Recently in Analysis Category

Advancement in education and affordability for college students have become hot topics recently, in political debates as well as individual lives. In an article from the Florida Center for Investigative Journalism, the topic of Florida's failing education levels is tied to a lack of high school education, future economic issues, and skill gaps.

The reporter had to make use of several different public records sources to create a well-informed and in-depth analysis of the Florida education issue. Access to test results was essential for the reporter. High school test results, assessment results, and college placement test results were all used to show the increased number of Florida students who are entering college far less prepared than they need to be. The reporter also needed to search out statistics related to the number of remedial courses in demand in Florida, and how that number has doubled since 2007. Specifically, the reporter used information from the 2011 Florida College System Readiness report.

This article is a part of a series of articles and blogs created by the Florida Center for Investigative Journalism related to the topic of falling levels of college preparation in Florida. This reporter undoubtedly worked in coordination with several other reporters working on other articles about the topic, sharing information, cross-referencing facts and statistics, and locating connections.

All of those reporters have a need of public records and basic computer searching skills. The reporter would have had to know the websites of important government branches dedicated to education funding and regulation, as well as websites with current government actions related to the topic. The reporter would need to know how to read survey and study results, which can sometimes be confusing, and be able to pull out the relevant information.

The reporter even had a companion radio report posted with the article from StateImpact Florida. The radio report included audio clips from actual Florida classrooms and from interviews with teachers and public officials. By including this radio report with the article, the reporter gives a voice to the article, to the photo pictured above the article. It adds a human element to an otherwise number-ridden conversation topic.

Advancement in education and affordability for college students have become hot topics recently, in political debates as well as individual lives. In an article from the Florida Center for Investigative Journalism, the topic of Florida's failing education levels is tied to a lack of high school education, future economic issues, and skill gaps.

The reporter had to make use of several different public records sources to create a well-informed and in-depth analysis of the Florida education issue. Access to test results was essential for the reporter. High school test results, assessment results, and college placement test results were all used to show the increased number of Florida students who are entering college far less prepared than they need to be. The reporter also needed to search out statistics related to the number of remedial courses in demand in Florida, and how that number has doubled since 2007. Specifically, the reporter used information from the 2011 Florida College System Readiness report.

This article is a part of a series of articles and blogs created by the Florida Center for Investigative Journalism related to the topic of falling levels of college preparation in Florida. This reporter undoubtedly worked in coordination with several other reporters working on other articles about the topic, sharing information, cross-referencing facts and statistics, and locating connections.

All of those reporters have a need of public records and basic computer searching skills. The reporter would have had to know the websites of important government branches dedicated to education funding and regulation, as well as websites with current government actions related to the topic. The reporter would need to know how to read survey and study results, which can sometimes be confusing, and be able to pull out the relevant information.

The reporter even had a companion radio report posted with the article from StateImpact Florida. The radio report included audio clips from actual Florida classrooms and from interviews with teachers and public officials. By including this radio report with the article, the reporter gives a voice to the article, to the photo pictured above the article. It adds a human element to an otherwise number-ridden conversation topic.

Analysis: The Syrian death toll and counting bodies

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You can not turn on your television anymore without seeing some terrible image of bloodshed from overseas, especially of the gruesome footage of the violence in Syria. There are countless articles about the consistently rising death toll, but numbers only go so far. Numbers are, after all, just numbers.

In an article from Time Magazine, writer Vivienne Walt dives deeper into the true death toll of the Syrian conflict by going straight to the man responsible for coming up with those impressive death toll numbers - Rami Abdelrahman, also know as Osama Suleiman, a Syrian immigrant to Britain who heads the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights in Coventry, in the British Midlands. His job is, quite literally, to count the corpses.

Suleiman's one conclusion? - "If we continue like that we will destroy all of Syria."

Walt seems to avoid stereotypes altogether in her reporting, opting instead to show the view of a man who, although he has ties to the region, has an unclouded opinion, since he watches from thousands of miles away as his country is torn apart.

"Perhaps that is not surprising," Walt said, "for a man who spends his days closely watching the bloodletting across Syria." Walt focuses on Suleiman's own opinion on the conflict. "When I ask him whether he is looking forward to finally returning home to a free Syria once peace returns, [he] laughs and says, 'You are dreaming. You will finally see democracy in Syria, but it will not happen in my lifetime.'"

Not only did Walt speak with Suleiman, but she found information from several organizations involved in the Syrian strife: the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, the London-based Strategic Research and Communications Center, U.N. organizations and more.

This article goes beyond the numbers of the Syrian conflict, at least in the portion about Osama Suleiman, by presenting a voice.

Analysis: Function of numbers in hunting story

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The Star Tribune and the Pioneer Press both reported on the opening weekend of Minnesota's first wolf hunting season. Both publications used various statistics and numbers to show the success of the weekend, but in different ways.

In my opinion, the Pioneer Press presented the numbers in a more accessible way and still created a news story, not just a results report.

Within the article, the reported attempts to present the numbers more accessibly by using only 1 to 2 figures in each paragraph. In this way, the numbers are not overwhelming to the reader, who would otherwise have to reread the numbers in order to actually understand their meaning.

While the reported did spread out the numbers of the hunting season over the entire article, some of the paragraphs of the article were small and scattered, without transitions to connect them. In order to both make the numbers easy to grasp and tell an interesting news story, the reporter should have threaded the statistics together around one central idea and use that to connect the various parts of the article.

The reporter used reliable sources for the statistics used in the article. The Department of Natural Resources and the DNR's wildlife research manager. In an attempt at equality, the reporter also including information from wildlife activist groups, like Howling for Wolves and the Northwoods Wolf Alliance.

Analysis: News obituary on Snapple founder

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This news obituary on the death of Snapple founder Arnold Greenberg follows the typical New York Times formula used nation-wide: lead, cause, claim to fame, chronology, and then family.

Sources used in the article range everywhere from Greenberg's family to the other Snapple founders, Leonard Marsh and Hyman Golden, to Greenberg himself. It can also be assumed that the reporter/writer did outside research on the background of the Snapple company and its history, gathering information from public resources departments and other Snapple counterparts.

The lead in this obituary definitely follows the standard obituary lead. It begins with the name of the person (Arnold Greenberg), followed by some notable identifying fact (the founder of Snapple), and then when and where the person died (Friday in Manhattan). It ends with a short sentence containing how old the person was (80).

Several news values can be attached to the death of Arnold Greenberg. There is prominence because Arnold Greenberg was the founder of a popular drink company. There is emotion because it is a death. There is even novelty because Greenberg's beginnings were somewhat comical and he went on to found a drink company. Also, there is some immediacy because Greenberg died Friday.

In general, an obituary (including this one) differs from a resume because it offers more than just jobs and accomplishments, although it does present those. An obituary offers personal information, life stories, history and background. I doubt that Arnold Greenberg would have put in his resume that he used to wrap pickles in newspapers at his father's store.

Lance Armstrong's doping allegations have become big news. Many of his corporate sponsors have dropped him, including Nike and Trek, and he recently resigned from his position as chairman of the Livestrong Foundation. So, his appearance and speech at the Livestrong Gala Friday night were highly anticipated.

ABC News was on-hand to cover the event. Their article followed a slight "point, support" structure, but it also gave a significant amount of background information and exterior links related to the doping scandal. Rather than focusing on a continual pattern of "point" with a quote "support" from the speech, the structure of the article began with a "point, support", went further into the story, and finished with another "point, support", including quotes from other gala attendees.

By including such in-depth background information and other information related to recent developments in the story, the reporter gave the reader a knowledge of the actual story rather than just the gala speech. The story, at the moment, is Armstrong's resignation and loss of sponsors. The reporter realized this and provided the reader with information related to those topics, like who initially accused him, who has stepped forward, and who has recently stepped back.

In a way, the reporter honored Armstrong's own wish to "spare the foundation any negative effects as a result of controversy surrounding my cycling career" by ending the article with quotes from individuals involved with the Livestrong Foundation about how the foundation plans to "live strong" without their founder.

Analysis: Function of multimedia in news reporting

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Several news organizations are attempting to make use of multimedia news reporting through their websites. Both ABC News and The New York Times have successfully integrated multimedia into their websites, including photo and interactive slideshows.

The New York Times website utilizes interactive multimedia quite frequently. Just searching the term "interactive" on their website produces an array of stories told through graphs, maps, and images that change with the reader's actions. The New York Times website has an entire section of their side-bar dedicated to multimedia including interactives, photography, and video. ABC News Online makes use of large, striking photos as links for many of their stories, but they also have entire sections of their website dedicated to videos, slideshows, and stories-in-photos.

Both sites specifically have interactive maps related to the 2012 presidential race. These interactive maps compliment news stories that both news organizations have on the presidential race, specifically the influence of swing states in this year's presidential race. The New York Times recently published an article about how nine swing states, critical to the presidential race, are a "mixed lot". Their interactive map utilizes polling, previous election results, and political geography to further investigate the potential voting results of those key swing states. Below the interactive map there is a list of further analysis of particular states and the writing style used is one that is straightforward, appearing to favor neither side of the campaign. This style of writing that presents information in such a seemingly straightforward manner is a way for the news organization to appear unbiased in their reporting.

On ABC News Online, the same pattern appears. In an article published Friday, the news organization mentions several swing states, like Ohio and Iowa, and how those states will make predicting the results of the presidential race difficult. ABC's interactive map shows analysis of these states, including the rest of the country. A graph above the map shows the distribution of the votes of the electoral college. Below the map there is further analysis of key swing states, but in more of a paragraph form than the box form the New York Times used. The writing involved comes from the ABC News political director, so it has more of a personal tone to it, more opinionated. The writing shows a definite lean in favor of President Obama. This style of writing is possibly used by the political director to influence readers into a certain vote. She could attempt to utilize the numerical and mathematical map and graph above as proof.

I reported on an article from CNN News on the recall of over 500,000 Honda Accords. A follow-up story came out about an extension of that recall to include 268,000 CR-Vs.

Seeing as the second article is an introduction of the CR-V recall, the lead had to include to extended recall coverage, adding the 268,000 CR-Vs to the existing 500,000 Accords. The lead also was modified to include the specific reason for the "fire risk" mentioned in the Accord article - issues with the power window master switch.

The main news value - the fire risk and car recall - was summarized by mentioning the recall's coverage and instructions for owners to follow.

The CR-V story advances the news by giving a more detailed description of how the fire risk could occur. The article describes the design fault and how it puts the vehicle at risk, as well as a link to Honda's official statement on the matter. It also mirrors the Accord article by mentioning reported accidents and what owners can do to repair their vehicles.

Overall, the function of this particular follow-up story on Honda Accord and CR-V recalls was to inform the public of additional concerns with possible malfunctioning vehicles and to inform the public of the actual cause of the malfunctions.

Analysis: Function of attribution in story on prison break

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A prison break, especially one near a border, is bound to create some stress. When nearly 130 inmates escaped from a Mexican prison near the border of Texas, a quick and concise (and accurate) report is vital, like the article from CNN News.

With the international nature of the prison break, an American news organization may have run the risk of reporting inaccurate information due to lack of proximity, so reliable sources were key. Directly quoting the Coahuila state attorney general, who made a public statement on CNN en EspaƱol, provided a reputable source, one who was directly involved with the breakout and handling its publicity and aftermath.

Continually attributing the statement from police and officials helped to establish a level of accuracy, as well. Their public statement helped to illuminate the overall story, from numerical figures to current investigations. They provided the hard-news facts: the who, what, where, when, and (the very interesting part) the how.

In an attempt to mention the U.S. involvement, information was attributed from a homeland security official. By quoting this government official, responsible for protecting our borders, the article attempts to provide a sense of security. With the prison break so close to American borders, U.S. citizens would most likely be concerned with the possibility of international criminals coming into their hometowns. The information from the homeland security official will help to assure the public that, although there was a large prison break, there is no need to flee your homes.

Analysis: Function of lead in story on U.S. ambassador death

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The death of U.S. ambassador Christopher Stevens was national news, with coverage in publications spanning from Los Angeles to Washington D.C. Initially their publications' articles were stories with hard-news leads, like the article from the Los Angeles Times.

The reason for the LA Times selection of a hard-news lead was most likely the timeliness of the story. The event was less than 12 hours old. So, the most important information was the basics of the event: the who, what, where, when, and why. All are included in the lead, but the most newsworthy part, the who, is mentioned first because it contains the greatest news value. Ambassador Stevens was a prominent U.S. figure. In addition, his death contained another big-bank news value - conflict.

The lead bordered on wordy, with detail given on nearly every news element, but the detail was likely warranted given the gravity of the event and it's possible involvement with the current war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Overall, the lead focused on objectivity and accuracy. Information was sourced from the Associated Press, Libyan officials, and the State Department. The goal was to give as much information as possible and the function of the lead was to efficiently inform.

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