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March 30, 2007

Tattoos and Marines

The Marines have issued a new rule about body art and tattoos, declaring certain kinds are no longer permitted. Marines that have previous tattoos are exempt from the new rule, though their tattoos have to be photographed and documented, and they are not allowed to add to them. The Marines say that large tattoos detract from the public image of the Corps.

The AP version was picked up by seemingly every major paper. The San Diego Union Tribune was one of the few to cover the story with their own reporters.

The AP version, by Thomas Watkins, used a delayed lead and fantastic images to talk about the tattoos. They lead with the point-of-view of a Marine. They also use many terms that are Marine lingo, such as leatherneck and spit-and-polish. They contribute to the interest of the piece, but they may detract from the reader’s understanding if the reader is not familiar with these terms. This article is also heavy on the side of the individual Marines, and I get the impression that reporter doesn’t think much of this new rule, giving little credence to the side of the officials.

The San Diego version, by Rick Rogers and Steve Liewer, focuses on the individuals who are rushing to get tattoos before the rule goes into effect on Sunday. I think this gives the story more immediacy and makes it timelier. I think this element was in the AP articles, but it was not as prominent. This is also heavy with quotes from individual Marines. Interestingly, they use some of the same sources as the AP article.

I like the immediacy of the second article, though I think that both are too heavily on the soldier’s side, and we could use the perspective of the officials.

Nun's identity revealed

A French nun was revealed to be the nun who reported being cured by the late Pope John Paul II in May 2005. Until now, her identity was a mystery, shrouded by the church.

I found two AP versions of this story. The first appears to have been written and published pre-press conference, and contains very few colorful detail, information, or quotations. This is the straighter, newsier version of this story. The second, posted only three hours ago, includes many quotations from the nun herself, as well as background details and images.

The first article, attributed only to AP, uses a straight lead and very simply and clearly provides the background information and what we need to know. The writer tries to simply and clarifies the process of sainthood as done by the Catholic Church.

The second article uses a more colorful, slightly delayed lead, with important details sprinkled throughout the first three paragraphs. In a story where the person is the news, I like to be able to get a sense of that person, and this article painted a much clearer picture than the initial report. This is probably because of time constraints and the availability of information.

The first story is boring but informative, and the second is colorful and informative. If one has the time and the details, color can be effective and interesting.

March 24, 2007

Housing Occupancy and Advertising

In my recent search for housing for the coming academic year, I encountered a few problems with landlords. Houses were advertised for more bedrooms than they either legally had, or were zoned for. For instance, one residance was advertised as a four-bedroom though was only zoned for three un-related occupants. Another house was advertised as having four bedrooms, though clearly all were not legal bedrooms. I would like to know how often this occurs, what landlords' responsibilites are, what tenants' responsibilities are, and what are the penalties for not following through. This is newsworthy because it potentially puts people in harms way--in the event of a fire at the home, or even being evicted because your house is not zoned for that many people.

I would contact:
Minneapolis Inspections Division--they enforce the zoning and bedroom requirement ordinances
South District Supervisor Jack Allison, (612) 673-5852

Student Legal Services at the University of Minnesota--because of the large population of students living off-campus, they have extensive experience with this issue.
Bill Dane
(612) 624-1001

Sydne Westorff, Marcy Holmes Representative to the Minnesota Student Association, this person, coming from one of the neighborhoods surrounding campus, might have experience with this issue or might be able to suggest people who might
612-331-4033, westo029@umn.edu

Gore to Capitol Hill on Global Warming

Former Vice President Al Gore went to Capitol Hill this week to testify before Congress on the threats of global warming.

The challenge with this story is that the idea is tired--global warming is a hot issue at the moment, and this is more of an update rather than breaking story. The second challenge is to not get too caught up in the bipartisan party politics--and report on them instead of the issue at hand.

William Neikirk of the Chicago Tribune and Felicity Barringer and Andrew C. Revkin of the New York Times both took up the challenge.

Barringer and Revkin started with a delayed lead, emphasizing the theater and antics of the story, rather than the hard news aspect. They effectively used quotes from Gore's speech that were clearly meant to inflame and be very quotable. The article gets long and tedious though, when they start delving into the he said/he said of party politics and the back-and-forths between Gore and other Congressmen. I think it got bogged down here, and I lost interest.

Neikirik also used a delayed lead but focused more on the fact that Gore was the story--his comeback of sorts to Capitol Hill. His story was more about the man and the significance of his return than on what he said.

These were two very different takes on this story, one focusing on conflict and the other focusing on person. I think both were a way to attack this story from a new angle instead of spewing more facts about global warming that everybody already knows.

French UFO files released

France has posted its files from investigations of UFO cases online this week. Within three hours of the launch of the website, the server had crashed because of so much traffic.

This was picked up by a lot of news organizations around the world, because of the obvious novelty of the situation. The possibilities for leads are endless--with hundreds of supposed sightings able to catch the attention of any reader.
The AP picked up this story, releasing two different versions, one on Friday and one from Saturday.

The Friday piece gets to focus on the novelty of the story, using a delayed lead to suck the reader in. They tell of a specific incident that will grab readers attention.

The saucer-shaped object is said to have touched down in the south of France and then zoomed off. It left behind scorch marks and that haunting age-old question: Are we alone in this big universe of ours?

Then they go into discussing the news part of it. It was also interesting of them to note that the website crashed within three hours. This article also uses numbers effectively in the body, giving an impression of how many cases are hoaxes. The numbers do it better than just simply saying, a small number have been explained. They also use numbers to give more examples of incidents, using distances and size to tell the story. The Friday story was also much more in depth, including an interview with the head of the department that these files came from. The ending of this article gave the reader a nugget at the end, for those that stuck around to the end, ending with speculation about life on other planets.

So, do we have neighbors out there, after all?

"I don't have an answer to that," Patenet said. "Even if there is such a planet, given the size of the universe, what is the probability that two civilizations ... will meet or come across each other? I really don't know. It's very complicated. It's incalculable."

The second article was probably a brief written from this larger story. This article, written by Angela Doland, focused much less on the novelty and more on the harder facts of the story, emphasizing the numbers--including how many were solved, how many documents there are. She also doesn't use any of the colorful quotes from the first article even though she paraphrased the director.

In terms of novelty and exciting news writing, the first article was much more fun and interesting to read, but it was harder to pick out the specific facts. The second brief boiled it all down for the busy reader, though losing some of the fun quality.

March 9, 2007

Recycle Mania

The University of Minnesota is involved in a contest aimed at reducing waste on campus through better recycling and reduced trash. This is a nationwide campaign that pits university against university, and is sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency through their WasteWise Program. There are brochures on tables in the dining halls on campus, but other than that, I haven't heard much about it. To make this relevant to a larger audience, I could discuss how the Recycle Mania is tied to a larger waste reduction program that pits business against business.

I would talk to:

Residence Hall directors-as to why we need this on campus
Residence Director at Middlebrook Hall—Tam Knapton 625-2049

Facilities Management-whether they were informed about this, and how this affects their jobs
I would specifically talk to the person overseeing the recycling program at 612-625-8084.
Cindi Cardinal, facilities management, ext. 56481

I would contact Recycle Mania for more specific information about the program at 866-626-4224.
Ed Newman of Ohio University, who is
one of the founders of RecycleMania, at 740-593-0231

Newt Gingrich--need I say more?

Newt Gingrich, former U.S. House speaker during the Clinton era, admitted to having an affair at the same time that he was impeaching former President Bill Clinton over his involvement with Monica Lewinsky. He was talking on a conservative Christian radio show when he admitted the affair. Some political analysts think that he might be making a move to run for president in 2008.

The New York Times picked up the AP version of this story. The story also made international headlines, including in an Australian paper and the National Post from Canada.

The challenge with this story was getting direct quotes from Gingrich. His quotes on the radio show were long and drawn out. The AP used ellipses on more than one occasion to simplify his words, to make them more readable. From hearing some of the quotes on TV, I think that they only cut out his thinking words, but they still make me wonder what is missing. The National Post solved this problem by using a lot of partial quotes with some prior explanation.

The National Post article puts Gingrich in context, discussing his possible bid for presidency and Rudy Giuliani. The AP article focuses on Gingrich himself, telling more details of his affair, and personal life prior to the affair.

They also have conflicting details in their stories. The AP reports that he asked for a divorce from his second wife while she was recuperating from surgery and the National Post says that she was attending her mother's 84th birthday party.

Overall, I just find this interesting that this came out the way that it did, on a conservative radio show.

March 8, 2007

French Presidential Election

New polls have come out recently that show the French presidency is wide open. About 40 percent of the voting population says they don't know who they want to vote for yet. This gives the self-declared neither/nor a huge chance in this campaign--François Bayrou. One candidate, Nicolas Sarkozy, is the conservative candidate, pro-market. The other is Segolene Royal, who is a socialist and wants to boost social programs. Bayrou lies somewhere in the middle. Polls put them a 3 point margin of error away from each other with only a little over a month and a half to the election in April.

and numerous newspapers picked up the AP's version of this story by Angela Charlton. Her main focus was the race itself, rather than any particular candidate. She also discussed the poll results, and was critical of the polling organizations themselves.

The New York Times
took this story and ran with it, doing a profile-like article of the third party candidate, focusing on his as the news, with the race of second importance. Obviously, the race itself is still relevant, because that is the reason that this man is newsworthy. However, it was secondary to WHO.

Both articles were posted online on the same day, March 8, 2007. I think this was more a news decision than a time one. The AP article was obviously writing for a broader audience, who may not be as up on current events as a New York Times audience. I haven't been following the story so I don't know how much coverage it has been getting in various papers. So by synthesizing the race itself instead of focusing on just one person, they broadened those who would be interested in this story.

I did, however, like the profile of Bayrou. I don't think it would have been as relevant to me if I hadn't read the AP article first. The profile gave me a broader understanding, but the AP article add the extra element of polling organizations in France. They were both newsworthy, readable, informative articles, and useful in different ways.

March 2, 2007

Medical Tourism

Because of the relatively cheap cost of transportation, and the high cost of some elective surgeries in the U.S. that are not covered by insurance, it is actually cheaper to fly to India to get eye surgery than to have it here. The quality is supposedly just as good. I'd like to find out how big this phenomenon is, whether it's true, what the actual costs are, and how safe it is, whether this is beneficial or detrimental to consumers.

Minnesota Eye Consultants
Richard L. Lindstrom, M.D., founder of Minnesota Eye Consultants
provide with information about who could speak with me about this issue, long list of available doctors
Minneapolis Office
710 E. 24th Street
Suite 106
Minneapolis, MN 55404
Phone: (612) 813-3600
Toll Free: (800) 526-7632
FAX: (612) 813-3636

Apollo Hospital in India--actively advertising "medical tourism," in eye surgery
posted costs
Dr. Prathap C Reddy, Founder and Chariman of Apollo Hospitals Group
011 91 011 24646272, 011 91 011 24648409, ext. 1067, 1068

Gordon Smith, senator of Oregon, Chairman of last year's Special Committee on Aging, which performed an inquiry on medical tourism last June, Phone Washington office: 202.224.3753


In Los Angeles, five Yorkshire terriers were dognapped at a home in Koreatown. Two men entered the home and stole the five dogs at gun point. The entire thing was captured on the family's home security system. The dogs are worth $2,500 each. The family had advertised the dogs, because four were for sale, and the robbers answered the call. The LAPD is looking for information on this subject.

I chose to blog about this news story because of how the story was presented on the LA Times' website. The story includes the short article, the actually security video of the entire robbery, a picture of the dogs dognapped, a still photo of the suspects, and a link to the LAPD news release. I thought this was relevant because of the recent discussion we had on convergence. While this doesn't actually involve a reporter filming, it still shows a way that the LA Times is trying to engage its audience online.

As for the reporting, most of the story is redundant to the video, which starts playing as you access the website. The play by play of the crime is necessary in a strict writing format, but the video shows much better than the writer can describe. The writer, Richard Winton, does provide the necessary background for the video, aiding our understanding of it.

The Washington Post also picked up the story, but only included the photo released by the LAPD. Their story is shorter, and does not provide the play by play that the LA Times article does. They also quote the victims directly, as opposed to the police department, as the LA Times does.

Tourists kidnapped in Ethiopia

More than twelve western tourists have been kidnapped in a remote region of Ethiopia. Details are sketchy at best. Reports say perhaps 5 Britons and 10 French people were kidnapped, though foreign ministers from both county decline to comment on the details. The wife of the director of the British Council in Ethiopia, Michael Moore, may have been among those kidnapped. The region where the incident took place is notorious for its heat and the rebels that are in the region. The government requires that anyone traveling there has at least two cars and armed guards.

I found two versions of this story, written by the same AP reporter. The version on The Guardian Unlimited online newspaper website was posted around 11 a.m. central standard time Friday. This article gave a definitive number of people kidnapped and attribution to the French foreign minister. He provides details about the regions.

The second version was posted on the Houston Chronicle's Website around noon Friday. In this story the numbers are changed, saying at least 12 were kidnapped, maybe between seven and 10 French and 5 British people, and details about how they were traveling--separately in four cars. This article focused on the British foreign minister, placing this higher in the article. It also provides some more detail about the area, especially about the presence of Rebels in the region.

I think these two very similar versions of this article show how news can be emphasized differently for a new audience, presuming that Americans reading the Houston Chronicle would care more about the British angle than the French, even though the French had more people involved. It also shows the difficultly in reporting on breaking news. The story changed within an hour, new details emerging.

Both mentions Michael Moore's wife.