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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.

Comments

"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."

In my opinion, I think it's occasionally important to include a person's body language in a story. It can be revealing in some ways. In this case, I think it shows the reader possibly a sense of shame or guilt felt by the soldier. I feel like this adds to the value of the story.

That said, I do not think it should be up to the writer to interpret body language. When necessary, a writer should merely include what was done and leave it up to the reader to interpret for his or herself what the meaning may have been.

I think that is what was done here. I don't see anything wrong with its inclusion.