May 6, 2007

Democrats, Bush remain far apart on Iraq funding

Summary: This Reuters story looks at the latest efforts by both Democrats and the White House to find a compromise on how the handle the U.S policy in Iraq. It also showed a divide between the Democratic-controlled Congress and President George Bush on Iraq.

At issue, is the president's request for a funding bill without withdrawal time table for American troops in Iraq. Democrats on the other hand agree to fund thw war but with conditions attached.

The story was well balanced with quotes by President Bush and Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY).

The challenge/opportunities the writer face wass to steer clear of infusing opinion disguised as interpretative analysis. Clearly the basic thing for reporter was to report the facts and leave the readers that job. I think that
paragraps two, six and seven were opinions since readers were not told where these comments came from. Information contained in these paragraphs were not attributed to any one, polls or institutions. Without them the story will still strong. You can read this story at:

The same story by AP appeared in the Boston Globe.
The lead was great and quite to the point, compared to the Reuters version in the ABC. Also this story was without comments and carried a great sense of what is news.

While the Reuters story focused on a search for compromise and difficulties face by both parties in getting funds for the troops the AP story focused the president latest call for a prompt bill.
AP story was also great at giving each side a fair chance to make its position known.

The writer could have pressed Bush and Schumer if they would be willing to compromise. That would have made more news instead of basically telling readers what they already know. Read this story.

May 4, 2007

Sen.Clinton seeks new way to withdraw U.S. Troops

Summary: This story appeared in the New York Times in which presidential contender Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) proposed a bill to reverse the war authority granted the president ito invade Iraq. The proposal came days after President Bush vitoed a $124 billion emergency spending bill for troops in Iraq that linked the funds to a time table for withdrawal.

The story, was unsually long but was written in a way that makes readers to read it to the end. The writer, in a very professional and clever way presented views from Democrats and Republicans. Hourglass style was effectively used.
opportunities: The story did make it clear whether or not President could vitoe the proposed legislation if it passed the Democrat-controlled Congress.A comment from President Bush could have gone a long way in balancing the story. Read it at:

The same story was found in The California Majority Report but in the form a statement. This version offered a shorter narrative and readers the chance to read what exactly Sen. Clinton said. Read it at the url below:

April 21, 2007

McCain's War Joke Enrages Liberals

The Business Journal of Phoenix carried a story about a political ad on the, a liberal grassroot and anti-war organization. The group has been critical of Iraq war and now has been enraged by Sen. John McCain's joke about bombing Iran to stop that country from producing nuclear weapons. McCain made the joke during a campaign stop-over in South Carolina on Wednesday. He was asked how the U.S. should deal with Iran, its alleged nuclear weapons program, its alleged support for insurgents in Iraq and threats against Israel.

In the second paragraph that writer implied that there were evidence that Iran was supporting the iraqis insurgents. The writer also implied that there were evidence of Iran's eminent threat to Israel. The story also inferred that Iran has admitted to nuclear programs for military purposes. The writer failed to tell readers that Iran has denied supporting the insurgeny in Iraq. the story should have mentioned that iran its nuclear programs were for civilian use only. On this note, the story was not balance.

Other opportunitie: McCain responded that by sayint or simply McCain said ... instead of McCain fired back (we know he is an old soldier but he was not on the battle front. He said would have still served the purpose. Also, being on the extreme left. What does that mean for ordinary readers? Read it at...

The same story in the Washington Washington Post was handled with much professionalism - providing better analysis and more facts about the ad. The AP reporter told readers have much the would to air the ad, it reported the number of hits the had received and more importantly, a youtube link to the ad was provided at the end of the story. The writer should have used has launched instead of "is launching."


April 9, 2007

Bad News for Mortgage Industry

This Reuters's news story is about the continuing profit losses in the subprime mortgage industries. Subprime mortgages are home loans given to customers with bad credit and partialy disclosed income statements. The result is that borrowers are charged with prohibitive interest rates compare with their counterparts who get low interest rate because they have excellent credit credit. These prohibitive interests, in recent months caused many homes to be foreclosed by lenders due to non-payments.

The story was focused on American Home, the latest financial institution to losses. There were opportunities for attribution in the third and fourth paragraph when he said that home loans to borrowers with poor credit histories may be spreading to higher-quality loans; he needed to mention the source when he said that American Home specializes in prime and near-prime loans and makes roughly 2.5 percent of all U.S. mortgages.

The first quote in this suggested that the writer did not talked to the soure. Was this an email interview? clarity was compromised here. There was no quotes from those impacted. It waould have been good to hear from subprime mortgage borrowers. On the plus side, the story was well researched with appropriate links attached for further information for those interested in the current trends in the housing markts. read it at:

The same story in the online Forbes magazine was much harder to understand. Clearly it was directed at a much more sophiscated audience.

The first problem with version is the found in the lead. The word "securitized" could be subtituted for a much simpler word. in the second paragraph another tumbled could simply be replaced for fell. "Analyst polled", "secondary securitization," where some the words and phrases that could make ordinary reader stop.

Like the first version, there was no input from the affected audience or its leadership. In this sense, the principles of fairness and balanced reporting were ignored. Read the Forbes article at:

April 2, 2007

Was justice done?

A man came home late from work, met his wife having sex in the lover's truck in the driveway. Upon seen the her husband appraoch she allegedly cried rape. The husband who carried a gun shot the man. A Texas jury found the woman guilty but not the shooter.

This is Associated Press story in Electric News. The lead is the clearest and simplest I have read yet. It said, "YOU caused your lover's death by yelling rape when your husband caught you." The jury's decision in this case leaves a big question: Was justice served? If law is all about precedent, then this one is questionable to say the least. An interesting piece.

The story fits a perfect example of a human interest story. It can generate interest in any human society. Attributions, quotes, and other AP styles were applied approriately. An excellent journalistic here.,4136,126361,00.html

Same story appeared in the Digital Journal. But this reporter compromised the principles of attribution, quotation and fairness. The reporter got involved in story. For example: "Tracy Roberson didn't want her husband to know about this affair, lied to Darrell that she was being raped. The husband got angry with LaSalle fired four shots as he was trying to escape but it was late, one bullet struck LaSalle in the head and died."

Where did this information come from. The Court? Was it Tracy's confession? If the reporter Roberson "got angry" and shot the man, the implication is he knew what he was doing or that he did it on purpose. He was "provoked" was another opinion. Who said he was provoked?

This sound like a drama the reporter enjoyed and was therefore giving his opninion instead of reporting the fact as it was expected of him. Good story but unprofessional work, in my opinion.

March 31, 2007


The Associated Press story on the Canadian web site reported that U S officials lied to former NFL star Pat Tillman's family and the American public. The revelations have prompted congressional hearings. The story said top U S miltary officials knew the circumstances leading to Tillman's death and sought to warn President Bush and the administration gainst making conclusion that Tillman died as a hero. The story said top military commanders knew It was "highly possible" that the former football star's death was caused by friendly fire.

Tillman's family has (accused) said the military and the Bush administration deliberately misled them and the public. This is only one of many high profile cases in which the Bush administration has had problems with telling the truth. From the Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) in Iraq, leading to uncovering CIA's operative cover, the Atty. Gen. Gonzales' position on the fired eight federal prosecutors to Tillman's death. History will have a whole lot to write about.

The story has one factual error: Gen. John Abizaid (notAbasaid). Other problems: The phrase paid fulsome tribute. The writer should have said Bush praised Tillman for his bravery two days after his death. Another phrase "his comrades-in-arms" should be his fellow soldiers. The use of the word charged implied that the revelation has brouhgt a civil action. Accused or alleged shoud be used instead.

This Monteal web site wrote the as hard news focusing on the new evidence. Great job in choosing the angle. The lead was also great.
Read this story at the url below:

The same story in Boston Globe appeared as news feature, using hourglass style. It was longer than the one by
by the Montreal based CBC web. The Boston Globe attempted to get comments from Tillman's mother and some officials in light of the revelation that Cpl Tillman was killed by friendly fire. Great job for the efforts to hear from Tillman's mother.

Problems with this story. The leads was unusually long. More than 50 words. The central idea was that a top general warned of strong indications that it was friendly fire that killed Tillman and enemy's fire. President Bush might therefore embarrass himself if he said Tillman died in an ambush. This strong piece of information was almost down played in the opening story. The writer should have avoided the phrase "Just seven days after the death of NFL star-turned-soldier Pat Tillman," as part of the lead.

The second paragraph began with "It was not until a month afterward that." Not needed. Go the point and report what the Pentagon did or said. The memo reinforced ( showed), not reinforces. It happened. Example, if the White House said, then the memo reinforced (not White House said the memo reinforces). "Wade into" should be: discuss details of Tillman's death. I think that the first story was better than the Boston Globe's. Read it at:

March 25, 2007


This is an Associated Press story. It deals with House Democrats' Friday legislative victory in passing a bill that will end troops presence in Iraq. The writer took a good slant: Democrats are defending their plan to get U.S. Troops out of Iraq by Sept. 2008 saying this was the mandate given to Congress last Novembe. House Democrats on Friday pushed through $124 billion Emergency Spending for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But said he will veto of the spending bill because it demands combat operations end before September 2008.

New Hampshire Rep. Paul Hodes said " With our vote this week, we're helping our troops, protecting our veterans, and fighting to end the waste, fraud and abuse," delivering the Democrats' weekly radio address. "After four years of a failed policy, Democrats are insisting on a new direction in Iraq and a real plan that holds the Iraqi people accountable for their own country." he said.

This straight hard news that comes with all the convenctional new values. The piece contains links to President Bush's full response to the House vote and the bill. This provide the fairness. Readers can evaluate both sides arguments. The Currency of the issue however has been from from the Demorats weekly radio broadcast. very strategic on the part of the Democrats.

I love the lead. It is brief, simple and clear for millions of readers to understand why Democrats voted for the bill. The quotes supported the lead. The writer made all needed attributions. Very informative story. Read at yahoo news.;_ylt=AqvszJd8BT7vr7iBzXQlhKWyFz4D

The same AP story appeared on There is no difference in its contence and handling of the news values.

March 20, 2007

Would Alberto Gonzales Follow Donald Rumsfeld ?

Congressional pressure on Attorney General to resign for firing eight U S prosecutors for alleged political reasons. On Tuesday Atty. Gen. Alberto Gonzales lost the power to appoint federal prosecutors.

The Senate has approved a bill to require permanent U.S. attorneys be named by the president. The bill gave the Senate an opportunity to confirm or reject his nominations. The measure was approved by a 94-2 vote.

This story written in the hourglass style, the two reporters did a good job in weaving multiple ideas into a single story. For example, the White House latest offer to the Senate to interview Carl Rove and former White House counsel Harriet Miers although not under oath is a story by itsef. This was complete turn around on the part of the Bush administration.
The key news values of this story are controversy and prominence. The contreversial nature has to do with howand why the attorneys were fired. The prominence has to do with those or the institutions involved: Top aide to President Bush, Atty. Gen. Gonzales, and the Congress.

The administration had previously rejected any attempt to have Carl Rove or any White House officials connected to the case testify under oath. A lso the 3,000 documents between the White House and the State Department relatind to the dismissals now with the Senate is a story all by itself.,1,5916984.story?coll=la-headlines-nation&track=crosspromo

Watching what is going on in congress, one wonders if this oversight hearing would have been possible at all if the GOP was in control in both chambers of Congress.

A great example of news feature. It explained the ongoing congressional hearing into the firing of the eight attorneys in a chronological order starting with where the process stands. But it does not address the underlying reason for the dismissals. As a feature this information was essential.
The oversight hearing has had its first casualty: That is taking the power to appoint U.S. attorneys from a presidential appointee - the attorney general. Besides the bill, the House is considering similar measure accrding to the Los Angeles Times. I think that this piece could serve as an example news feature.

The same story on a Canadian web site took an intersting angle that gave readers better understanding of what historically happened to cabinet members in situations like the one Gonzales is in. It cited the case of former defense secretary Danold Rumsfeld. The feature looked at the underlying resason that led to the dismissals of the eight U.S. attorneys. This was not the case with The Los Angeles Times piece.
Rumsfeld officially resigened after the GOP lost control of Congress to the Democrats, but this reporter said Rumsfeld was fired. Was he really?

But I like the two quotes in the story. White House Secretary Tony Snow asked Monday if the attorney general would keep his job through the end of Bush's presidency in 2008, said "Well, we hope so." Great job. "I wouldn't be surprised if, a week from now, he's no longer attorney general," said Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY). These quotes are, as they say, breath of fresh air.

My criticism about this story is that it sounded judgemental. Can the reporter prove that Rumsfeld was fired? Besides, the dynamics in the case of Rumsfeld are not only different but far outweight the case of Gonzales. This is an alleged political scandal. Rumsfeld was the casualty of an unpopular war policy in Irag.
Read it at

March 15, 2007

Iraq: Calling it for what it is at long last

An Associated Press story in the Houston Chronicle reported that for the first time, U S military on Wednesday called the war in Iraq a civil war - at least some of it.

The story was written from a Patagon's 42-page quarterly report. The report covered the months October through Decembe. AP guoted the report: "Some elements of the situation in Iraq are properly descriptive of a civil war." Until now the Bush administration has described the the violence in Iraq as a sectarian violence while death toll for U.S. soldiers, Iraqi military and civilians continue to rise.The White House has in the past rejected criticism the military was now involved in a civil war.

I think that this is the kind of story any reporter would want to break. This explained why there are no comments from any the White House or the Democrats. It would have been good to get quotes from the White House and Democrats on this new assessment of the war. To give it currency, AP accompanied the story with photo showing a wreckage of Wednesday car bomb that killed two and wounded four. read it at

The Sydney Morning Herald, in Australia, reported that United States military has admited that Iraq is in a civil war.

The AP reporter that broke this story would no doubt receive worldwide readership even though some media outlets like The Sydney Morning Herald, did not mention AP as the source. Rea this version at:

March 11, 2007

The Cost of Iraq and Afghanistan Wars

A story in the Toronto Daily News for March 11 is a bad example of good journalistic work. The lead, which is the main place where readers need to know what the story is about is confusing.

The writer presented President Bush's $3.2 billion request to Congress to fund the wars in Irag and Afghanistan but suggested or seem to suggest that the $3.2 billion is for the additional 8,200 needed in Afghanistan only.

this story got more confusing in the third paragraph when the writer failed to tell readers whether the 4,400 additionnal troops the president needs for Iraq is different from the 7,000 additional troops mentioned in the same paragraph. Bad news story.

The same story in the Financial Time was an excellent. An example of professional journalistic work. The lead informed readers that the 8,200 additional troops are for Iraq and Afghanistan. Then the lead told readers rightaway that this will cost taxpayers $3.2 billion. Very straightforward.

We found more details in the fourth paragragh when the reporter said that Bush will send a further 4,700 troops to complement the military “surge? in Iraq that began in Feb. The new troops will include 2,400 combat support troops and 2,200 military police to deal with the expected rise in detainees as US and Iraqi forces clamp down on sectarian militias, the Financial Time said.

In the eigth paragraph, the writer provided more important information for readers:The US military death toll for Iraq and Afghanistan has risen to 3,553, while more than 25,000 have suffered non-fatal injuries. Iraq Body Count, a group that monitors Iraqi deaths, conservatively estimates that as many as 64,273 may have died since the 2003 invasion.

My criticism of this piece is that the writer failed to mention what the two wars have cost the taxpayers in contrast to about the human cost both America and Iraq. Read it at:

March 8, 2007

Obama meter, fines, runneth over

When I started this blog I said American politics was my main interest, although I am a journalism student. I have witnessed two presidential elections since my arrival in this country. I would say that American journalists are possibly the best interms of keeping the public informed about what their senators, local or state leaders, representatives, presidents, vice presidents and other public servants do in Washington. I whish it were like that in Africa. I would not be here, because there would be no wars.

In Africa, a journalist who would take time to write about an official who paid or did not pay parking ticket is likely to get himself/herself in a serious trouble. Serious trouble could mean death, disappearance, indefinite time in jail depending on the official involed. In any case, chances of such an event becoming public are rare because in Africa - at West Africa, no one cares about what public officials do or don't do. In fact officials are rarely put under public scrutiny as is the case in the United States.

U S journalists can describe stains their president left on an intern's dress as long as they reported the truth, they have nothing to fear. What a difference.

There is a story on US Sen. Barack Obama in the Chicago Tribune reporting that he had paid $375.00 for parking tickets. Obama received the tickets between Oct. 5, 1988, and Jan. 12, 1990, for violations including parking in a resident-only zone, blocking a bus stop, and failing to put money in meters. He incurred $140 in fines and $260 in late fees in Cambridge in all, but he paid $25 for two of the tickets in February 1990, according to Chicago Tribune

An important angle of this story would be to talking to people in Kenya. Obama's father came from Kenya. Knowing what I know about Africa, Kenyans will not be very happy with this story.

Read it:

Boston Herald's account was an example of balanced reporting although the reporter's opinions were prominent. There were quotes from both the Democratic and the Republican Parties on the senator's past parking tickets. Boston Herald started with a delayed lead that read: "Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, the seemingly unassailable Democratic presidential candidate, has been driving around with a dark secret for nearly two decades."

The lead is justified because this a human interest story. It started with suspense. The paragraph that followed informed readers what the "dark secret" was and why it has been revealed. This story is a very good learning tool for students learning different types of leads in news writing. Then there is this point of unusualness about the story.

Reporter did not follow AP stylebook with news language. Example the usage of "coughed up" instead paid and "racked up" instead of received. These cliches may not be understood by many readers.

Read it:

March 7, 2007

Clinton Plans Major Appeal To Women

this story in the The New York Times is an exlellent example ofan advance. The story began by stating the most newsworthy element, Sen. Hillary Clinton's plan to enlist the support of thousands of women to form par of her campaign for the 2008 bid for the presidency.

The writer then informed readers when and where the event will take place. This was followed by another important thing fact. Tthat 54 percent American voters are women.

The quote addded credibilty and importance to the plan event. “When a woman has an important question, like who’s a good doctor, they’re more likely to talk to another woman,? said Ann Lewis, a senior adviser to Mrs. Clinton. “If we can get a discussion going among women about the campaign, and Hillary as a candidate, it would be hugely important.?

The same story in Boston Globe, afollow, was reported by AP as hard news after the event. AP repoterted that Sen. Clinton appealed to women to help her win the 2008 presidential, emphasizing the fact reported earlier by The New York Times that majority of American voters are women.

Right in the second paragragh AP quoted Clinton: "Today, women are a majority of the voters, a majority of students in college, and we are a growing presence in the Congress. But there are still far too few women in leadership positions," Clinton told a crowd of roughly 1,300 at a luncheon for EMILY's List, a national political committee that raises money for Democratic women candidates who favor abortion rights.

My problem with the two accounts is that the 54 percent of voters is not news. If that fact should be emphasized, the the reporters should have at least inform readers how this fact had affected past elections. It seems the fact that Sen. Clinton is a women was the justification. Would these reporters emphasize the percentage of American male voters in the interest of fairness in the future? Well, teacher would say but she said it so the reporters were is justified. Agree. But is that news?

I think win the presidency or White House is better than "break the nation's highest glass ceiling." Criticised instead of "chided" and " to take active roles" instead of "should be play active roles" are things that they could have done differently.

February 28, 2007



February 23, 2007


This Associated Press story is about Circuit Court Judge Larry Seidlin's final decision on who gets the body of Anna Nicole Smith. Smith, 39, died February 8 from undetermined circumstances. The fight for Smith's body then ensued between Smith's mother, Virgie Arthur who wanted Smith buried in Texas and Smith's friend, Haward K Stern who wanted Nicole buried in the Bahamas near her son. I think the use of the words estranged and boyfriend was intrusive in nature. just say mother and friend.

Although a very emotional story, this AP reporter did an excellent job giving us all the important information in an inverted pyramid format before giving readers the chronolgy of events leading to the court final decision. Also, the reporter provided every needed attribution and quote which helped to keep him out of the story.

The last information though, "Smith married Texas oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall II in 1994 when he was 89 and she was 26 and she had been fighting his family over his estimated $500 million fortune since his death in 1995.", seems to give one the feeling that there could be foul play in her death.
Giving that the couses of Smith's death is yet be determined, In my mind, I don't see the newsworthiness of this information even if it bought at the end of the story.

Read this story:;_ylt=AlYSoiWXDOqFl4lOWx1BZK.s0NUE

The same AP story at took a different and very interesting angle. The economic impact of Smiith's burial in the Bahamas. The AP reporter's creative mind here must be commended. This human interest piece looked into the lpreparation Smith for her burial. For the first time readers are told that even the five-month old daughter of Smith already has a place to be buried. Readers also told the cost, and who are buried at this cemetery.

The story said that so far, the only interesting person buried at Lakeview right now was Smith's son, Daniel but there have been a bit of tourists asking where he was buried.
"If Anna Nicole is buried at the same cemetery, organizers of Nassau sightseeing tours would likely present Lakeview as an attraction," said Rosco Welch, secretary of the Bahamas Taxi Cab Union.

Read this story at

February 13, 2007


This AP story on CBS focused on the difficult position the GOP lawmakers found themselvs in at the U.S. Congress. At issue is the debate on the nonbinding resolution put before the 435-member body. The resolution brought by Democrats opposes President Bush's plan to send additional 21,500 more U.S. troops to Iraq.

The writer did a good job with the lead. However in the second and sixth paragraph, the reporter's job of reporting the hard news changed. It was not her job to tell readers what Democrats are determined to achieve nor how they are to achieve their goal. It sounded like a commentary.

She put herself in the story. what is "Choreography of this week." Is this a substitute for exchanges between the Republicans and Democrats? "The tightly controlled approach to running the House is becoming a habit with Democrats", said who? "The dilemma is especially profound for newer members." Who told her that?

Read this story at:

REUTERS did a far better job with this story. The writer stay out of the story and did not assign nor use words such as dilemma, habit, choreography. Attributions, quotations, and other news mechanics were properly applied.

Read it

This story is a great example of an excellent NEWS.

January 20, 2007

Congress Defies Norms

As an African trying to understand American politics, I have a particular interest in the United States Congress and how it works. I have tried to understand why this great deliberative body of lawmakers is often known as "Do-nothing-congress".

But the 110th Congress moved toward bipartisanship in its 100th hours of business, The Christian Science Monitor newspaper reports. According to this report, there was a fairly good number of republicans that worked together with democrats in the the first 100th legislative hours in passing key bills - including ethics rules on lobbying, a bill cutting interest rate into half for student loans, minimum wage bill, among others.

However there remain differences among House Democrats and Republicans on President Bush's new policy for Irag. With the growing opposition for troops increase in Irag, a non-b inding resolution sponsored by top Democrat and Republican lawmakers in the Senate to oppose the White House Irag policy is been considered.

Giving that the 110th Congress has in its first 100 hours of deliberations largely overcome partisan politics in passing some major bills, it could be argued that Americans might be in for more surprises as the 2008 presidential elections draw on. This could be a Congress that reverses many political myths Americans have live with for over a century.

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