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April 29, 2007

Minnesota Sapphire Sells for Millions



The Star Tribune article, “Sapphire’s sale leaves Minnesotans in shock,? is about how the Minnesota Historical Society sold a 22.66 carat sapphire necklace that belonged to the wife of Minnesota industrialist, James J. Hill, for $3.064 million at a New York City auction.

The writer of this article had the challenge of writing a good lead. The writer chose to write a delayed lead because he started off with an anecdote that set the theme of the story. The lead said that historians can only speculate if the wife gasped when she first saw the necklace. The writer waited to say the important news of the sapphire selling for a record high at a New York City auction in the nut graph, which is in the second sentence. The delayed lead set the theme of the story because the writer moves from speculating if the wife was shocked when she received the necklace to saying how shocked the officials at the historical society were when the sapphire sold at the record high of $3.064 million.

The AP story, “Sapphire fetches big bucks for state Historical Society,? is also about the sapphire selling at a record high, and this writer also had the challenge of writing a good lead. This writer chose to write a summary news lead. This lead summarized the newsworthy information that a sapphire bought over a hundred years ago by the railroad magnate, James J. Hill, sold for $3 million for the Minnesota Historical Society. Since this was a summary lead, the writer didn’t need a nut graph so he or she just continued to tell more details about the sapphire, the auction, and its history.

In my opinion, I think the AP writer did a better job at writing an effective lead. This story is not a hard news story so the delayed lead that the Star Tribune writer chose could have been effective. However, I think his delayed lead was too obvious because it’s obvious that the historians can only speculate how the wife reacted when she got the necklace because no one really does know. Therefore, I liked the summary news lead in the AP story better because even though this is a soft news story and the lead could have been more interesting, it was at least effective in telling the newsworthy information.

10,000 Year Old Camel Bones Found



The AP article, “Bones of prehistoric camel found in Arizona,? is about how the bones of a 10,000 year old camel were found last Wednesday in a construction site in Mesa, Arizona. This discovery is very rare, and the bones will be displayed at Arizona State University.

Since this is a light-hearted story and the description of the bones, its discovery site, and how they were discovered is very pertinent information, the writer had the challenge of using description. The lead reads like a hard news story because they stated the essential information of the 10,000 year-old bones being found in a construction site in Mesa, but the writer did not make the lead descriptive or unique. The writer said that the bones were found at the construction site of a future Wal-Mart in suburban Mesa, Arizona; but, otherwise the writer did not include a specific location. This writer was vague in simply saying that workers at the construction site unearthed the bones but did not specify what the workers were doing when they found the bones. Also, the writer did not describe the bones at all or say what types of bones were found.

The East Valley Tribune in Phoenix also covered the news of the camel bones discovery in the article, “Prehistoric camel bones found in Mesa.? This writer also had the challenge of using description to tell the reader what the bones looked like and where and how they were found. This writer had a detailed lead by saying that the nursery owner is used to digging up river rock and caliche when digging holes for citrus trees. The writer mentioned the street names of where the bones were discovered. This is a recognizable place for local readers, but even though national readers don’t know these street names it does give some reinforcement that these bones were actually discovered. This writer was also very specific and used vivid verbs in describing how the bones were discovered. He said that “a backhoe plunged into earth and dumped bones onto the ground.? He also explained that the workers were digging a trench and a hole when they unearthed the bones. This writer was also very descriptive because he listed the exact bones found such as teeth, a hoof, and a scapula among a few others.

In my opinion, I think the East Valley Tribune writer used description better in their story while describing the bones and how and where the bones were discovered. I liked that the writer used vivid verbs, detailed descriptions of how and where the bones were found, and listed the exact types of bones that were found. These descriptions made the story more enjoyable and interesting, but these are facts that provide further proof that these bones actually were discovered. I think that the AP writer was a little vague in describing the location of the discovery and how the bones were discovered. Also, the article and its lead read like a hard news story, but personally I think this story was effective being descriptive and more light-hearted.

April 28, 2007

Threats may prevent Prince Harry from going to Iraq



The AP article, “Report: Army may bar Harry from combat,? is about how Prince Harry may not be sent to Iraq on military duty anymore as a result of getting threats of him being kidnapped or killed.

The writer of this story had the challenge of updating the information. It was reported a couple of months ago that Prince Harry would most likely be sent to Iraq. There were questions of his safety back then and Harry was quoted then as saying, “There’s no way I’m going to put myself through Sandhurst and then sit on my arse back home while my boys are out fighting for their country.? However, now since there have been explicit threats made to his safety, the writer had the challenge of getting Harry’s new feelings on being sent to Iraq. The writer said Harry wants to be an ordinary solider, but it is not clear if he said that before or after the threats. Also, the writer said another source reported that Harry’s friends said he would be disappointed if he couldn’t go to Iraq, and the writer said another source reported that he would quit the army if he isn’t deployed.

Another article, “Doubts raised over Prince Harry’s war-zone posting deployment to Iraq,? from the Belfast Telegraph also reported on the news of the threats on Prince Harry’s safety. This writer also had the challenge of updating new information on how Harry now feels about going to Iraq since getting the threats. This writer also said that another source reported that Harry’s friends said he’d quit the army if he can’t go to Iraq. The AP writer at least said the name of the source, and this writer just said “according to one report.? However, this writer, unlike the AP writer, included that the BBC’s royal correspondent dismissed this claim and said that Harry won’t quit. Also, this writer and the AP writer both used that quote from 2005 where Harry said he doesn’t want to sit at home on his “arse? while his boys are out fighting.

In my opinion, I don’t think either of the writers did a very good job at the challenge of updating the information. Both articles used that quote from 2005 when he said he wanted to go to Iraq, but I was interested to know how he feels now since he has gotten a lot of threats. Both writers just used other sources that made claims about how Harry supposedly would be disappointed and he might quit if he isn’t deployed. I did think it was good though that the Belfast Telegraph writer got another opinion on the rumor that Harry might quit by including that the royal correspondent said that his friends denied saying he would quit.

April 22, 2007

New French President Will Bring Changes to France



The AP article, “Change is on France’s presidential menu, but which kind will voters choose?? is about the French presidential elections on Sunday. There are many candidates that all have very different ideals and they all promise a great change for the country. The article examines the candidates and tells the political viewpoints and backgrounds of the candidates while focusing on the top two contenders, Nicolas Sarkozy and Segolene Royal.

Since this is a story about France written by the AP and for a wide audience, the writer had the challenge of making the story relatable and understandable for its readers. This writer overcame that challenge by focusing on the human element by interviewing average French citizens and describing their feelings on the candidates and how they are deciding who to vote for. For example, the writer concluded the article by including a quote from an average citizen saying that the French people want change, but he doesn’t know exactly how the candidates plan to change France. Also, the article began with a descriptive anecdote about two voters looking at campaign posters who are perplexed in trying to make a decision that will change France.

The Reuters article, “Sarkozy just ahead in France vote,? (I found it in The Sydney Morning Herald) also was about the upcoming presidential election in France and the changes it will bring. This writer also had the challenge of making the article relatable to a wide audience that is outside of France. This writer did not include any quotes or mention of average French voters like the AP writer did; but, this writer made the story relatable and understandable by using numbers. For example, the writer says that a third of the 44.5 million voters have not decided who they are going to vote for yet in Sunday’s election, which tells the reader that many French people are not sure about the candidates. Also, the writer says that voter registration has increased by 4.2 percent and that is the sharpest rise since 1981, which tells the reader that perhaps this election is very important to the French because it holds the potential for so much change for the country.

In my opinion, I like the AP story better because that writer included a human element. This made the story more relatable to me because I learned that the French citizens are very perplexed in this election. The anecdote lead about the two voters looking at the campaign posters and being perplexed drew me into the story more than just starting the story rattling off the names of the French candidates I’ve never heard of before like the Reuters writer did. I also liked that the AP story was very descriptive and used vivid and strong verbs like “rumbling? and “wafting.? If this story was hard news and was covering the election results, the details would have been unnecessary; however, since this story was just describing the upcoming election and the potential candidates, I thought the details were effective in setting the scene and emotions of the voters.

Pipe Bombs found on New Ulm Campus



The Star Tribune article, “Pipe bombs found on New Ulm campus,? is about how two pipe bombs were found in a student’s car on the Martin Luther College. The student’s roommate found it and alerted police, and the bombs were deactivated without any one being harmed.

This writer had the challenge of finding a structure to write the story in. This writer chose to write the story in an hourglass structure. The lead and the next two paragraphs have the most important information about the bombs being found and deactivated without any one being harmed, and that the student may be arrested depending on the investigation. Then the writer begins to tell the story from the beginning starting with how the student’s roommate took him to a hospital for erratic behavior that morning, then found the bombs and alerted police, and then the writer told the sequence of events of how the school alerted the students and how the bombs were deactivated.

The Mankato Free Press article, “Pipe bombs found at New Ulm college,? is also about the pipe bombs being discovered and deactivated. This writer also had the challenge of finding an efficient structure for which to write the story. This writer also did tell the important facts first and then the same story of how the roommate took the student to the hospital that morning and then found the bombs. However, instead of telling the rest of the story in a chronological order like the first writer, this writer finished telling the story with less important details. Thus, this writer wrote the story in the inverted pyramid style.

In my opinion, I like the Star Tribune article better because I think the hourglass structure gave this story more detail and emotion by giving the step by step progress of how the bomb was found and then deactivated throughout the day. Although, I did like the lead much better in the Mankato Free Press because this writer was more specific by saying which college campus and also the writer said that the student was an Iraq war vet, which is a prominent and novel fact that would be important to include right away. I thought the lead in The Star Tribune story was vague by not specifying what college campus the bombs were found because as a reader I would want to know right away what college campus. Also, this writer did not include the prominent and novel fact of the student being an Iraq war vet until towards the end of the story.

April 21, 2007

Possible Theory on Pet Food Contamination



The article, “Spiking theorized in pet deaths,? by two Los Angeles Times writers ( I found it published in the Chicago Tribune) is about how the recent pet food contaminations could have been caused by Chinese manufacturers adding the chemical melamine to make it look as though the food had more rice protein so they could charge more for an insufficient product.

Since the Chinese manufacturers are being accused of intentionally contaminating pet food, the writers especially had the challenge of being balanced and avoiding libel since this accusation could be damaging. The writers included the side of the FDA and the organization’s chief veterinarian stating that they think the food was intentionally contaminated and why they think that. The writers also included the side of the Chinese manufacturers. There was an indirect quote from the Chinese government saying that the contaminated ingredients weren’t meant for the food. The FDA said that they traced the contaminated food to a specific manufacturer and the writers gave the company’s general manager a chance to talk. Even though the manager just said they are investigating and had no other comment, the writers at least said he was contacted and “declined to answer questions.?

The AP story,?Pet food spiked for protein: theory? (I found it in the Chicago Sun-Times) also covered this news event. The writer had the same challenge of being balanced and avoiding libel by perhaps falsely saying the Chinese manufacturers deliberately contaminated the pet food, which would be damaging. This writer, unlike the LA Times writers, only included the side of the FDA. Upon first glance it looks like the writer included the Chinese manufacturers’ side by saying, “Chinese authorities have said….?. However, this statement is attributed to Stephen Sundlof – who is the chief FDA vet. So an FDA vet spoke for the Chinese authorities, and the statements of the Chinese authorities/manufacturers/ government were not included. Also, in the next sentence, the writer starts off by saying, “Still,? which seems to undermine the validity of what the Chinese authorities supposedly said. Finally, the paragraph is concluded by saying, “That raises the possibility the contamination was deliberate,? without any attribution and seems to be based on the writers’ opinion.

I think the LA Times writers did a much better job at informing readers of the alleged contamination by the Chinese manufacturers. These writers gave both sides an opportunity to speak and attributed all their statements. The AP writer, on the other hand, did not give the Chinese manufacturers or government a chance to respond, and I thought it was inappropriate that the writer let the FDA vet speak for the Chinese authorities.

April 14, 2007

Experience of Finding a Public Document

For an average citizen, I think finding an agenda packet from the Minnesota Legislature is pretty difficult. I tried to find the agenda packet for The Dog and Cat Breeders Act because I’m writing about that in my article. I started by calling the Public Information Office. That number was easy to find on the Minnesota Legislature website. However, then I got transferred or was given the numbers for calling other offices. I ended up talking to someone from the House Index and the Senate Committee. The woman from the House Index told me there was no public information on that bill, but she told me how I can go to the House website, and search by topics to find bills. She even did it for me and found all the bills listed under the Animals and Pets topic, but there was either no public information or the bill or it wasn’t relevant to my article. The man from the Senate Committee told me that there was no public information on that bill, but he was very helpful in telling me how I could go about finding public information on a bill. He walked me through the steps while I followed along on my computer. He told me to go to www.senate.mn, then Orders of Business, then the Fifth Order of Business. He said that if there was any public information it would be listed here, and if there wasn’t anything available I would then call the committee, go to the library at the Capitol and listen to the tape, or talk to the author of the bill. I actually did already ask the author of the bill when I interviewed him earlier this week, but he referred me to the senate committee I was just talking to! I searched for any other bills relating to my article by using this process and again there was no information available or nothing related to my article. Both these people were helpful in telling me all of this information and how the process works, but having to be transferred numerous times, going to the library, or tracking down the author of the bill would be way too time-consuming and complicated for the average citizen.

Since there weren’t any agenda packets on The Dog and Cat Breeders Act or anything relating to dogs or animal welfare in the Legislature, I tried to get the agenda packet for a recent public meeting in Morrison County that approved a mega-kennel. This experience was much easier. First, I went to the Morrison County government website, and then to the County Commissioners site. On that page the written minutes and video for the public meetings were listed, and I was able to download them. In order to find out how one could get the agenda packet, I called the number that was listed to call for more information and she transferred me to the county administrator. He said the agenda packet was a foot thick and would cost $150 to photocopy, but anyone can come in and make the photocopies without an appointment. He said one woman did just come in and made the photocopies. However, he offered to email me the “findings of fact? that have the legal basis for the decisions, the special conditions made for the mega-kennel, and the exhibits (items/ documents that were looked at) that were used during the meeting. He was really nice and helpful and emailed me the Findings of Fact immediately. Therefore, I think it would be really easy for an average citizen to find the public information because the minutes were readily available on the website, I only got transferred once, and he was very helpful in providing me the findings of fact and telling me all you have to do is go in to the office anytime during their hours to photocopy the documents for 25 cents a page.

April 7, 2007

Famous Polar Bear Causes Merchandise Frenzy



The AP article, “Knut, Berlin’s famous polar bear cub, creates merchandizing frenzy in Germany,? is about how the zoo’s attendance and stock have dramatically increased because of the popularity of Knut the polar bear club, who became famous after a debate ensued over whether or not to keep him alive since he was rejected by his mother.

Since Knut’s story began a few weeks ago, this writer had the challenge of recapping the previous newsworthiness of Knut while providing the new information. Knut is famous because of the debate over whether or not to keep him alive. The writer did mention that he was rejected by his mother and hand-raised by zookeepers; however, the writer said that he “rose to fame last month thanks to television and newspaper pictures.? Otherwise, the writer did not mention anything else about the debate that made Knut famous.

The International Herald Tribune article, “Knut, the abandoned bear cub, is now a star,? also covers the event of the polar bear causing a media frenzy and the zoo’s attendance and stock to dramatically rise. This writer did give a more detailed recap of why Knut is famous in the first place. The writer said that Knut became “a national cause célèbre? when a debate ensued over whether he should be killed since his mother rejected him and he would be raised by humans. The writer also includes the background of why certain animal-rights advocates and zookeepers thought the bear should not be raised by humans, and the writer included that the bear was able to live because of German schoolchildren’s petition and the publicity.

In my opinion, I think the International Herald Tribune writer did a better job at reporting the news of the media frenzy over Knut. I think this article was effective partly because the writer included the recap of why Knut is famous in the first place. I think the recap is good for readers who are not familiar with Knut’s story, but also this writer is accurate in explaining why he is famous. The AP story, on the other hand, didn’t give a detailed recap to inform or remind readers, and I don’t think the writer is completely accurate in saying Knut is famous for television and newspaper photos because the controversy is what brought Knut to the media’s attention. However, I did like that the AP writer was very thorough in listing all the merchandise that has been created for Knut, as well as being very thorough in giving the exact dollar amounts that the zoo’s stock has increased.

Coyote goes from Downtown Chicago Quiznos to the Wild



The Chicago Tribune article, “Urban coyote gets his space,? is about how the coyote that wandering into a downtown Chicago Quiznos on Tuesday was released into the wild on Wednesday.

This writer had the challenge of using an array of sources and giving complete information. This writer used many sources for this story that included the owner of the property where the coyote was released, the manager of the Quiznos the coyote wandered into, the founder and director of the Flint Creek refuge where the coyote was originally placed, and the director of Animal Care and Control. Also, the writer gave complete information on the news event including that the employees of Quiznos visited the coyote, now named Adrian, before he was released and offered him a warm prime-rib sandwich on garlic bread (the vets didn’t let the coyote eat it though) and Quiznos donated $1,000 to Animal Care and Control for taking care of the coyote, and that Adrian was the third coyote captured in Chicago in the past three weeks and that 10 to 15 coyotes are annually captured in Chicago.

The Chicago Sun Times article, “Downtown dog to country coyote,? also covered the news of Adrian the coyote being released into the wild. This writer did not use as many sources as the Tribune writer. This writer included a quote from the owner of the property where Adrian was released. The writer also included the kennel manager and the founder of the Flint Creek refuge, but the writer only attributed the minor facts of how old the coyote is and that he ate and rested at an animal shelter the night before he was released. Also, this writer did not include any additional information like the Tribune writer did because the Tribune writer included the sandwich and money they donated, as well as the statistics on coyotes in Chicago.

In my opinion, the Chicago Tribune writer did a better job at telling the story of Adrian the coyote being released. I liked this article because the writer included so many sources and quotes to give the full picture. Also, I really liked that this writer included the extra information about how Quiznos reacted because it is interesting to know that the manager was so nice about the situation and gave Adrian a sandwich and donated money. It was also interesting to know the statistics on coyotes being captured in downtown Chicago because coyotes in a city seem so unexpected. However, the Sun Times writer was also successful in communicating the main information of the release, and I think the hourglass structures used in both articles were effective because the updated information of the release was announced first and then the whole story beginning with Adrian going into the Quiznos was told chronologically. Also, I liked that both articles included photo galleries of Adrian, and the Tribune website even had a video of Adrian being released.

April 6, 2007

Story Idea No. 5: Puppy Mills

The recent intense media exposure of Retrieve a Golden of Minnesota’s (RAGOM) removal of 83 dogs from a puppy mill in Bismarck, N.D. has brought puppy mills to the attention of the Twin Cities people. Therefore, what is a puppy mill and are they legal? There are few regulations or laws on puppy mills, but The Dog and Cat Breeders Act is currently going through the Minnesota House albeit it is stalled. Therefore, what regulations do puppy mills currently have, why is the bill being introduced, and will the intense media exposure from RAGOM’s removal help move the bill forward?

1. Nikki Rydel, member and volunteer coordinator, RAGOM, (612) 865-2431
2. Darby Holladay, spokesman, United States Department of Agriculture, (301) 734-3265
(The USDA inspected the puppy mill in N.D. and is in charge of inspecting puppy mills.)
3. Paul Koering, senator, R-12 Crow Wing and Morrison, (651) 296-4875
(He is one of the senators introducing The Dog and Cat Breeders Act.)

April 2, 2007

Aftermath of Plymouth Robbery



The Star Tribune article, “Police identify bank robbery suspect as Oak Grove man,? is an updated article about the man who robbed a bank in Plymouth and was in a standoff with police for five fours on Friday. This updated article tells the most recent news of the man’s identity, that the autopsy results concluded that his death was a suicide, and that he had previously been in federal prison for robbing a bank in California.

This writer had the challenge of writing an effective lead. In this lead, the writer first gave a short background of the standoff and his death, which could help readers remember the event or learn about it if they haven’t heard the news yet. After the short background, the writer included the man’s identity, which is the most recent information. This lead fit the background and recent news into one short sentence.

The Pioneer Press article, “Plymouth/ Robber called family, shot himself,? also covers this news event. This writer’s lead was different because this writer made the lead more dramatic and suspenseful by describing the scene, the robber’s feelings, and the details of his suicide while holding off on revealing his name until toward the end of the lead. The writer also holds off on making it clear who the man is specifically until the next paragraph, which was a nut graph that gave the background of the robbery. However, the writer still held off on mentioning the standoff in a woman’s house until the fourth paragraph when the writer began the chronological part of the hourglass format.

In my opinion, the Star Tribune writer did a better job at writing a more effective lead. I like that the writer gave the background in the lead because not only does it help readers remember or learn about it if it was the first time they heard of this event, the writer also makes it very clear what is the news in this story. Whereas, the Pioneer Press writer did not even make it clear to the reader what this story was about in the lead, and the writer included the name of the robber but did not say who this person was until the next paragraph. Also, I didn’t like the lead of the Pioneer Press article because the writer made it too suspenseful and dramatic for a straight news story, not to mention a serious crime story. The Star Tribune writer’s lead was more effective because the storytelling was more objective and straightforward. Also, I didn’t like that the Pioneer Press writer said the robber was stressed out “to a point only he could imagine,? because this was an editorial from the writer, and the words, stressed out, were in quotes without attribution and the quotes didn’t seem necessary.