is more important?
The "alternative" media has done a better job.

October 28, 2007

Feminism and Clinton

This week there have been two analysis pieces on Hillary Clinton and her image as a feminist in contrast to the campaign image she has been presenting as a home maker. Such a feminist paper as the Washington Post saw fit to point out her transition, or at least the transition of her rhetoric. There was also an extensive story in the Boston GLobe.

There are important differences in their approaches though. The Globe is more interested in the political face Clinton presents and the political considerations that might backfire or feed into it. The Post deals more with the pop culture side; showings on the view, jokes about weight and hair. The Post uses a feminist art show called Whap to compare Clinton's public persona to what women artists have done earlier. My impression is that this is almost a false comparison. Obviously Clinton is not a performance artist so to compare her to women who appeared in porn as a political statement is ludicrous to say the least. The story also uses more interjections by the author ot make it's point while the Globe quotes experts or participants or Clinton herself. The Globe piece is also at least twice as long. It looks at the perspective of homemakers to see if they buy her "act." It then talks to feminists (an integral part I think). Two pretty different approaches that come to the same end, that Clinton is purposely showing herself as a more traditional "girl" (her words) to undermine right-wing criticism of her as a radical socialist feminist. The Globe is undeniably the more interesting and informative perspective.

Peaches in Georgia lack "juiciness"

Stephen Colbert of the Colbert Report (silent t's), is running for President in South Carolina. HIs campaign is sponsored by Doritos and no one, whether left or right, know if he is serious. He's also been campaigning to be named as South Carolina's native son and the Mayor of Columbia just awarded him that title on Sunday. This led to responses from the Edwards campaign who, thankfully, showed a lot restraint and made jokes instead of taking it seriously. The media has really been eating this up. It's given papers like the stodgy Washington Post the opportunity to present jokes (alhtough it's unclear whether they "get" the jokes). This has really been up the alley of Editor and Publisher. They presented a piece today showing the tension between Edwards and Colbert over the designation of "native son." This way they got to present jokes form each side.

It's an interesting experience, the way this has played out. It's like on one hadn the media is so excited to have stories that people are interested in and find amusing, while on the other they kind of resent the manipulation of the media that's going on. The article in the Seattle Times has a little taste of that. It's funny that if Colbert's statements were taken at face-value, you'd have to believe him, but balanced with his profession and past the media assumes it's a joke. Not that I know, but it seems like an interesting tension anyway.

October 27, 2007

Denouncing Watersports for the CIA

Democrats have been calling on the new nominee for attorney general, Micheal Mukasey, to say that he doesn't support "waterboarding" (which, among other acts, are largely believed to be torture or at the least cruel and unusual punishment). All in all it's got nothing to do with boogieboarding, which, by the way, democrats also are not really into.
The thing I found interesting about this NY Times article was the choices about what background to provide. There's been a huge amount of debate about this administrations tactics. Do you stick to the political opposition and the facts they cite? Or do you independently bring up NGO's like Amnesty International?

In this case the author, probably smartly, sticks to the political debate that is going on and the criticisms that have been made of the nominee. Maybe for an informed reader this is a good approach, and obviously the NY Times has some pretty informed readers. But would a smaller paper want to have so much dialog, so much Washington-ish in-fighting, maybe not. Or maybe they'd runa sideline summing up the struggle so far. Otherwise it seems like it might be incomplete.

October 21, 2007

Zoo Boo at NEW Zoo brings traffic to a halt

What a title. I found this in the Green Bay Gazette. I thought it would be interesting to see how the news standards of small town papers differed from big cities like Minneapolis. It seems like every time I go to a small town and read their paper I think, why is this important? THe Star Tribune for instance has mostly crime and analysis articles about local issues. The GB article is about an event at the zoo for trick or treating. It also mentions that traffic was stalled to demonstrate how busy it was. Maybe that doesn't seem like a big deal here, where traffic is regularly stalled, but in GB that demonstrates that it was excessively busy. Maybe that plays into the news values. Essentially though, this is a post-event, event listing. There's nothing too interesting or especially informative, it mostly lists time and place while neglecting the actual event. Maybe the reporter didn't even go to the event,maybe s/he got stuck in traffic, in any case this probably wouldn't fly in a bigger city.

Colbert for President!

Satirist Stephen Colbert announced last week that he would run for president in the South Carolina primary as both a Republican and Democrat. He appeared this morning on Meet the Press with Tim Russert and engaged in a bizarre interview according to the New York Times. Editor and Publisher also covered it, mostly by a transcript. Obviously these publications serve different purposes. IN this case what I'm more interested in is how the media covers this fake campaign.

Russert uses his interview technique of bringing up quotes from the past and comparing them to the present. He treated it like it was real interview, and the Times covered it like one. The media has trouble dealing with a satirist, on one hand not being sure how serious he is, and on the other wanting to include all the jokes he makes. It leads to some very strange mixtures of style, essentially they disembody and decontextualize the jokes, they just come off as strange. I think in this case you'd want to include more context, not really the transcript, but more information, set-up and background.

Black Police Officers Urge More Harassment of Black Citizens in England

In England the head of a union of black police officers issued a statement saying that black motorists should be stopped more often and searched for weapons. It's news because this is a reversal of his position. His group had previously criticized the rates with which police stopped people of color in comparison to whites which was 4-to-1. He justified this new position by bringing up concerns in communities of color about rising rates of violence which includes knives. It was covered by the Guardian.

The Guardian is a leftist publication so they emphasize the reversal of position and the reaction of lefty politicians. It doesn't seem like it's really done with any harm, they're not blurring the facts or truth of the case. It's an interesting idea though, coming from American Media who pretend not to have any explicit ideology while endlessly extolling certain virtues of bottom lines. I heard an interview earlier this week where they were asking a journalist about transparency, and he said transparency comes from knowing the orgins, until you know the politics and biases of a journalist or paper then they aren't transparent. I remember when I lived in Spain, I appreciated the media more. I knew if I picked up El Pais that I would get a certain emphasis while the conservative paper would give me another. It helps get the whole story I think. Actually, in the American media the Wall Street Journal has been an interesting case, while there's no particularly liberal paper, the Journal is explicitly conservative and no one who disagrees with them will really read them, so they say things the mainstream media wouldn't. Comsky says something like this too.

October 14, 2007

Edwards Affair

The National Enquirer reported this week that John Edwards has been having an affair with a former campaign worker. This lead to Edwards denial, which led to the denial being picked up and legitimized by the Los Angeles Times and later, by the AP. The most interesting piece of this story is the sourcing.

The LA Times story is actually on the blog but if news media thinks that different standards apply to blogs, they don't understand that the public doesn't think a "blog" on the LA Times as anything but the LA Times. IN any case it's written like a story and was the initative for the AP picking it up. In this they also quote the AP article so it's perhaps the bigger picture.

Now originally the NE says it has a friend of the woman Edwards allegedly had an affair with. She's anonymous. When the LA Times quotes her, or sums up her statments, they're tp a certain degree, giving credibility or at least counting on the credibility of the National Enquirer which is, I thin we know, not a very credible paper.
Secondly, since no one pays attention to the NE why in the world did the Edwards campaign make a statement that would only tarnish them? Well, would it make more sense for them to directly make a statement like this, or to refuse to answer and arouse suspicion? IN the day and age of blogs there's certainly all sorts of rumors floating around, should journalists ask about each one? Should there be some sort of verification process, even before reporting what a supermarket tabloid insinuated?

Castro and Chavez talk about Che

Hugo Chavez spoke over the telephone with Fidel Casto during his weekly television show Sunday. The commemorated the memory of Che Guevara and spoke about future relationships between Cuba and Venezuela. The media, obviously looking at the same footage, still covered it in different ways.

The New York Times started out with a lead that detailed the hard news facts. It followed with the reason for the meeting, and then a discussion of the rarity with which Castro appears in public. It closes with more discussion about collaborations between the two countries and the revolutionary implications of this.

The Reuters article is about the same size, maybe slightly shorter. It leads by saying Castro "taunted" the US, and the rarity of his appearances. Is a word like "taunted" really appropriate? Maybe he condemned the US? But taunted seems to load the imagery on. The article then follows with discussion of Che during which the earlier, and sensational, quote by Castro that the world is full of Vietnams is finally put into context. I think it would have been more appropriate to choose a different quote or to explain the reference than to just stick it in their later. It closes with the informaiton that Chavez considers Castro to be his political mentor, how do we know this? Did he say it?

October 13, 2007

Since when is it a crime to hold a little boy out the window of a moving car, what's america coming to?

A 27-year-old woman was arrested for holding her 5-year-old son out the window of a moving SUV. The of the car said that the boy was causing a ruckus and that she was just holding him out until he calmed down. Bystanders also said that she also made him repeatedly chase the car. This is happened in Florida and was picked up by the AP. (It was also covered by the St Petersburg Times). My only question is: don't Minnesotans do stupid things anymore?

The AP lead starts out with the basic news info, and then adds that she didn't take her arrest seriously (which is reinforced (is the phrase "further reinforced" redundant?) by the hilarious picture of her being booked by the cops.
The story then goes into a chronological telling for two paragraphs before shooting back to the fill it in with more depth as well as to add details like her and the drivers explanation.

Although the AP might have been derived from this, the St Petersburg Times version, they put the facts together in a slightly different order. It gives the chronological account,putting in much more detail about the occupants of the car and their actions. Then it closes with an examination of the drivers behavior, and whether or not he was drunk. relatively detailed statement from the driver on how it was all just a big misunderstanding.

October 7, 2007

One dies in Marathon

In Chicago a marathon that was run in 88-degree weather killed one runner and hospitalized dozens.

The Star Tribune published an AP version of the story.

The lead starts out by describing the winner, and the weather, and weaving it into the news about the guy who died. It uses the second sentence to describe the number of people who were hospitalized. These facts show the extent of the heat and difficulty of the run. It goes into the heat followed by the woman who won. It then describes how the runner died and segues into another case of a runner who died last week. The next paragraphs are about the steps organizers took to to help participants. It then interviews runners on their reactions. To close it goes into the come from behind win of the womens race.

Clinton Leads in Polls

Hillary Clinton has taken the lead in a poll in Iowa by the DesMoine Register. Edwards and Obama are close nearby.

The story was covered,of course, by the Register, as well as by the Voice of America network which is a government supported news network. The Register largely just reports the facts of the story; the poll numbers and changes. The VOA is much shorter, maybe because the medium is radio. It contains a lot more quotes (again because of the medium). It expand on the poll results by showing how normal people form their opinions and the reasons why.

The Register article is much longer. It goes through the numbers and then charts how they've changed. It also goes more into the how factors like "charisma"were charted and how they reflect on the candidates.

Monet has a hole

In Paris a group of people broke into the Musée d’Orsay and one of them punched a hole in a painting by Monet. The museum director said that alarms went off but the group wasn't caught.

The AP was published in USA Today and the New York Times both covered it. It's an interested example because the audience of the Times and USA today are so different. The Times appeals to New Yorkers and an international elite with in-depth and intelligent articles and analysis. USA Today is infamous for being easy to read and chock-full of graphics and cartoonish stats, newspaper lite.

USA Today only publishes a short snippet, 12 sentences. It focuses on the basic W's of the story and shows very little background. The Times article goes in-depth on previous break-ins and vandalism at cultural centers in France. It also gives background on Monet and his painting style as well as the other contents of the Museum.

The TImes writes about these things because it's important or interesting to the Times reader. USA Today doesn't print it for the same reason.

September 29, 2007

Bush now believes in global warming

George Bush has somehow managed to go seven years without admitting to the rest of the world that global warming is real. One more legacy of the administration falls away as he has now not only admitted it, but believes that human might play a part in it. I'm interested what role the media has played in allowing this "belief" to persist for so long against overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Do journalists have a responsibility to ask questions over and over even if someone says they just "believe" something? Do we have to ask why people believe something? Is this news worthy of attention, or is there space for it in between all the human interest stories about geese accidentally being adopted at an animal shelter?

I intentionally looked at two extremely different sources, an AP story published in the Washington Post and the Guardian UK. Obviously the Post is just a little bit conservative in its approach while the Guardian is a little lefty. How did their ideological approach differ?

The titles are obviously a good starting point. Here it is:
"Europeans angry after Bush climate speech 'charade'"
The sub head has two points:

"· US isolated as China and India refuse to back policy.
"· President claims he can lead world on emissions."

Now, I know that Bush doesn't probably even know what the Guardian is. But if he read those headlines over his breakfast of pretzels and powerade it might make even him lose his appetite. Obviously they're intended for someone who already has an opinion about the president.

The Washington Post AP article says only, "Bush Seeks New Image on Global Warming"

The Post is based out of that former swamp brimming with politicians. If they took every opportunity to slam politicos then it would make doing their jobs more difficult. The headline tells us that they're taking the story in a different direction, covering the news that Bush is even talking about about global warming and his PR approach.

The AP however can't avoid the issue that other countries were upset by the proposal of a "voluntary" reduction in greenhouse gases, they mention it in the lead. THe first four paragraphs, however, talk about the good things Bush has done, how this is revolutionary for them to even participate. It gives an introduction to the event and then more postiive reactions. It's only on the second page, with seven paragraphs left to go, that it brings up negative reactions. It closes with a quote from some diplomat saying that while he think this si a good step, it probably has more to do with U.S. elections than global warming.

The Guardian story leads by painting the administration as isolated. It then goes into the plethora of people who had problems with the voluntary approach. About halfway down it notes that some people were excited about the prospects of the U.S. participating Guess what? They're not anymore. It closes with a quote from an environmentalist basically saying that the whole conference was a "diversion."

Something I rarely hear about in these journalism classes is discussion of how a story changes depending on who you decide to interview, whose perspectives are valid. Noam Chomsky has a thick book talking about it. Essentially, official positions are given precedent because they're easy and have immediate legitimacy. The critical mass story I blogged about last week is an interesting example.

September 26, 2007

Somalia on brink of starvation

Refugees who fled violence is cities like Mogadishu are now facing the threat of starvation as crops fail and political instability hinders food aid. There's 13,500 children at risk for starvation according to UNICEF. The government is isolated in a few buildings in Mogadishu and pirates, rebels, and militias control the countryside.

Both the NY Times and LA Times article are exceptional (of course). They both contain excellent assessments of the current situation with analysis of what brought i about and the prospects for the future, which are not too bright. So in this blog I'd like to look at a characteristic of stories that I haven't before, the overlying theme or message that resonates with the reader.

Each story starts with a theme in the lead that is then echoed or resolved in the close.

The LA Times profiles a baby who was starving and needed medical attention. The description of the baby's actions and situation and the mothers reaction to them, resonate immediately with the reader. The writer describes how the doctors say she will die unless treated and then connects it to the rest of the crisis.

The New York Times starts with a violent conflict over a bag of food aid where there's a fight and people pull weapons. It gives the reader a sense of the conflict as well as a taste of the proximity of violence in these peoples lives.

The LA Times comes back to the baby at the end when they report that the doctor is skeptical that the mother will bring her to the hospital like he insisted. He explains that she has four other kids and closes with an awesome quote that I'll just stick in here. "Sometimes they just wait and hope the baby gets better," he said. "These are the kinds of choices mothers are having to make."
The writer has succeeded in opening and closing this story by giving the reader a sense of the personal tragedies occurring. And then sums up the desperation of the situation with a closing quote.

The New York Times goes back to the fight at the food shipment at the end. The writer describes that the dispute ended in a typically Somali way, with three militiamen pulling their own guns on the fighting people and making them get equal portions. He then describes the truck "sputtering" away and uses the sputtering as a metaphor for Somalia. These closing lines give an understanding of the situation to the reader that the bare facts wouldn't. Also awesome.

September 23, 2007

General Betray Us

The Senate voted to condemn the ad which appeared in the New York Times last week. The insinuated that that four-star General Petraus, the American commander in Iraq, was a shill for the Bush administration ad and labeled him as "General Betray Us." The right-wing got all riled up and Presidential hopeful Rudolph Gulliani added a second issue to his campaign. The legislation was introduced in the Senate by Republican John Cornyn of Texas. It was preceded by a failed moderate proposal that called on the Senate to “strongly condemn all attacks on the honor, integrity and patriotism." The resolution passed 72 to 25.

USA Today
New York Times

The first thing I noticed was that the USA Today article emphasizes the partisanship of this issue while the New York Times shows more of the debate that it going on behind the scenes. For instance, USA Today breaks down the numbers and affiliations of all senators during both votes. It also emphasizes the Democratic strategy to get Republicans to break ranks and how this whole controversy has had a chilling effect on those Republicans that might have wanted to disagree with the administration.

The New York Times closes with a quote from director insinuating that this scandal is a waste of time and a political distraction. USA Today closes with previews of upcoming legislation and the likelihood that the Democratic anti-war initiatives were done for the time being.

Monks March in Myanmar

Since August 19, the Buddhist monks in Myanmar, otherwise known as Burma, have been staging demonstrations against the military dictatorship that has been in power since 1962. They say that the junta is "impoverishing" and "pauperizing" the Burmese people and have connected their struggle to nobel prize winner and pro-democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been on house arrest for 12 of the last 18 years. Both of these articles are focused on the growing momentum of the protests as the monks have been allowed free reign and normal people are joining them in the streets. I thought it would be interesting to compare how two media outlets settled on different perspectives for the same story.

The first article was distributed by the AP
. The second story was written by Seth Mydans and published in the New York Times. The AP story is significantly shorter than the Times. The lead starts out by describing a protest staged by 20,000 people and gives the relevant information that it's connected to the pro-democracy leader and that it's the biggest mobilization since the '88 crackdown. The reader gets an idea of the background as well as the immediate news of protesters. The story describes recent protests, connections to the democracy movement, and uses quotes by opposition party to start exploring the implications. Afterwards it gives a quick background into the military government and pro-democracy movement.

The Times article is substantially longer. Because this story has been in the papers for a few days, the piece feels more analytical. While the AP story lists the protests and actions the Times story goes almost directly into background and then analysis. They quote a larger variety of sources from the opposition in exile and human-rights groups. The piece closes with a statement from a monk's group that calls for a widening of the demonstrations.

The AP story obviously more concerned with the current events while the Times also gives extensive background information. I'd say this is likely a result of space availability and the focus of these different news organizations.

September 19, 2007

Dan Rather sues Viacom/CBS

Dan Rather filed a $70 million lawsuit against CBS, its former parent company and three former bosses. Rather contends that CBS used him as a scapegoat in the controversy surrounding his report on President Bush's National Guard service in March 2005.

The New York Times initially broke the story so their version is the most in-depth. It goes into the general details of the lawsuit followed by a refresher of the scandal itself. Next, it covers the allegations that Rather was denied air-time and used as a "patsy" during the fallout from the scandal. They also report that Rather makes the interesting claim that the board which was supposed to investigate the reporting was biased.

The story was also covered by the Los Angeles time, although in less depth. It's interesting to me the aspects of the case that appealed to them. It has little mention of the scandal itself, focusing on the lawsuit and Rather's claims as well as his professional trajectory, the closing sentence noting that he now anchors a small program on an HDTV channel. The LA Times, however, does explicitly mention "pressure from the white house" as a factor while the NY Times only mentions "pressure from the right wing."

September 17, 2007

OJ steals the headlines...

OJ Simpson got himself into trouble and gave some fodder to celebrity gossips when he performed a "sting" on some memorabilia dealers who were selling, among other items, his certificate of admittance to the football hall of fame. He's been arrested and is being charged with six felonies that could land him in jail for between six and 70 years.

The sources of these stories are New York Times and the Washington Post.

Both stories lead with the relevant hard facts that Simpson is being charged with felonies for stealing memorabilia. The Washington Post, however, adds the reminder of his past legal troubles.

Both stories first document the incident itself followed by the charges being brought. The New York Times next goes into depth about the incident itself while the Washington Post goes into Simpson's reaction and the other participants and their reactions. Both end with refreshers of Simpson being charged with a double-murder in 1994, the New York Times actually quoted the victim's families who insinuated that his conviction would bring some measure of justice.

September 14, 2007

Bush's Beacon of Hope Snuffed Out

Right now it's big news in Europe, if not here, that Abdul Sattar Abu Risha, the sheik who helped bring about the "Anbar Awakening," as some have named it (the alliance of Sunni tribal elites with the United States in the Anbar province in the Western part of Iraq that has been pretty much the only success of the Iraq War) was assassinated after meeting with Bush.

I chose two sources to look at. The first is the BBC and the second is the Guardian. Obviously these two sources have completely different ideological slants they like to look through.

First off, the titles stand out. The BBC says, "Iraqi Insurgents Kill Key U.S. Ally." While the Guardian says, "Bush's 'Beacon of Hope' Killed." These headlines certainly define what the pieces are about.

The Guardian starts by talking about how Risha was lauded by politicians and diplomats. They go on to describe his relationship with Bush and his role in Middle Eastern media, which was relatively recent, as a spokesperson against extremism. They finish by listing other Sunni leaders who have been killed for cooperating with Washington.

The BBC, however, mostly focuses on the political implications, i.e., whether the Anbar movement will die, what Bush will say during his address tonight, and whether other tribal leaders will dare to take up his position. They end by quoting an interview he did where he said: "I wish we could do in all the provinces of Iraq what we did in Anbar, which is that the people and the government come together."

All in all, it seems that BBC is focusing very much on what Risha represented FOR the war effort while the Guardian focused on how this will pan out and what the implications will be AGAINST the war effort.