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March 30, 2007

Dog Saves Owner by Performing Heimlich Maneuver



The Baltimore Sun article, “Canine heroics: a doggone mystery,? tells the story of the golden retriever, Toby, who saved his owner by performing the Heimlich maneuver on her after she choked on a piece of an apple. After she began chocking, the dog knocked her down and started jumping up and down on her chest until the apple was dislodged.

This writer had to undergo the challenge of being objective and fair while writing this article. Instead of just reporting the facts surrounding the story of how the golden retriever performed the Heimlich maneuver, this writer had the angle of discussing whether or not the dog intentionally knew what he was doing when he performed the Heimlich maneuver or if he was just reacting to her stress. However, the writer was not objective and instead had an editorializing voice sometimes. For example, after the writer listed several high-profile dog rescue stories from earlier this year, the writer asked, “What’s next, a Chihuahua conducting a coronary bypass?? Also, the writer was not fair and balanced because the writer used four different sources and used quotes from them all stating various ways that Toby did not intentionally mean to help because he did not know what was going on and that humans tend to anthropomorphize animals. The writer used one neutral source who said that the rescue was amazing and people can speculate, but people do not know what really caused the dog to save her. However, the writer used no sources that thought that the dog really knew what he was doing and intentionally saved her life by jumping up and down on her chest.

The AP story, “Owner says dog saved her with ‘Heimlich,’? also covers the news of the dog performing the Heimlich maneuver on his owner. This writer maintains objectivity and is fair because this writer chose to just state the facts about what happened. The writer includes quotes from the woman that was saved explaining how the dog saved her and stating that her doctor said she would have died if it hadn’t been for what Toby did. Unlike the Baltimore Sun writer, this writer did not include any opinions from any other sources.

Overall, I think the AP writer communicated the news better because the writer was more objective and fair (probably because it’s an AP story that was sent to newspapers all over the country). I liked that the Baltimore Sun writer went more into depth about the event and explored the concept of whether or not the dog intentionally meant to save his owner since this is an interesting debate. However, I think the writer should have also included sources who could give their statements on why they think Toby did know his owner was in danger and did know exactly what he was doing when he jumped up and down on her chest. I for one believe that the dog knew what he was doing and the writer even acknowledged that many people anthropomorphize animals, so I think the writer should have found some sort of credible source who could defend this position so that the article would be more fairly balanced. Also, I didn’t like how the writer seemed to be mocking the story with his tone like when he sarcastically joked about the next animal rescue story being a Chihuahua doing a coronary bypass.

March 28, 2007

Story Idea #4: Diversity in the Suburbs

Thanh Truc is an authentic Vietnamese food restaurant located in a strip mall in the affluent suburb of Woodbury that has a population of 88.8 percent Caucasian people and 1.1 percent Asian people. Therefore, why did the owners choose a predominately Caucasian inhabited location for Vietnamese food, and does the strip mall location help the restaurant because it is accessible or does it hurt the restaurant since it is authentic Vietnamese food located in a strip mall? The owners say they live in the city so why didn’t they build the restaurant in Minneapolis where there is a greater mix of races? Finally since this is only one of two Vietnamese food restaurants in Woodbury (the other one being a chain) and there are predominately popular chain restaurants in Woodbury, does this restaurant help bring diversity to the area and what do the people of Woodbury think of this?

1. Hai Phan, owner, Thanh Truc, (651) 436-3431
2. Vince Markell, customer and Woodbury resident, (651) 436-1122
3. Nancy Ngo, restaurant writer, Pioneer Press, (651) 228-5172
(The Pioneer Press has written a few articles on Thanh Truc. I would not interview and quote Nancy Ngo since she is another journalist, but I could use her as a journalistic source to get ideas, find potential sources, and/or verify information.)

March 25, 2007

Cute and Popular Baby Polar Bear Makes Debut



The McClatchy News Service article, “Kill Knut? He’s way too cute,? written by Matthew Schofield covers the public debut of the baby polar bear at the Berlin Zoo. There was controversy because many animal experts thought that Knut, the baby polar bear, should have been killed because he was raised by humans instead of his species after his mother rejected him.

Since this controversy of this story has been developing over the past week, this writer had the challenge of giving background information on all the newsworthy elements of the story. While this article focused on the public debut of Knut and gave many details on the event like how he played with teddy bears and how there were oohs and ahs from people, the writer also focused on recapping the controversy of whether or not Knut should be killed. The writer included information and quotes from sources from both sides of the controversy explaining their opinions. Also, this writer included the immense popularity of Knut because people made t-shirts, websites, songs, and a blog written from his perspective to protest to keep Knut alive. Also, the writer included how a Berlin newspaper is covering the story with 10 pages and photos devoted to Knut, and how Knut has turned into an icon for the fight to stop the climate change.

The AP story, “Baby polar bear delights Berlin during public debut,? also covers the public seeing the baby polar bear for the first time. However, this writer chose only to focus on the news of the public debut of Knut by giving details of what Knut did during the debut and how the crowed reacted including quotes from excited children. The writer only gave the background information of how his mother rejected him and how “he became famous through? his video podcast and television series and also that celebrity photographer Annie Leibovitz took his picture for an environmental campaign. Therefore, the writer made it seem that his podcast and tv show is why he’s famous and not that he was first newsworthy because of the controversy of killing him.

I think that Schofield did a better job communicating the news of the baby polar bear being debuted at the zoo because not only did the writer include details of the debut, I liked that the writer included the other newsworthy elements of the controversy and the immense popularity of Knut. I think it was important that the writer used the novelty element because it’s pretty unique that a polar bear would have his own podcast, tv show, and blog, and he is now an icon for the climate change debate. Even though the debut is the timeliest news, I also like that the writer included all this background information of the controversy to recap Knut’s amazing story for everyone who may not have heard about him yet. Also, I liked the Schofield story because it included more legitimate and serious sources like the animal experts and the zoo director instead of just the two children the AP article quoted. Finally, I liked that Schofield included the link to Knut’s blog so readers could easily check it out. By the way, check the blog out. His blog postings are cute, but there’s also a video to watch Knut! http://blog.rbb-online.de/roller/knut/

March 24, 2007

Recalled Pet Food Contained Rat Poison



The AP article, “Rat poison found in recalled pet food,? covers the announcement that rat poison was found in the pet food that got recalled this week and was the cause of the deaths of at least 15 cats and two dogs and many other illnesses.

The writer of this article had the challenge of using numbers and explaining the scientific elements of the event and making it more understandable for all people. The deadly substance found is called aminopterin, and the writer explained this very complex term to the readers by defining it as being a cancer drug used in abortions. However, the writer wrote that the amount of aminopterin found was “40 parts per million,? and did not explain that phrase very well. Otherwise, the numbers of the deaths of the animals, and the number of brands and subsequent cans and pouches of food recalled were woven into the sentences well and were effective in depicting the seriousness and high impact of the food recall.

The New York Times article, “Rat Poison Found in Pet Food Linked to 14 Deaths,? also covers the announcement and also had the same challenge of using numbers and explaining the science and jargon in a simple way. This writer, like the first writer, included the number of animal deaths, cans recalled, and the number of the $51 million class action suit to effectively show the impact of the situation. This writer did not explain what aminopterin is as well as the AP writer did because this writer first stated it as “a rodenticide that has not been approved for use in the United States or in Canada.? The term “rodenticide? makes sense because one could think of insecticide, but it is still an unfamiliar word and the writer leaves the question of why it is not approved in the U.S. or Canada. A couple paragraphs later, the writer then explains the aminopterin as “a derivative of folic acid,? and later in the same paragraph the writer finally explains it as something that was used to treat cancer and induce abortions. This writer also did not say how the animals died right away, but instead said towards the end of the article that the animals had renal failure. The AP writer, on the other hand, said that the animals had kidney failure somewhat early in the article, which is a more familiar term than renal failure. However, this writer did explain the term methotrexate simply by saying that it treats cancer and rheumatoid arthritis. Also, this writer did give more of a human interest side to the story to help connect with the readers by including the stories of two pet owners and how their pets either died or got ill, as well as some strong quotes like, “They used something that kills rats on the street into the food we trusted.?

Overall, I think that the AP writer did a better job communicating the news because this writer explained the scientific terms better than the New York Times writer, which makes sense since the AP is written for numerous newspapers and the New York Times is written for a more sophisticated audience. For example, I thought “used to kill rats? was easier to understand than “rodenticide.? I especially thought the phrase, “the derivative of folic acid,? was way too complex and didn’t add anything because I didn’t even understand what that meant at all. However, I do like that the New York Times writer included the personal stories to give a sympathetic and human interest approach that could help connect with viewers and get the point across that this situation is extremely serious and deadly. I also liked that both articles included links of the lists of the pet food that has been recalled for readers to easily refer to.

March 23, 2007

The Impact of Smoking Bans on Young Adults

Jim Farrell of the Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association said that Gabby’s Nightclub in northeast Minneapolis lost many of its customers to Anoka County, where there is not a smoking ban. According to Farrell, the patchwork of the smoking ban across the Twin Cities has had a major impact on the younger crowd, but he is not sure if the smoking ban has caused the loss of Gabby's customers because he thinks young adults may go out anyway regardless of if they can smoke or not. Therefore, has the smoking ban actually caused young adults to leave Gabby’s in favor of nightclubs that permit smoking, have all nightclubs with smoking bans lost young customers, and have other night clubs that do not have bans gained more young customers since the ban was adopted in other nearby areas?

1. Jim Farrell, executive director, Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association, (651) 772-0910

2. Jeff Ormond, manager, Gabby’s Night Club, (612) 788-8239

3. Leslie Bellamy, manager, BE-BOP Night Club in Blaine, Minn., (763) 754-2424
(I would talk to someone from a night club in Anoka County, which does not have a smoking ban, to find out if there has been an increase in young customers like Farrell said.)

March 10, 2007

Puppy-killer Gets Sentenced



The Pioneer Press article, “St. Paul/ Dog Killer spared petless life,? reports the news of a man being convicted of killing10 puppies and being sentenced to a year in the workhouse and a two-year pet ban.

Since this is an article about the arrest of a man, this writer had the challenge of attributing the news, as well as accurately and fairly informing the reader on the convicted person’s past arrest record and the details. This writer attributed the details of the crime and the sentencing that were not on the public record. The writer also appropriately placed his past record of arrests at the end of the article because it is the least important news. However, the writer included a quote from a letter by an unattributed White Bear Lake resident who wrote it to plead the judge to enforce a stricter ban. The writer did not include any further identifying information or why the source did not want to be attributed. The writer also did not include any other quotes from people on the other side of the debate who think the shorter ban is acceptable.

The Star Tribune writer also reported this news in the article, “Puppy Killer gets 9 ½ month term.? This writer also attributed the details of the sentencing that were not on the public record. However, this writer did not include the information about his past record arrest, but this writer said the current information that he is in jail right now for an unrelated charge. This writer was also fairer because he did not give any information from people’s opinions on whether or not the man should have a lifetime ban.

In my opinion, I think the Star Tribune writer communicated the news better because the writer was fairer and gave the updated news of the man being in jail right now for another charge. This writer could have also said the past history of crime as well like the Pioneer Press writer did. I think both the news that he is jail now and his past crimes are both important. I understand that the write did not attribute the woman who wrote the letter for safety reasons, but since it was unattributed perhaps the writer could have said why she wanted to be unattributed like Fedler says or not use the source’s information. However, I liked that the Pioneer Press writer said “the Ramsey County jail,? and not the “workhouse? liked the Star Tribune writer did. Maybe most people do know what this word means and I just don’t, but if I don’t know exactly what that means I’m sure there must be others who don’t either. Thus, I think the Star Tribune writer could have used a different word or explained exactly what that punishment entails. Also, there was some inconsistency with the writers because the Pioneer Press writer said the man got sentenced to a year in the workhouse and the Star Tribune writer said the man received 9 ½ months.

March 9, 2007

Obituary for Former Interior Secretary



The Los Angeles Times obituary, “Thomas Kleppe, 87; Interior secretary under Ford,? thoroughly covers the life and death of the former politician who died last Friday.

Since this article is an obituary, the writer had the challenge of correctly structuring the details of his death and highlighting the important and noteworthy accomplishments in his life, as well as maintaining the proper tone of an obituary. The lead was effective because the writer included his name, his noteworthy job position of being the secretary of Interior under Ford, the preview of the theme of his accomplishments for the environment, the time and place of his death, and his age. The writer did not include a nut graph, and he chose to include all of this information in the lead. Usually the cause of death is in the second paragraph, but this writer said he had Alzheimer’s in the lead. Also, the cause of death is supposed to be attributed and this writer did not provide attribution. Then the writer included the claim to fame section where he included the newsworthy and interesting information of how he became the secretary and his accomplishments for the environment. However, the writer included no quotes except for one partial quote and no clear attribution. The writer also kept the obit tone of giving the good and bad sides because the writer included the negative side of his life by including that many thought he was “an unexpected choice? for secretary, that he was too close to the oil industry, and that his rulings were controversial, as well as the positive aspects of how is rulings helped the environment, like saving millions of ducks, and that he was one of the youngest mayors and one of the richest Congress members. Then the writer included the chronology section where he covered his background in depth from where and when he was born, to where he went to school, to his whole political career. The writer also included who he was survived by, but the writer did not include any information about the funeral arrangements

. The obituary, “Former Interior Secretary Kleppe Dies,? from The Post Chronicle also covers the life and death of Kleppe. This writer included in the lead his name, notable characteristic of his job as the secretary of the interior, and where he died. However, this writer did not include his age until the last paragraph, did not include a theme in the lead, and never said when he died. Like the first writer, this writer also did not have a nut graph, and this writer also did not attribute the cause of his death. This writer, like the first writer, also did not include any quotes in the claim to fame section. This writer included the same noteworthy aspects of his career as the first writer did but not as in depth. This writer also included the good and the bad because among his accomplishments this writer also said that many criticized him for being too close to the oil industry. This writer did not include a chronology except for saying where he was born and just a little about his political career earlier in the article. This writer included who he was survived by, and like the first writer did not include anything about the funeral arrangements.

In my opinion, The LA Times obituary did a better job at communicating the news because this writer went more in depth while discussing his accomplishments and his life story. Also, the lead was more specific and informational because he included all the basic information of his death. The Post Chronicle article never even mentioned when he died. Also, the Post Chronicle writer delayed the age until the last paragraph and I think that should have been in the lead. However, I think both articles would have been better if they included some quotes in the article to give the story some color and to give the person more dimension.

Affordable Housing in the Twin Cities

According to Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity, the Metropolitan Council sets goals for communities in a seven-county region to build the needed affordable housing units for that area. According to the public relations specialist for Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity, some communities are better at accomplishing its goals than others, and she said the city of Woodbury is one community that has excelled at its goals. She said Woodbury will have 48 habitat homes by the end of 2007, which is more than any other suburb in the area. How did the people of Woodbury accomplish their goals and why were they motivated to build the most habitat homes in the area? What do other communities need to do in order to accomplish their goals?

1. Sharon Rolenc, public relations specialist, Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity, (612) 331-4090 ext. 626

2. Guy Peterson, housing director, Metropolitan Council, (651) 602-1418

3. Bill Hargis, mayor of Woodbury, (651) 739-1040

March 2, 2007

Nickelodeon Coming to Mall of America



The Star Tribune article, “Mall banks on Nick’s knack,? is about how the Mall of America has signed a 10-year deal with the children’s cable network, Nickelodeon, to have Nickelodeon characters be the new theme of the amusement park that was previously Camp Snoopy with Peanuts characters.

The news of the contract is a popular topic in this area, and the basic information of the new Nickelodeon theme, the ratings and basic information about the network, Nickelodeon characters that will be involved, new rides, old rides that are staying, and the beliefs of parents that Snoopy is irrelevant to children today are very standard. Thus, this writer had to develop a unique angle to focus on. In addition to informing the reader on the basic and newsworthy information, the writer focused on the economic status of the mall and whether or not the lack of a theme since Camp Snoopy left a year ago has hurt the mall. Also, the writer discussed how the fourth floor is also mostly vacant after restaurants and nightclubs closed. The writer cited mall officials as maintaining that the absence of Camp Snoopy has not hurt sales, that sales per square foot last year was higher than ever before in the mall’s history, and that the mall’s vacancy rate is 5 percent which is less than any other local mall. The writer also included the opinion of a store owner in the mall who thinks that the mall is lacking “novelty? and there needs to be an interesting theme to get people to come to the mall.

The Pioneer Press also covers the Nickelodeon and Mall of America deal in the article, “Mall Is Singin’ A New ‘Toon.? This writer also informed readers of the basic elements of the contract that the Star Tribune writer did, but this writer also used a unique angle for the story. This writer focused on how Nickelodeon will also profit from this deal- not just the mall. She discussed how Nickelodeon is planning on building a store to sell their merchandise, and how Nickelodeon also has other displays at theme parks and resorts.

In my opinion, both these writers were successful in writing the articles because they both used unique angles. As mentioned above, the writers both included much of the same information about the contract, the Nickelodeon network, and the plans for the park. Both writers even cited the same type of information from the same source of the mall’s vice president of business development and they also interviewed parents who both said that Snoopy is no longer a popular character with children these days. Therefore, I liked that these writers came up with additional angles to make their articles distinguishable from others. I did not like one angle more than the other – the Star Tribune writer focused more on the economic status of the mall and the Pioneer Press writer focused more on the economic status of Nickelodeon. Either way, both angles are unique and interesting and the writers are offering readers new information.

Clinton and Obama Scheduled to Speak in Alabama



The AP article written by Ben Evans called, “Clinton, Obama Address Selma, Ala,? is an advance article informing readers that the senators are scheduled to speak at an event honoring the 42nd anniversary of the famous civil rights march that played a role in eliminating segregation. This writer also heavily emphasizes his angle of discussing the amount of black voter support each senator will have in the election.

Since this article is an advance on the senators’ speeches, the writer had to undergo the challenge of determining the most interesting aspect of the speeches and informing the writers of the necessary information. Since the speeches are taking place in Selma, Alabama to commemorate the anniversary of the civil rights march, the writer chose to emphasize the civil rights movement, as well as the fact that the rival senators are both in the same city at the same time. For example, the writer said, “Steeped in civil rights symbolism, the speeches offer rivals Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama an opportunity to show unity with the black community while they spar over support from a crucial Democratic constituency.? The writer also focused on the reasons why each senator would have support from black voters in the election. Besides the topic of honoring the civil rights march, the writer also informed readers the date, city, and the name of the churches in which they are speaking. Otherwise, the writer did not mention any more specific information regarding the event. This writer did not have a nut graph because the lead begins with the fact that the senators are speaking on Sunday. However, the writer did include in the lead the specific and interesting information that the rival senators are planning on speaking in the same city at the same time and that the event is to commemorate the anniversary of the march.

Another advance article written on the speeches written by Beth Fouhy from the AP is called, “Bill Clinton to Join Wife in Alabama.? This writer also chose to emphasize the black support for each senator, but this writer chose to focus on Bill Clinton being present at the speech. Evans did not include anything about Bill Clinton being in Selma on Sunday. In fact, there is some contradiction between the two writers because Evans said that Hillary Clinton would be picking up the award for her husband. Fouhy also specified the information of the date and city that the speeches are taking place, but this writer did not state the names of the churches like the first writer did. Fouhy did have a nut graph where she stated the date, location, and speakers of the event; and, in the lead she previewed her angle of Bill Clinton joining his wife. Also, both writers kept the correct verb tense for advances by saying they are “scheduled to…,? instead of they are speaking.

I liked the angle of Evan’s article because it focused on the event topic of the civil rights movement and the aspect that the rival senators are going to be in the same place at the same time. Since it related to the topic of the event, I thought this angle was more interesting than the Fouhy article because she focused on Bill Clinton who has nothing directly to do with the speeches other than being married to one of the speakers. Since these are both AP articles, it makes sense that the writer did not go into too much detail about the exact time, location, parking, and price. However, I do like that the Evans article was a little more specific by including the names of the churches they are speaking at. I do like that both of the writers made their leads specific, interesting, and previewed their angles, and I also liked that both writers gave the background on the historical significance of Selma, Alabama.

March 1, 2007

Nutrition Improvement in Minnesota Schools

Obesity expert Martha Kubik said in a recent speech that the nutrition in Minnesota schools received a failing grade in a 2006 nationwide food policy assessment by the Center for Science and Public Interest. What are Minnesota schools doing to improve nutrition and has nutrition in Minnesota schools improved since this study was released?

1. Sherri Knutson, president, Minnesota School Nutrition Association, (507) 328-4216

2. Rosemary Dederichs, director of food service, Minneapolis Public Schools, (612) 668-2821

3. Dulcie Ward, staff nutritionist, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, (202) 686-2210, ext. 338