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.

April 22, 2007

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 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.

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 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.

February 24, 2007

Mary Tyler Moore House for Sale after Renovation

The Star Tribune article, “Mary never lived here…but you could for $3.6 million,? tells the story of the Minneapolis couple who bought the Mary Tyler Moore house in Minneapolis’ Kenwood neighborhood. The couple bought the house with the intension to fix it up and resell it, and the article documents in great detail what the couple did to fix the house while referencing how the house was portrayed on the show.

This writer handled the challenge of developing a lead by writing a delayed lead. The writer’s lead says, “Don Gerlach was paging through a newspaper a couple years ago when a postage stamp-sized photo of a house in an ad caught his eye. It read: ‘Queen Anne Victorian. Needs updating.? This is an example of a delayed lead because the writer intentionally buried the lead by beginning with an anecdote to draw the readers in. The fifth paragraph is the nut graph because in this paragraph the writer summarizes the news that the house is up for sale after being renovated for two years, and the mention of the renovation transitions into the rest of the article where the writer discusses all the renovations.

The WCCO article, “Mary Tyler Moore House for Sale,? also discusses the renovations of the house with another type of alternative lead: the question lead. This lead says, “Want to own a piece of Minnesota history? It will just cost you a few million -- $3.62 million to be exact -- for the newly renovated Mary Tyler Moore house.? According to the Fedler book, the question lead is effective if it is brief, simple, specific, provocative, contains less than a dozen words, and the readers will feel compelled to answer it. Therefore, the lead is effective because it is short with 8 words, specific since it asks one simple question, and compelling because most readers would probably be interested in owning something of value, and provocative because it leaves the reader wanting to know more. However, Fedler also says not to ask questions that will turn away readers and since the reader sarcastically says, “It will just cost you a few million- $3.62 to be exact…,? this could turn away readers who may not be interested in reading about a house they know they couldn’t afford.

In my opinion, both the alternative leads were successful for the types of stories the writers were writing. The Star Tribune writer’s delayed lead was effective because the anecdote drew the reader into the article, and starting from the beginning when the couple first found out about the house easily transitioned into discussing the following renovations. I think the WCCO writer’s question lead was effective because it followed the rules of what Fedler describes as an effective question lead. I don’t think the possibility of turning away readers by saying how much money the house is was a problem because the headline blatantly states that the article’s about the Mary Tyler Moore house being for sale and I think many people who are not interested in the house would still be interested to read it since it is a prominent tv house in the local area. Also I think the question lead was effective because the article is a feature and not a hard news story, and it draws the reader into the article.

February 16, 2007

Council Member Addresses Controversial Comment

The Star Tribune article, “Samuels gets an earful at school he criticized,? is about Council Member Don Samuels’ comment that North High School should be burned down referring to his disappointment in the school’s high percentage of black students failing. The article consisted of Samuels’ explanations and the statements that were made from Samuels and various people at Thursday’s meeting over his comment. The writer also included Samuels’ efforts to improve Minneapolis schools.

Since this article is about Samuels’ controversial comment, the writer underwent the challenge of being balanced and fair in representing both sides of the controversy: Samuels and also the students, teachers, and other community members offended by his comment. The writer included quotes from Samuels’ defending himself and explaining what he meant, and the writer also used quotes from the public whom he offended included a community member, a student, and a teacher. The different statuses of these sources gave the reader more viewpoints from an array of people. Also, the article included sources who are still offended and others who are not. For example, the community member and student are still offended, but the teacher has forgiven Samuels. Also, the writer was fair to Samuels because Samuels’ controversial comment and his explanations were placed right by each other instead of making the reader wait for his explanations.

Another article, “Samuels Under Fire at North High,? from Fox 9 News also covers the meeting held Thursday to address Samuels’ comment. This article only included Samuels’ explanations and did not mention any specific responses from the public. Instead, the writer was vague by simply saying, “Many in the crowd of more than 200 students, parents and community members weren’t quite ready to accept his apology.? Also, the writer neglected to include any mention of people who did accept his apology like the Star Tribune writer did. The writer was also vague by saying that “some of Samuels’ critics wonder where he got his information,? and by not using any actual sources to attribute this statement to. However, this writer, like the Star Tribune writer, was fair to Samuels by placing his explanations right by the comment.

In my opinion, I think that the Star Tribune article communicated the news more successfully because the writer included quotes and opinions from Samuels and people who have and have not accepted his apology. I also did not like that the Fox 9 News did not attribute where the writer got the graduate rates of white and black students from. Also, I did not like that the Fox 9 News writer used the words, “mea culpa,? in the lead because I think that is a very obscure word and the writer could have expressed the same meaning differently.

February 9, 2007

Two More Local Children Die From Flu

“Flu deaths have parents eyeing the needle,? is an article from the Star Tribune about how there has been an increase in parents getting their children vaccinated from the flu after two more local children have died from the flu in addition to the 8-year-old St. Paul boy last week. The article says that additional staff is being added at flu clinics, and the Children’s Hospitals and Clinics are giving free flu shots on Saturday. The article also provides background information about the flu season, such as the number of flu outbreaks.

The writer of this article underwent the challenge of deciding on a form to write the article in. The writer chose to use the stack of blocks form because the article is divided into three sections. The first section is written in the hourglass form because the writer begins with the newsworthy information of the two children dying from the flu, the news of the free flu shots and increase in staff at clinics, and the news that Minnesota has had many cases of the flu in recent weeks even though the flu season is not any more dangerous than normal. Then the writer goes back to the beginning of the story and continues telling the news of the two children who died in more specific detail followed by more specific information about the current number of flu outbreaks in Minnesota. The other two sections contain additional information about the flu in a narrative style because the writer uses specific families and children to focus on and uses quotes from them.

The Pioneer Press article, “Flu kills two Minnesota children,? also covers the news of the children dying from the flu. However, this writer chose to write the story in an inverted pyramid style. The writer started with the most important news of the children dying, then told the story in a descending order of importance, and concluded with a national statistic for how many children die annually from the flu, which probably could have been cut if there was not enough space.

In my opinion, the Pioneer Press article was more successful in communicating the news because the inverted pyramid style allowed the most important news of the children dying to be first so readers could learn of the deaths right away. Also, I think the hard news format accurately fit the serious news of the deaths of children. The Star Tribune article was colorful with the quote and sources; yet, the anecdotes about the families were not dramatic and did not have any suspense. For example, one anecdote just said the child got the shot and a green lollipop afterwards. Also, since the article was divided into three sections, the writer repeated information about the free flu shots and staff increases. Also, it was not until the very last paragraph that the writer said specifically where the flu shots are being held and the reader could have quit reading long before then.

February 2, 2007

Flu clinic opens as a result of boy's death
The Star Tribune article, “After boy’s flu death, calls flood into doctors’ offices,? is about how dozens of phone calls regarding the death of an 8-year-old St. Paul boy from the flu caused the St. Paul Children’s Hospital to hold a special one-day flu clinic on Saturday. The article gave background information on the circumstances of the death of the boy and information about the flu season.
The writer handled the challenge of using quotes by including both indirect and direct quotes. The writer paraphrased statements that consisted of the statistics of the number and types of people who die from the flu each year, information that is on public record like the details of the boy’s memorial service, and verifiable facts like when the flu season starts and ends. The writer also included many direct quotes from a pediatric nurse practitioner and an epidemiologist from the Health Department to emphasize and attribute their expert opinions and precautions.
The Pioneer Press article, “Flu shot clinic scheduled after boy dies,? also tells the story of the flu clinic being held on Saturday as a result of the many phone calls clinics have received concerning the death of the 8-year-old. This writer handled the challenge of using quotes by using indirect and direct quotes. The writer, like the Star Tribune writer, used paraphrasing to state statistics regarding the flu and verifiable facts that could be easily paraphrased like the statements about the clinic opening due to dozens of phone calls. This writer also used a partial quote to cite the word, “widespread,? to cite the precise level of flu activity in Minnesota, and the Star Tribune did not use any partial quotes. I noticed that this writer also attributed the statement about the boy dying from pneumonia Wednesday to a director at the Minnesota Department of Health, whereas the Star Tribune writer did not attribute the same event.
In my opinion, both the Pioneer Press and the Star Tribune writers succeeded in communicating well by using direct, indirect, and partial quotes appropriately. I think the Pioneer Press article was more careful though because they seemed to attribute more than the Star Tribune. For example, the Pioneer Press attributed the cause of death to the source from the Health Department, but I think that would be public record so the attribution probably was not essential. However, the writer was being more careful in attribution. I think the Pioneer Press writer also communicated well because she included the supplemental information of the flu symptoms and preventions and attributed it.

January 26, 2007

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 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
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.