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April 27, 2007

Interim Premier declares the war won in Somalia

The Interim Premier of Somalia has declared victory in that the Islamic Front that had taken control of the capital city of Mogadishu in recent weeks. These past weeks have seen the bloodiest fighting in Somalia in years. The government declared victory but the fighting still continues. More than a thousand civilians have been killed in the fighting and many more were wounded.

Jeffery Gettleman, of the New York Times, wrote an article on the subject. He choose to focus on the fact that the Interim Premier made an announcement as the lead of the story. Then he provides paragraphs of relevant background information for the reader who may not have been following the story. There isn't too much new information or much in depth analysis, but as a general reporting story, it covers everything I'd need to know to understand the latest news.

Aweys Osman Yusuf, from the Shabelle Media Network, reported only a day before the New York Times piece that 20 more were killed. This article talks more about the specific day to day fighting, that a Somalia audience would be interested in, rather than the general overview that the New York Times gives.

They both give relevant detail to their respective audiences. Yusuf's article still provides background near the end of the piece, even though presumably he's writing for people that would already know.

April 23, 2007

French Elections

The French are in the midst of their presidential elections and the event is getting a lot of media coverage. The first round of the run-off election has taken place and though pollsters are predicting left Segolene Royal and conservative Nicolas Sarkozy the likely winners with 25-26 percent and 29-30 percent, respectively.

There is a lot involved in this story, many actors and acting forces, including a large number of presidential candidates and a national mentality and history that most average Americans don’t know about.

The challenge of this story is to get all of this information across in a short news story, and to get the latest news to the public.

There were two versions released by the AP. The two writers used different styles to meet this challenge.

Elaine Ganley had a story picked up by the Kansas City Star. John Leicester had a story in the Houston Chronicle.

Both articles covered much of the same material, down to having the exact same paragraphs at the end. I found this odd because Ganley’s article cited AP writer Herve Brival as a source though Leicester’s article did not. The paragraphs are identical and its not clear where they come from. Am I missing something?

Leicester accomplished through clever writing. His sentences were jam packed with information. He used adjectives very freely and managed to pack a lot of information in without going into large paragraphs of background.

Ganely does exactly that. She uses longer paragraphs of background to help us understand. This method is effective, and a little more clear and easier to read than Leicester’s version.

I like both versions and I hope that I will be able to do both. Leicester’s way is especially useful in a space crunch.

April 8, 2007

U.S. Official goes to Somalia

Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer visited Somalia this week, only six days after a weak cease fire was enacted. Violence once again erupted in the country while the interim government still struggles for control. The area has been plagued with unrest and violence since the toppling of their government in 1992.

The AP picked up on this story, the version written by Salad Duhul appearing in many American papers. Al Jazeera also reported on the story with an article on their website.

The AP version uses the U.S.-centric view--the news is that our official visited there. The recent events are background information. They also give background on U.S. involvement in the past--referring to the Black Hawk helicopter incident. This makes sense as the audience for this piece is an American one, and they would be most concerned about U.S. interests. The article also links Somalia with terrorism, condemning the violence because it provides an atmosphere where terrorism can thrive.

The Al Jazeera version focuses more on placing this issue in the world context. They focus on the official saying that she wants to raise the consciousness of this issue in the world as a whole. There is no mention of U.S. involvement. They also picked up on the terrorist angle, though not spending as much time on it. Instead, they included fears about war crimes by the Ethiopian and Somali governments. Both regimes are supported by the U.S. They ended with a few paragraphs about a reconciliation conference.

I found it helpful to read both of these articles. The AP version was too U.S. centric and I missed out on some of the related issues, like the war crimes issue and the reconciliation conference. The Al Jazeera article didn’t make it clear why this official in this country was such a big deal, why it was newsworthy.

March 30, 2007

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

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 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.


Time
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

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.

February 25, 2007

Muslim leaders meet

The prime minister of Pakistan is calling for a diplomatic end to the conflict with Iran. Ministers from seven countries are set to meet in Saudi Arabia, primarily to discuss the Palestinian problem. Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf believes the Palestinian problem to be the root of the terrorism problem.

The AP's version of this story was picked up by papers world wide, seen here in the New York Times. The Boston Globe picked up the Reuter's version.

This is an example of a news conference story. Both versions discuss the remarks made by the prim minister and president at a news conference before the actually meeting started. The articles provide as much background as is necessary, though much isn't because of the prevalence of the Middle East in the news.

The articles choose different focuses. The Reuters article focuses on the Palestinian angle, putting the perspective of Middle Eastern countries, rather than attacking this from the U.S. centric angle.

The AP article focuses on the talks about Iran, which is more in the forefront of the American consciousness.

I think both are important, and I don't know which one I would have choose as the lead. The Iran crisis is more important to American readers at the moment, but there is always interest in the Israeli-Palestinian crisis.

February 18, 2007

Shooting in London

There has been more gun violence in the streets on London. Another teenager was shot and killed this weekend. This is the latest in many shootings that have caused the British public to question whether their country was declining. With the recent surge in violence is likening

The New York Times reported on this story, as did the New Zealand Herald. The challenge with this story was to use a current event to comment on a a larger social trend, especially when the public itself is commenting on these latest trends.

The New York Times put the words of the trend in the words of the police commissioner, getting him to say it, instead of just implying this trend throughout the story. They also cite the prevalence of violence as part of the problem.

The London metropolitan police commissioner, Sir Ian Blair, has called for a discussion of proposals to lower the age at which a mandatory five-year jail term is imposed for carrying a gun, from 21 to 17. Sir Ian said the police had detected a “new trend? toward violent crime among young people.

Reporter Alan Cowell chose to use recent crime statistics to add to this story.


According to police figures, murders and gun crime fell slightly in London last year, to 178 killings and about 3,300 offenses in which guns were used. But the recent violence has fueled a debate about social decline.

These statistics are especially effective because they go against the conventional wisdom that gun violence is increasing. Even so, people are debating this issue.

The story also gets political, by quoting a politician from the opposing party criticize the politics of the current government.

The New Zealand Herald piece, by Mark Townsend and Ned Temko, focuses more directly on the most recent story, the gun violence on Saturday. They tell the story chronologically describing the shooting in detail, and then they relate it to two other shootings that occurred recently. This links it to the broader picture later, and not nearly as in depth as the New York Times story. They too, though, quote the police commissioner. They also feature quotes by politicians on what is wrong and where the country should be going.

The story was the same but they chose to focus on slightly different aspects and tell the story in slightly different ways. The New York Times spent more time on the trends and the New Zealand Herald spent more time focusing on the latest story.

February 11, 2007

Putin criticizes U.S.

Russian president Vladimir Putin made a thirty minute speech at the U.N. on Sat. Feb. 10, criticizing U.S. foreign policy and its seeming unilateral over world politics and policies. He says that the world is a more dangerous place now than it was at any time during the Cold War. He has a problem with the expansion of NATO into the Baltics, and the increased U.S. presence around the world.

Putin says that the world is now unipolar, from the New York Times:

“One single center of power. One single center of force. One single center of decision making. This is the world of one master, one sovereign.?

The New York Times and the Washington Post carried this story. The St. Paul Pioneer Press picked up the New Yorks Times' version. The Star Tribune picked up the Las Angeles Times version.

The challenge with this story is there is a lot of talking--the story is about a speech. No specific actions were taken. The key for this type of story is balance the words of the speech with reaction from as many sides as possible.

The New York Times' reporters Thom Shanker and Mark Landler included a lot of paraphrasing of the speech itself, and some direct quotes. They also gathered reactions from Senator John McCain, a White House spokesman, two other senators, and by statements such as:


With the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, the American defense secretary, Robert M. Gates, and a Congressional delegation sitting stone-faced, Mr. Putin warned that the power amassed by any nation that assumes this ultimate global role “destroys it from within.

The Washington Post's Thomas E. Ricks and Craig Whitlock also had many direct quotations, but not the same ones as the New York Times--showing that one person's opinion of a good quote is not the same as another's. They included reactions from the White House, NATO Secretary General, and two senators. They, too, commented on the reactions of the delegation during the speech:

During Putin's 32-minute address, several members of the U.S. delegation frowned or looked away. Gates, a professional Sovietologist, stared down at notes he was writing. Asked for comment afterward, Gates smiled and shook his head.

Both papers did a nice job of letting Putin's words speak for themselves, without inserting commentary of their own. I think they effectively got across how the U.S. delegation reacted with their key word choices in those quotations I mentioned. This shows the use of quotations and also how the U.S. press can deal with criticism of the U.S.

February 4, 2007

Press Freedom in Zimbabwe

Free press in Zimbabwe is under fire attack by its government. The country is in its seventh year of economic depression and is experiencing hyper-inflation, over 1,200 percent a year. It has only two remaining free newspapers--those not directly controlled by the government.

I found two articles on this topic, one in the Washington Post and another in the New Zealand Herald. The Washington Post focused on a specific event that happened recently while the New Zealand Herald took a more general approach, a story of the culmination of a lot of little stories about the degradation of freedom of the press in Zimbabwe.

The challenge with this story was the recent history of Zimbabwe, and how that is involved with the current news. Craig Timberg of the Washington Post managed to sum up the recent history, and to paint a picture of the problems in that country at the moment, with key details like their rate of inflation and the state their government is in. He also managed to encompass the wider story of the safety of journalists all over the world, by including the organization Reporters Without Borders. He mentioned the record number of journalist killed or arrested worldwide, making this part of a world problem in the larger social context. This story also made the issue of freedom of the press more interesting because it dealt directly with a death threat--a bullet mailed to the editor of a paper that published an unflattering political cartoon of the military. This international perspective made the story more relevant to the US audience in a more obvious way, even though the story should be seen as relevant be itself.

The Ed Ceasar of the New Zealand Herald took a wider perspective of this story, focusing on the many number of things that have been chipping away at the free presses in Zimbabwe. He took a national focus, instead of the wider international context. New Zealand has a lot of Zimbabwean exiles, and many of them are still concerned with what is going on in their country, and many still have friends or relatives back there. So the more focused approach is relevant. Ceasar also does a good job of summarizing a lot of recent problems with the press.

January 26, 2007

Israeli President Faces Charges of Rape and Misconduct

Israel's president has been accused of rape and of abusing his power. These allegations go back to his time as a tourism minister in 1998.

The challenge with this piece of news is that no charges have yet been brought to court. These are news pieces about allegations of misconduct, and the reaction in Israel to this piece of news. The New York Times covered the story by talking about Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's reaction to these allegations. Olmert is said to be calling for President Moshe Katsav's resignation. At the same time, Olmert was trying to deflect attention from this subject, focusing instead on the threat to Israel from Iran in a speech he gave this week. President Katsav is asking for leave while he fights the allegations.

The LA Times' version of this story focuses on President Katsav's asking for leave, and plans to fight. It also directly quotes Katsav more than the New York Times article did. It also discusses the move for impeachment.

Both articles do a good job of summing up Israeli law, which their American readers are not likely to know. What the ramifications of a sex scandal in Israel will be, I don't really know. The tone of the articles seems to portray outrage by both the country and the accused. The President is angry at the allegations. His side, and his anger, come across more in the LA Times article, the one with more direct quotes. The outrage of the public and other public officials comes across more in the New York Times' article, which focuses on the Prime Minister.

Should this be news and should we care? I think so, because, if true, it demonstrates an abuse of power in the Israeli government. And it will be interesting how Israel reacts to this scandal, and how their neighbors perceive it. Also, it is an insight into the male-female dynamic in Israel, depending on how this gets dealt with. I think this is just an introductory story, and it is a story to watch, mostly to see the reactions of various people and states.