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January 26, 2007

Milwaukee High Schools Ban Cell Phones

The Star Tribune article writes about the new ban on cell phones in Milwaukee high schools in the article, “Violence in Milwaukee schools prompts ban on cell phones.� The article used an incident that happened earlier this month when Milwaukee high school students used their phones to call family members and other adults to join in on a fight as the major event leading up to the ban. The article made both this particular fight and the cell phone ban the two newsworthy events. The writer cited violence as Milwaukee’s reasoning for banning cells, and the writer mentioned other major cities that have a ban as a result of cheating and distraction. The article was well-balanced, and the writer included many sources like the safety security assistant at the school where the fight happened, Milwaukee Public Schools Superintendent, the district’s director of safety and security, the president of the National School Safety and School Services, a mother, a high school student, and a spokesman for Milwaukee schools, and a district attorney. http://www.startribune.com/484/story/962184.html

The lead was a little long, and it was not written in the past tense. The lead is an example of a buried lead because it included an anecdote about a fight that intensified due to cell phones, which led to the major news of the cell phone ban.

The USA Today article, “Students get message: Leave phones at home,� also covered the same event. This lead was very different from the first article because this lead was shorter, and it reported the news of the ban in a different way. This lead said that the ban was due to cheating and distracting and waited until the next paragraph to report the fight that The Star Tribune used in its lead and emphasized as the main reason for the ban. Also, the USA Today article made the story less localized by stating that “schools across the USA are cracking down…�, and The Star Tribune article specified it is Milwaukee that is currently banning cell. The USA Today article never made it clear that the ban is in Milwaukee except for the fact that it is datelined as Milwaukee. http://www.usatoday.com/tech/news/2007-01-25-cellphones_x.htm?POE=TECISVA

In my opinion, the articles both communicated well because they were both well-balanced and had many sources ( in fact both articles used 3 of the same sources), and they cited many reasons that prompted the ban, like the violence, cheating, and distraction, as well as the events of the Columbine shootings and 9/11. I liked The Star Tribune article because it focused on the specific news that Milwaukee banned the phones since that is the most recent school to ban cell phones; however, I also liked The USA Today article because it made the news less localized and more broad by including a lot of information about several other cities that have similar bans and each city’s own reasoning for banning. I think USA Today was effective in making its article more newsworthy to a broad audience since it is a popular national publication, and I think The Star Tribune was effective in making it specifically about Milwaukee because it is not a popular national newspaper and Milwaukee is somewhat close to the Minneapolis area.

U.S. Soldier Pleads Guilty to Killing 2 Iraqis

The New York Times article, “G.I. Gets 18-Year Prison Term for Killing 2 Captive Iraqis,� is about the sentence Corey R. Clagett received Thursday. The article describes Clagett’s case in depth and describes the situation in which the murders took place. The article also gives a lot of information regarding the court cases of two fellow soldiers involved in the same case and how one’s conviction increases the chance of another’s conviction. The article is well-balanced and the story is a hard news story told without emotion. The story also included quotes from Clagett and his lawyer. The link to this article is http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/26/world/middleeast/26abuse.html

The lead was not too long, and it summarized the important news of the soldier pleaded guilty to killing two Iraqis and was sentenced to 18 years in prison. Also, the writer followed the standard lead format of referring to Clagett as “an army infantryman� since he is not well-known and waited until the next paragraph to say his name.

A Los Angeles Times article covered this same story in an article called, “Third soldier pleads guilty in Iraqi men’s deaths.� This lead was shorter than The New York Times article, but it had less specific information in it. The writer referred to the Iraqi killings by “his crimes� instead of saying exactly what the crimes were like The New York Times did. The Los Angeles Times also included emotion in their lead by describing how Clagett pleaded guilty by saying his plea was “in clinical detail� and that “he was profoundly sorry for what he had done.� The Los Angeles Times also included his name in the lead unlike The New York Times.
The link to this article is http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-soldier26jan26,1,2785019.story?coll=la-headlines-nation&track=crosspromo

In my opinion, The New York Times article was much better at communicating the news than The Los Angeles Times. The Los Angeles Times seemed as though it was trying to elicit sympathy from the audience for the convicted soldier by emphasizing emotions because it included several quotes from his mother, the fact that she was crying, and how he sent home his army paychecks. Also, the article said, “His eyes downcast, Clagett told a military court that he had conspired with two other U.S. soldiers…�. The writer could have left out the part about his eyes being downcast and just reported what Clagett said. The lead was not very strong either because the writer did not summarize the most newsworthy information. The writer simply said Clagett “confessed his crimes� and did not tell readers what the crimes were. The writer also included the soldier’s whole name when leads typically just give a description of the person and state the name in the next paragraph unless the person is very well-known. I did not think that the word, “clinical,� was a good word choice either. According to dictionary.com, clinical does mean “extremely objective and realistic,� but all the other definitions have to do with diseases or clinics. Also, the lead started off by saying Clagett was “profoundly sorry for what he had done.� The adverb, “profoundly,� should not have been included because it reveals opinion of the writer’s behalf, and the statement sets the tone for the article that the reader should feel sorry for Clagett instead of just letting the reader decide for themselves how they feel about the conviction. I liked The New York Times article because the lead was more effective. It was effective because it included the newsworthy information and withheld the name until later. Also, this article stated the information more objectively.

Minnesota Statewide Smoking Ban Proposal

The Star Tribune article, “Legislature takes up statewide smoking ban,� is about the smoking ban that the Minnesota Legislature proposed today. The article states that the ban would take effect on Aug. 1, and it would prohibit smoking in most public places with the exception of Indian casinos, hotel rooms, and tobacco shops. Business owners would be criminally charged if they do not enforce the ban, and smokers would be asked to leave or get arrested if they do not adhere to the ban. The ban is supported because of the dangers of second-hand smoke, but others oppose the ban because it can hurt business revenue and they believe that the government should not interfere with private businesses. The link to this article is http://www.startribune.com/587/story/959802.html The lead is not constructed of a simple sentence because it begins with an introductory clause. However, the sentence does conclude with the standard subject-verb-object order. The writer uses the passive voice rather than the active voice when he writes, “…a proposal for a virtual statewide ban on smoking in public places was introduced in the Minnesota Legislature today.� Also, the lead is fairly long because it contains a total of 29 words. The lead does emphasize and summarize the main news that the legislature proposed a statewide ban today; however, the information about the advocates predicting that the ban will be passed could have been in another paragraph to limit detail in the lead. Also, the introductory clause is not neutral to both sides of the debate because it says, “With advocates predicting its best chance for passage in years…�. The lead does not say anything about the opponents’ view.
The Pioneer Press also covered the smoking ban proposal in the article, “Smoking ban to ignite state debate.� This article was shorter, and the writer broke up the article into several different sections that were devoted to the topics of how the ban works, places that can remain smoking areas, the good effects, the bad effects, and a link to the bill. This lead is shorter because it contains 17 words. The lead does summarize the important news that the legislature introduced the statewide smoking ban; however, the lead is written in the future tense instead of in the more appropriate past tense. The link to this article is http://www.twincities.com/mld/twincities/news/16538859.htm.
In my opinion, both of the leads are successful because they tell the most important information that the smoking ban was proposed. However, I think both the leads could be improved. The Star Tribune lead should have excluded the introductory clause to limit detail and words, as well as to keep the standard simple sentence with the subject-verb-object order. Also, I think that only stating the advocates’ opinion was not fair, and that it set the tone that the ban has a great chance of passing. The article had one source, but I think it should have included one opposing source to make the sides balanced. The Pioneer Press lead was short, but it should have been written in the past tense, or been updated, because the ban had already been introduced when the reader is reading the article. I liked that both the articles explained the ban and included both sides of the issue. I liked that The Pioneer Press used the stack of blocks story shape because it made the information very easy to quickly read and understand, and I liked that it included a link to the bill. I liked The Star Tribune article because it was more in-depth, mentioned the other proposal of prohibiting people to smoke within 50 feet of a public entrance, included a source and a quote, and stated that there are other counties and states that have the ban.