October 2009 Archives

Allegations of molesting pile on Burnsville scoutmaster

After six felony charges were filed last week, four new victims claimed they too were victims of juvenile sex abuse by a Burnsville scoutmaster, police said Thursday, The Star Tribune said.

Peter Robert Stibal, 44, a leader of youth activities at Mary, Mother of the Church Catholic parish, led Troop 650 from 2003 until his removal two weeks ago, when the accusations surfaced, The Star Tribune said.

An official spokesman for the Northern Star Council, which oversees Boy Scout troops in 21 Minnesota counties, said their "two-deep" rule states that a leader should never be alone with a child, the Pioneer Press said.

The Boy Scouts of America has released more than 5,000 of its one million plus leaders since 1946, according to the Seattle Times, the Pioneer Press said.

Police are examining the four most recent allegations and will soon pass on any valid accusations to the Dakota County attorney's office, the Pioneer Press said.

Abdullah expected to withdraw from Afghan election

The dragged-out presidential election that was scheduled to culminate in a Nov. 7 runoff may be over sooner than expected. 

Current President Hamid Karzai would begin a new five-year term if principal opponent Abdullah Abdullah boycotted the election as officials suggest he plans to do, The New York Times said.

Karzai's victory in August was deemed invalid by a United Nations-supported panel that threw out close to one third of his votes, which came in part from illegitimate "ghost-voters," The Washington Post said.

The prospect of the old Afghan administration continuing in power after such a controversial election process adds pressure to President Barack Obama's deliberations on deploying more troops to Afghanistan.

Ethics investigations leaked to public

Unbeknownst to its critics, the House ethics committee has been monitoring dozens of lawmakers for months, following issues such as corporate influence peddling and defense lobbying, The Washington Post said. 

The investigations surfaced after a lower-level employee improperly posted the report on an unprotected, publically accessible computer network, The Washington Post said.

The committee has now publically acknowledged eight of its inquiries, including investigations of House members Maxine Waters and Lara Richardson, two California democrats, The New York Times said.

The ethics committee has previously kept its activities shielded from the public to avoid unduly tarnishing reputations, a practice which has caused watchdog groups to question its effectiveness.

A committee statement released on Thursday said, "No inference to any misconduct can be made from the fact that a matter is simply before the committee," The New York Times said.

Record enrollment highs at 2-year colleges

Attending community college used to be for middle-aged people and that classmate who didn't get into his or her college of choice.

A record 40 percent of America's 18-24-year-olds was enrolled in college last yar, according to a Pew Research Center report released Thursday, The New York Times said.

"We know that at least among adults, the increase seems to be a two-year college phenomenon," said Richard Fry, the senior research associate who wrote the report, The New York Times said.

In recession times, community colleges have the appeal of costing a fraction of what a four-year college might.

"If you can pay $2,500 instead of $25,000 and get your general education credits out of the way and then transfer, it makes more sense," said Hope Davis, a spokeswoman for the Community College of Baltimore County, The Washington Post said.

The House passed a student aid bill last month that included $10 billion in initiatives directly aimed at community colleges, reflecting President Barack Obama's focus on 2-year schools as a means of making higher education more accessible, The Washington Post said.

Delta pilots who forgot to land distracted by...computers

Last week, the pilots of Flight 188 missed their target, the MSP airport, by 110 miles.

Federal investigators thought they might have been sleeping, but both the captain, Timothy B. Cheney, and the first officer, Richard I. Cole, insisted they were just discussing airline policy.

A recent interim report from the National Transportation Safety Board indicates that the two veteran pilots lost track of time while immersed in- their computers, The New York Times said.

"The controllers should have notified NORAD (The North American Aerospace Defense Command) more quickly that the plane was not responding," said a Federal Aviation Administration official in a statement on Wednesday, The Star Tribune said.

This lack of speed in notifying the military may result in the Obama administration cracking down on the dangers of distracted flying in the same way it would distracted driving, The Star Tribune said.

Analysis: Covering speeches

"Pushing for Energy Legislation, Obama Takes On Critics" (NY Times headline)

The issue: Renewable Energy Policy
The speaker: President Obama
The location: Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Link to the news story in the New York Times- Click here
Link to transcript of Obama's speech, as released by the White House- Click here

President Obama's speech at MIT in Boston covered an array of energy-related topics from harnessing wind, water and solar power to nuclear disarmament.

Toward the end of his remarks, Obama berated legislators who oppose or have yet to support a climate change and energy bill introduced to the Senate by John Kerry last month.

The president spoke positively about last January's Recovery Act, saying that it is an investment in clean energy that will produce new jobs and potentially help bring an end to the recession.

The Times reporters who covered this speech decided to focus on the later portion of Obama's speech, latching onto the politics of energy reform.

The writers of the news story followed the lead with a brief and general summary of the issues addressed in the speech.

Immediately after this, the reporters skip to the most sensitive, critical part of the debate- the president's veiled reference to lobbying groups and not-for-profits that are opposing energy reform on the basis that it will hurt the economy.

This news writing decision stands out because in order to craft the story, the reporters must have researched the political climate or drawn on prior knowledge of the context in which Obama delivered his speech. Obama never named names. The New York Times did.

Another conclusion the writers drew was that the legislation Obama indirectly spoke about was in fact a bill introduced recently by John Kerry. Almost the entire article, therefore, hinged on the reporters being informed about related political leaders, issues and legislation.

This kind of current events reporting does work that readers may or may not, but that is crucial to fleshing out an isolated speech. The president is not going to publically call out groups or specifically refer to controversial legislation, but the public needs to know these details.

This is the job of a good reporter, and the Times writers did it well.


20 year anniversary of unsolved abduction

In 1989, Jacob Wetterling, 11, and two others were biking near their home in St. Joseph, Minn. when a masked gunman forced them to lie on the ground, instructing two of the boys to run away.

Jacob was never found.

Patty and Jerry Wetterling, Jacob's parents, have spent the last 20 years resurrecting their son's memory through a campaign against sex offenders that led to groundbreaking legislation in 1994 called the Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexually Violent Offender Registration Act, USA Today said.

Aaron Larson, one of the two boys with Jacob on the horrific night of his abduction, is still haunted daily by the memory of what happened, The Star Tribune said.

"I think it's shaped his attitude about everything, from how he values everything to how he makes choices," Fran Larson, Aaron's mother, said, according to The Star Tribune.

Patty Wetterling recently finished writing a book called Jacob's Hope, which she is self-publishing, USA Today said.


Ethiopia seeks $175 million in drought aid

The Ethiopian government issued an urgent plea on Thursday for enough emergency aid to feed and care for 6.2 million people, 7.5 percent of its population, The Wall Street Journal said.

According to Oxfam International, a prominent aid group and donor in East Africa, the long-lasting drought has left more than 23 million people in the larger region desperately in need of water and food supplies, the Journal said.

The United States provides about 70-80 percent of all food aid to the country and shipped some supplies in anticipation of the request, The Wall Street Journal said.  A U.S. Embassy spokesman said further contributions are being considered and the specifics of continuing relief efforts will be announced at a later date, the Journal said.

Neighboring countries such as Kenya are facing similar straits. Last week marked a belated rainfall in Kenya that aid agencies warned would be accompanied by flooding, hypothermia and malaria, according to the Times Online, a British publication.

Google and social networking sites to offer music

Internet giants Google, Facebook and MySpace separately made plans to release music services in order to compete with the industry's migration toward online song and album sales, The Washington Post said.

Google's official announcement of this initiative is scheduled for next Wednesday at an event in Hollywood. Three people briefed on the details spoke on condition of anonymity because they were unauthorized to reveal information before this event, The New York Times said.

The new music services will not come from contracts with major music labels but rather from streaming sites such as Lala, Imeem and iLike, a recently acquired MySpace application, The Times said.

Facebook will make songs part of their gift store, enabling users to send song streams for 10 cents to view online or $1 to download, the Washington Post said.  Google will offer music search pages with links to lyrics, videos and song previews in addition to a song purchasing service, The Post said.

The people familiar with the plans said that Google will collect revenue from advertisements but will not receive any of the profits from music sales, The Post said.
At the conclusion of a two year examination of remnants of the collapsed 35W bridge, the National Transportation Safety Board returned pieces over the weekend, which are now being contained in a custom designed Department of Transportation warehouse in Oakdale, the Star Tribune said.

While these portions of the wreckage will be preserved from rust and other damage so victim's lawyers can study them, other pieces of the collapsed bridge remain at the Bohemian Flats Park, just downstream of the tragedy on the Mississippi River, KSTP TV said.

A MnDOT spokesperson said that moving the pieces would involve cutting apart evidence needed for litigation, KSTP TV said. 

Park board officials took issue with the public park land being covered by steel for an indefinite time period, KSTP TV said.

The first court cases addressing the bridge collapse are scheduled to begin in March 2011, the Star Tribune said.

Check out the Star Tribune's website to find an interactive map of other "structurally deficient" bridges in Minnesota and photos of the wreckage. 

Prostheses providers face federal tax

Funding for the Senate's health care reform bill includes a proposed $4 billion tax on med-tech companies that has gathered a bipartisan contingent of opponents, many from Minnesota, the Star Tribune said.

Local med-tech company executives and prosthetic limb recipients such as Aaron Holm, 43, of Shakopee, Minn., spoke out against the tax at a hearing organized by Rep. Erik Paulsen, R-Minn., the Star Tribune said.

"This industry is an American success story. I want to make sure it stays that way," Paulsen said, according to the Star Tribune.

Howard Root, CEO of a Maple Grove heart-device company called Vascular Solutions, said that the immediate effects of the tax would be reduced funding for research and development and the elimination of an internship program, the Star Tribune said.

"We're not the bank to rob to pay for reform," Root said.

As of now, the U.S. House version of the bill contains no tax on the medical device industry, which Minnesota has pioneered through companies such as Medtronic, Guidant and St. Jude Medical, KARE 11 said.

Spot and follows: news updates

Case study: Obama wins the Nobel Peace prize
First day story- Click here
Second day story- Click here

Lead for first story:
"Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday in a stunning decision that honored the first-year U.S. president more for promise than achievement and drew both praise and skepticism around the world."

Lead for second story:
"President Obama on Friday won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize, bringing the relatively novice leader a new measure of prestige on the world stage but also potential complications in carrying out a foreign policy that includes managing two wars."

Both of these leads mention dual public reactions to the award. The second, however, reads more formally and includes a pointed example (managing two wars).

Since both stories are online content, they have been updated many times to reflect new quotes and responses to the news. The first story, when it was first written, talked about an expected comment from President Obama in the Rose Garden, for example.

In the online era, it is possible to keep the public as informed as the press is- in real time, instead of once a day when the paper goes to press.   


Obama's cautious judicial nominations frustrate liberals

      President Obama has sent the names of 23 judicial nominees to the Senate in the period of time that former President George W. Bush sent 95, The Washington Post said. Only three of those 23 names have been approved. 

      Currently, 75 district judgeships lie vacant with only 10 nominees under consideration to fill them, the Associated Press said.
      Liberals are casting blame on Republican filibusters and other stalling measures, but also on Obama's eager-to-please, indecisive attitude, The Washington Post said.

      Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee expressed reservations about a candidate for the California district court, Edward Milton Chen, saying his personal views might unduly influence his rulings, CQ Politics said. This did not prevent the committee from confirming his appointment on Thursday in a 12-7 vote.

    "The White House clearly got energy diverted to the Sonia Sotomayor nomination," said Margery Baker, executive vice president at People For the American Way, the Associated Press reported. "Now that it's over I would like to see them pick up the pace."


Vikings warn fans to beware fake ticket sellers

     Hundreds of disappointed fans were duped into buying counterfeit tickets for the Monday night Packers vs. Vikings game, prompting the Minnesota team to issue warnings to the public, KARE 11 said.
     The only authorized Vikings football tickets are sold by the Vikings Ticket Office, Ticketmaster and the NFL TicketExchange, according to KSTP TV. Purchasing or possessing fake tickets can be grounds for ejection from the stadium and arrest.

   The NFL has been investigating rings of counterfeit ticket hawkers who operate out of major cities such as Detroit, Atlanta and New York, peddling tickets outside the stadium and on the internet, KARE 11 said.

    One tip from the Vikings, posted on the KSTP TV website, directed fans to examine street purchased tickets for alterations, photocopying marks and proper seating and pricing as cross-checked with a stadium map.

Rep. Michele Bachmann "called out" by Democrats

     The Democratic National Committee attacked Minn. Rep. Michele Bachmann this week through their "Call 'Em Out" Internet campaign, singling out her criticism of the health care overhaul, The Star Tribune said.

     Among Bachmann's concerns that Dems are addressing are her fear that proposed privacy rules for school clinics will enable young girls to get abortions and that illegal immigrants will get access to taxpayer funded health care, The New York Times said.
     The goal of the Internet campaign is to publicize what it perceives to be misrepresentations of Obama's health care proposals. A Wednesday email from Democrats read, "Too many Americans live with the painful consequences of our broken health care system to let Bachmann's reckless lies go unchecked," The Star Tribune said.

     The Times characterizes public opinion about Bachmann as falling under the two extremes of severe dislike or adoration.

     In a liberal state like Minnesota, Bachmann stands out as highly conservative.  The demographics of her district, however, lean more towards the right with a significant Roman Catholic population and tendency towards social conservativism, The New York Times said.

Taliban strikes again...and again in Pakistan

     Coordinated attacks on three law enforcement agencies in Lahore and a separate act of terrorism in the northeast of Pakistan on Thursday continued a series of guerrilla strikes initiated by the Taliban over the past 10 days, The New York Times said.
     The militants targeted an anti-terrorist training center, a police academy and a facility of the Federal Investigation Agency and killed 35 people, including 10 of the insurgents, the Wall Street Journal said.
     The combination of Thursday's attacks plus an insurgent standoff last week and a car bombing on Monday brings the death toll of the past week to approximately 150 people, the Wall Street Journal said.
     One retired army brigadier, Javaid Hussein, told The New York Times that the style of the Taliban's assaults shows its intention to inject distrust of the military and law enforcement into Pakistan civilians.
     Hussain believed that the new Taliban leader, Hakimullah Mehsud, maintained a close relationship with al Qaeda and was gaining their training, strategy and support.

Republican vote moves health care reform a step forward

     With its 14-9 vote on Tuesday, the Senate Finance Committee became the last of five Congressional panels to approve Baucus' health care reform bill, The New York Times said.
     The critical backing came from Republican Olympia J. Snowe (Maine) who deviated from the rest of her party in a move that both surprised and gave momentum to the White House agenda, The New York Times said.
     "My vote today is my vote today," Snowe said. "There are many, many miles to go in this legislative journey."
     The bill progresses next to the full House and Senate to debate the implications of requiring health care for all Americans in a measure that will cost $829 billion in the next decade, The Washington Post said.

     Conservatives worry that even with government subsidies, health care will be unaffordable. Another of their concerns is that the federal government would be overstepping its responsibilities in creating a public insurance option, the Post said.

Multimedia: how it lends itself to news

Let's examine two local news organizations, KARE 11 and the Star Tribune. The websites for both the television station and the daily paper contain many forms of multimedia.

The Star Tribune not only exhibits photos throughout its webpages, but has a tab on its main toolbar devoted to multimedia. On the drop-down menu are categories such as video, audio, slide shows and podcasts. This is a helpful way to organize online bonuses so that readers can supplement what they may have read in the paper. Slideshow copy does contain hard news but it's hard to focus on the text when a more interesting image is flashing past. The Strib has little text on its main pages, creating hyperlink headlines to take readers to the text of the articles. I think these kinds of multimedia and website organization are visually exciting, but detract from communication of hard news in favor of info-snacking.

KARE 11 sprinkles its multimedia among all of its web pages. Since it is a television channel, it particularly uses video with narration to convey news. It seems like KARE 11 incorporates more news into its multimedia and vice versa, but the news is softer. The home page features recipes, a gameroom, blogs and surveys as well as links to harder news stories. The writing for the multimedia is short and pointed but simple. There isn't room for an in-depth presentation of research or statistics. The medium lends itself to quotes, headlines and punchy sentences.

To visit the Star Tribune website click here.
To visit the KARE 11 website click here.
Amidst U.S. concern over nuclear weapons, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao met with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il last week.

The New York Times  said that Mr. Wen called for open, multi-lateral discussion between the United States, China, Russia, Japan and the two Koreas.

Kim Jong-il has asked, however, that discussion between North Korea and the United States takes place first, a request that Washington has yet to confirm, the BBC News reported.  Since the goal of the U.S. is the total denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula, it has said that bi-lateral discussion should only be a precursor to the six-party talks.

The leaders of Japan and South Korea met last week and vowed to call upon and enforce United Nations sanctions against North Korea unless they see real evidence of nuclear disarmament, the Times said.

Obama to address gay rights activists

Obama will speak on Saturday at a Human Rights Campaign dinner, addressing the gay community's concerns that he is not moving forward in his campaign promises to legally legitimize them.

The dinner precedes the National Equity March, a rally expected to draw thousands to the capital on behalf of the gay, lesbian, transgendered and bisexual, the New York Times said.

Protesters note with particular concern that Obama has not overturned Bush's Defense of Marriage Act nor taken action against the military's ban on openly gay Americans serving, the Los Angeles Times said.

The House did approve a measure on Thursday that expands the definition of hate crimes to include those based on gender, the Washington Post said.

Minnesota Rep. Lesch joins National Guard

Four term Minnesota state Rep. John Lesch, 36, enlisted with the National Guard, signing a six year commitment as an infantryman, the Pioneer Press said.

Lesch departs on Monday for several months of training at Fort Benning in Georgia, The Star Tribune said.

A Democrat from St. Paul, Lesch will return for the next legislative session and ultimately hopes to command an infantry unit in the field, the Pioneer Press said.

In 2006, Lesch received unsolicited media attention when he took an unannounced trip to Baghdad, The Star Tribune said.

Lesch explained his decision to the Pioneer Press, saying that he looks up to American service men and women.

"Oftentimes personal growth in life is a function of emulating those we admire," Lesch said.

The articles in the Strib and the Press cater to different audiences. Since the AP article in the Strib is for a national audience, it has concrete facts, dates and locations. It has multiple concepts in each paragraph because its goal is to transmit relevant data.

The AP could not get a comment from Lesch, but the Press reporter based his whole article on an interview with Lesch. This makes the story more personal and shows us why this successful politician also wants to serve in the U.S. military.

A man fatally shot by sheriff's deputies outside Elk River Courthouse last week fired his gun first, The Star Tribune said.

Dana Dempsey, 47, from Big Lake, Minn., had pleaded guilty for making methamphetamine. After stepping out of his sentencing hearing, he was followed by at least three deputies, Chief Deputy Sheriff Scott Gudmundson told The Strib.

Witnesses say Dempsey displayed and discharged a handgun before two of the deputies returned fire, Gudmundson said.

Both deputies are on paid administrative leave while the shooting is investigated, the Pioneer Press said. Both deputies have clear records and neither has been involved in a shooting accident before this.

Obama wins Nobel Peace Prize 2009

No, it's not a joke. In an unexpected decision Friday morning, President Obama was awarded this year's Nobel Peace Prize for his diplomacy and global effort to reduce nuclear weapons.

The award reflects Obama's increasing overseas support during a time of domestic tension in which discussions of health-care reform and economic recovery have dominated public concern, The Washington Post said.

Obama is the first president in 90 years to win the award while in office, the Post said. In a given year, the prize may go unawarded if none of the nominees measure up to the criteria of the prize's founder, Alfred Nobel.

Critics say the prize has been awarded for wishful thinking. The chairman of the Norwegian Nobel committee, Thorbjorn Jagland, said, "We are not awarding the prize for what may happen in the future, but for what he has done in the previous year," according to The New York Times. "We would hope this would enhance what he is trying to do," Jagland said.

In a statement delivered from the Rose Garden Friday morning, the president called the award an "affirmation of American leadership on behalf of aspirations held by people in all nations," The New York Times said.


Structures: the ordering of information in news

The case study: A New York Times story about a Chicago youth's murder

Article link: Click here

      The above news story is a continuation of coverage on a mob beating that resulted in the death of Derrion Albert, 16, an honor roll student on Chicago's South Side.  It does not assume that readers have been following the case. In the lead, the reporter summarizes the news, states current public perception, and gives contextual history. The second graf gives the latest development- a criminal charge. The four subsequent paragraphs then neatly break down and expound on the how, what, why, and who, in that order. The first tells how we know what happened: an amateur cell phone video was taken. The next gives more details about the beating itself. The following explains that a shooting earlier that day preceded the fighting. The fourth profiles the teenagers who have been charged with the murder. Two paragraphs after these give a broader social context- what the community is doing- and a quote to that effect. The final two grafs are expendable information.

      The article's title highlights the new information that four teens have been charged in the case. The story, however, is not about the teenagers nor the "charge."  The real news is still that an innocent boy was the victim of gang rivalry. The inverted pyramid of the story correctly prioritizes the news and orders the information logically. There are other strategies the reporter could have used; for example she could have given all the important facts in the first couple of grafs then jumped into a juicy chronology of the events from poor Derrion waking up in the morning to the convergence of gangs and eventual demise of the honor roll student. I prefer her approach, however, for its taste and sense of social responsibility.   
     From the western coast of Indonesia to the island of Samoa, the repercussions of two earthquakes left hundreds dead, thousands injured and a multitude of people without basic resources, The New York Times said.  
     On the Indonesian island of Sumatra, a 7.6 magnitude earthquake wreaked havoc near the coastal city of Padang Wednesday evening. With landslides leaving dozens trapped in debris, officials report death tolls at 200 and rising, The Washington Post said.
     The tsunami in Samoa brought forth a series of 15-20 foot waves that penetrated a mile inland, authorities said.
     President Obama offered U.S. assistance on Tuesday evening, announcing a major disaster zone in American Samoa. FEMA plans to provide relief by boat and plane for several weeks, The Washington Post said.
     The New York Times has a couple good photos in their article as well as a multimedia map. The Washington Post has a photo gallery filled with facets of the devastation.

Gopher football players brawl in Dinkytown

     Police responded to calls that 15-20 men, including members of the football team, were fighting by the McDonald's near Fourth Street and 15th Avenue SE, according to a police report.
     Gary Tinsley, a Gopher linebacker, was cited for underage drinking and fleeing police late Saturday night during the rowdy conflict, the Minnesota Daily said.
     Police dispersed the crowd by firing a chemical irritant, kare11 said.
     A University spokesperson would not comment on the case but called it an "internal matter," The Star Tribune said.
     The Gopher athletic director, Joel Maturi, has warned players about the need to guard reputations.
     "It's disappointing when people conduct themselves in a manner inconsistent with that," Maturi said.
     The Daily's article about this uses one source: the police report. It repeatedly presents information then cites the report. The difference between a school paper, however well staffed, and a major daily like The Star Tribune becomes apparent here.
     The Strib was able to get comments from Maturi, the athletic director, and Tim Brewster, the head coach.





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