April 25, 2007

Mauled - and mad

The ridiculous headline of the Pioneer Press article about the recent dog attacks sets up the reader for the emotion-laden tale - and conflict - to come. The story was compiled by a team of 3 reporters, perhaps each responsible for a different section of the article. It starts by recounting the most recent attack of a pit bull on Monday of a woman delivering legal papers. It includes an incendiary quote from the victim - "I want this breed of dog off the face of the Earth" - which is counterbalanced by another outrageous claim - "If you target a specific breed, it's akin to racial profiling," among other colorful tidbits (a dog rescue group called A Rotta Love Plus). Eventually they get to thefacts and history of the story and explain the laws surrounding dangerous dogs. The print front page, top of the fold version features about a quarter page-size photo of the recent victim crying, presumably as she retells the horrific story to the reporters, and the 2 culprits. The sidebar has some helpful hints about how to avoid and react to a dog attack and training resources.

Those reporters squeezed every ounce of juice from this story. By contrast, MPR had a short and concise story about the attack and what the city can and will do: "Minneapolis City Council member Don Samuels said he might propose changing the city's dog ordinance to allow the city to destroy dogs after just one attack."

April 19, 2007

Proposed Viking Stadium

"Area by Metrodome would have whole new look" in the Star Tribune Thursday briefly describes the design for a new Vikings stadium commissioned by the Metopolitan Sports Facilities Commission. The article is accompanyed by a video tour of a 3-D mock-up of the site. The reporter doesn't say that funding for the stadium hasn't yet been discussed until paragraph 10: "The big caveat: Who pays for all of this?"

The Strib's story is told from the perspective of the Commission, whereas a Pioneer Press article adds the perspective of the city council president, the chairman of the Senate Taxes Committee and a community leader.

The Pioneer Press's "Minneapolis Downtown/Post-Dome possibilities offered" is more balanced and starts talking money by the third graph: "But finding money for a football stadium that might cost more than $900 million may be the biggest obstacle."

The reporter emphases that the plan is in the dream phase, that funding hasn't been identified, which I believe readers are most interested in.

It may be too late this year, too. State Sen. Tom Bakk, chairman of the Senate Taxes Committee, said no one has introduced a Vikings stadium bill.

"The timing is such that it's pretty unlikely that it could happen," he said. "But I'm interested in seeing what the proposal is and seeing if there's any public support for it."

David Fields, community development coordinator for Elliot Park Neighborhood Inc., said he saw a preliminary version of the plans earlier this year and was impressed with Roma's vision.

"The whole idea of the new stadium is to have a much more positive and regenerative impact on the neighborhood," he said.

Of course, officials said the Metrodome would do the same thing when it was built 25 years ago - and that never happened.

Still, today's event will be "a presentation of the possible," Lucas said. "It's a very exciting vision to get the ball rolling."

April 4, 2007

Best Buy Earnings Rise

The stories I compare are from the Star Tribune and the Associated Press. The Strib begins right off by showing how Best Buy increased their profits, through "aggressive price cutting." This is a bit obscured in the AP article, where the reporter describes the strategy in the 14th paragrah:

Best Buy's revenue grew faster than its profit -- meaning Best Buy profited slightly less from each dollar in sales than it did last year. The company said that was because of growth in areas that carry lower profit margins, such as video game consoles, online sales, and its Five Star electronics retail stores in China. Best Buy also said margins were pressured by tough price competition in home theater, music and movies.

I think that appears so far into the AP article because the responsibility of the AP reporter is to a national audience, while the Strib reporter's readers might be particularly interested in Best Buy as a Minnesota company.

For the rest of the articles, my eyes pretty much glazed over.

March 22, 2007

Immigrants, Identities

"Illegal Worker, Troubled Citzen and Stolen Name," in the March 22 New York Times, tells the contrasting stories of a troubled California woman with no work and a bleak life and an illegal immigrant working in Iowa under the Californian's identity.

Going back to the beginning of the story of the raids (December 2006), the Strib article "ID theft ring exposed before raids" tells one aspect of the story that came out of the raid of the Swift company in Worthington, when I first heard about the issue of identity theft for reasons other than thievery.

Immigration agents first zeroed in on an identity-theft operation in Worthington, Minn., in the summer, when a man selling Puerto Rican birth certificates and Social Security cards for $850 made a deal with an informant . . . Minnesotans who are in frequent contact with illegal immigrants say that selling authentic Puerto Rican documents is just one way to obtain work papers.

Some middle men actually try to buy the identification of homeless people, poor people giving blood at blood banks, or otherwise living on "skid row," Cumiskey said. They then sell their identity to illegal immigrant workers.

Fast forward to the present, when the Times article helps explain that, because of increased scrutiny of identiyy documents, trade in real - stolen - identity docs has increased, and details what that means for both sides of the trade.

With little in common but their shared identity, the two women are unwittingly linked by an illicit trade that is the focus of a new federal crackdown on illegal immigration. Detained in a recent raid on the Iowa plant, the Mexican worker admitted that she had used the California woman's identity to get her job. Now she is in jail on felony charges of identity theft, her trial set to begin in Des Moines on Monday.

Court papers show that the accused did not use stolen documents to loot bank accounts or credit cards, the primary crimes that identity-theft laws seek to attack. Instead, they used the birth certificates and Social Security cards to get jobs.

Still, Matthew C. Allen, the senior investigations official at Immigration and Custom Enforcement, said that 326 Americans had reported financial complications and tax liabilities from having their identities used at Swift. "The victims have suffered very real consequences," Mr. Allen said.

This comparison shows how stories progress over time, how details get flushed out according to what is considered newsworthy. The issues of illegal immigration and identity theft are very much in the news.

February 22, 2007

Low-cost drugs

A Feb. 11 Star Tribune article offers suggestions to readers for finding low-cost prescription drugs, and mentions the Wal-Mart announcement that it will sell a month’s worth of certain generic prescriptions for $4.

In an MPR story this week, the reporter focuses on Minn. House committee hearings on the possible repeal or alteration of a law that prohibits retailers from selling products below cost, a law that may effect whether Wal-Mart and Target will be able to continue selling some generics at such low prices.

The Strib article begins with an outline of the problem of varying drug pricing, then lists suggestions for readers to keep their costs low, such as substituting generic for name-brand, buying in bulk, splitting pills, and comparing prices between retailers, which is where the Wal-Mar program is mentioned:

Its program includes 331 drugs, including 14 of the top 20 most-prescribed medications. Other retailers have matched Wal-Mart’s program, or at least lowered their prices.

The MPR article explores the issue from a distinctly Minnesota perspective by explaining a law that prohibits such pricing, tells that the legislature is reviewing the law and considering allowing pharmacies to sell drugs below cost, and explains the conflict with small retailers, using the example of a St. Paul drug store whose owner believes he will lose customers, threatening his business, if the state allows big box retailers to out-compete on drug pricing.

“Ninety percent of our money comes from delivering health care services through a retail community pharmacy,? Hoeschen says. “Under that business arrangement or setup, there’s no way I can produce a $4 prescription.?

Other potential problems are explained in the story by a U of MN pharmacy professor, like the danger that “$4 plans . . . could drive up the price of drugs in the long run.?

“As generic manufacturers have pressure to lower their price and their margins get thinner, fewer companies are going to enter the market for generics. . . As you have fewer companies in the market for generics, you’ll see the generic prices actually go up.?

In both articles, the reporter gives pertinent information that is helpful to readers in a story style that is accessible.

February 15, 2007

St. Paul Light Rail Line

The reporter for the Star Tribune article "Light rail line costs worry Central Corridor neighbors" uses a delayed lead story style, beginning by setting the scene at a neighborhood forum on a proposed Central Corridor line:

"As a recent conversation at the Rondo Library in St. Paul moved to the proposed Central Corridor light-rail line between the Twin Cities, DonEsther Miller couldn't keep still.

She said some of her older relatives were concerned that construction of the line could repeat what happened years ago when hundreds of black people were moved out of the Rondo neighborhood to make room for Interstate Hwy. 94."

This article mostly covers the citizens concerns stated above, and offers viewpoints from a few different players. It is mentioned in the fifth paragraph that there are (were) meetings scheduled for public discussion, but doesn't let the reader know where those will take place.

A Pioneer Press article on another proposed light rail line in St. Paul, the downtown loop, is handled in a straight inverted pyramid style, but ends by giving the locations and times of light rail forums. This article deals not with conflicts with the public, but with the conflict between the city, which has hired a PR firm to promote the loop plan, and the Met Council, which rejects the city's plan in favor of an earlier(?) plan.

Both articles make use of the same spokesperson (and both writers use the word "spokesMAN") from the Met Council, one of the partners in the respective projects.