May 6, 2007

Hepatitis A Exposure Scare at Restaurant Spurs Massive Demand for Shots

Over two days after two workers at a Pizza Ranch restaurant in Slayton became ill with hepatitis A, thousands of people received immune globulin shots for hepatitis A, a health official said May 6.

The Star Tribune reported how health officials ran out of hepatitis A shots early May 5, after giving out another 200 injections to people who may have been exposed to the disease at the southwestern Minnesota pizza restaurant, as detailed by the Minnesota Department of Health.

According to the Pioneer Press, public health workers would no longer provide the shots, and those still wanting shots should check with their doctor, said John Schuh, the administrator of Lincoln Lyon Murray Pipestone Public Health, as the agency had announced earlier that the shot clinic would reopen May 8.

Girl, 14, Slashed by Another Teen at MOA

A 14-year-old Bloomington girl was left in critical condition after being slashed at the Mall of America in Bloomington May 5, after an argument with another 14-year-old girl. The incident featured a razorlike weapon, which was used to slash the girl in the stomach more than five times, leaving her in critical condition.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press article featured comments by Bloomington Police Commander James Ryan: "There were two 14-year-old females that got into an altercation in that hallway," Ryan said. "One was armed with a razor-type weapon and repeatedly caused severe lacerations to the victim." Ryan also said the two teenagers knew each other, although police are still investigating the motive for the assault.

The Star Tribune, also reporting using Ryan's comments, described how Ryan said the victim was helped in the seconds after the attack by three women who were walking by, with one of whom being a registered nurse.

April 29, 2007

Interaction of MPCA with 3M Newest Issue in Developing Pollution Scandal

In the latest wave of the developing story involving major local company 3M and the contamination of the well water in the Oakdale area with manufactured chemicals of unknown toxicity, the MPCA's entrance, involvement, and level of endorsement has become the topic of the week.

The Star Tribune reported on April 25 that the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency was directed to "negotiate" with 3M over cleaning up three contaminated sites in the east metro, after a state panel refused to grant the agency the level of power and authority necessary to simply order 3M to clean up the sites. The decision was more a natural follow-up to the refusal by the MPCA Citizen's Board to classify the former 3M chemicals as all-out "hazardous."

The Pioneer Press reported 4 days later on the subject from the perspective of one Brad Moore, whom, over the next few weeks, will sit with a team of negotiaters across from 3M officials to try to reach a deal over the cost and scope of cleaning up sites in the east metro, where 3M waste was buried years ago. Moore was selected by Governor Pawlenty and directed by the MPCA Citizens' Board to negotiate with 3M, "putting its faith in the mild-mannered commissioner's ability to get an acceptable deal from one of the state's most well-known and powerful companies."

Powerball Continues to Serve as News Filler

Both of the two Twin Cities major news publications printed short 50-150 word articles on the Powerball drawings this past week, showing both the draw of articles featuring large dollar amounts and the need for short, easily reported filler pieces.

On April 26, the Pioneer Press reported in under 50 words the fact that no winner had been found for the recent $68 million Powerball jackpot, though two tickets had been purchased and redeemed for $200,000 for successfully including the first five necessary numbers of the jackpot, but missing the final Powerball.

On April 29, the Star Tribune devoted twice as much space to the story of how the genuine winning ticket had been found to have been sold in New Hampshire, for which the reported conducted an interview with the manager of the store where the ticket was purchased. However, the owner of the ticket had yet to come forward and claim his or her prize.

April 15, 2007

One-Year Anniversary of Wisconsin Bus Crash Brings Slow Return to Normalcy

Fifteen months after a bus returning from a band competition crashed into an overturned semi, killing five people, life at Chippewa Falls High has slowly but assuredly fallen back into the security of the old routine.

Jury selection begins today in Hudson for the trial of Michael Kozlowski, 24, the driver of the semi that jackknifed at 2 a.m. Oct. 16 on westbound Interstate 94 near Osseo, Wis. It was here, mere moments later, that a chartered bus filled with band members from Chippewa Falls High School crashed straight into the trailer, killing five people, including the band director, his wife and granddaughter, the bus driver, and a student teacher.

According to the Pioneer Press piece, students can now say Greenhalgh and Atherton's names with comfort, Kathy Brown, former band booster club president, said. What is more, several parents have declined requests for interviews, saying their children "have begun looking forward. They don't want them looking back."

The Star Tribune reports a similar situation, saying fourteen students who rode the bus that crashed remain in the band, as teachers have invested months of work to get all students looking forward instead of back.

Teenage Mother Stabs Newborn Child 135 Times, Prompting Media Circus

After a teenage mother stabbed her new child 135 times minutes after being born, the resultant is a court affair sure to spur on a continual media frenzy, as well as a slew of ethical questions and concerns considering the girl's underage status.

The Star Tribune, in reporting the story, decided to focus on their perception of the causes of the incident--that is, the reasons that would spur a teenage girl, or anyone for that matter, to so viciously murder their own newborn child. In pursuing these ends, the article utilizes attributions from a noted criminologist at the University of Minnesota as well as a university social work professor, in an attempt to analyze just what might bring a teenager to do such a thing.

The Pioneer Press piece, however, took the somewhat questionable stand of treating the girl and the case just like any other murder, and the decision is reflected in the choice of attributions: statements from police authorities regarding the likely order of the crime, and opinions on the nature of the girl as given by friends and family and the like. However, the Pioneer Press declined to print a photo of the girl in a prominent position--a choice the Star Tribune made differently.

April 8, 2007

Three Gophers Football Players Held on Rape Charges

Three University of Minnesota football players, arrested on suspicion of being involved in an alleged rape of an 18-year-old woman at an apartment complex near the campus, remained in jail after their bail was set at $100,000 each.

According to the Star Tribune, if the Hennepin County Attorney's Office does not file charges against them by noon April 9, the three would be released from the Hennepin County jail, as said by University Police Chief Greg Hestness. But the three may still face the charges in court eventually.

Apparently of sufficient interest to be included in some capacity in the Pioneer Press article were the three players' respective statistics. What is more, one curious note was the decision by the Pioneer Press to omit the detail included in the statement made by the University Police Chief, in that the players "were booked on criminal sexual conduct in the third degree. And that usually does involve penetration, nonconsensual penetration."

Pawlenty, DFL Cooperation Comes to Head Over Taxes

After the DFL took over Congress following the last election, Pawlenty and the congress have thus far managed to play fairly nice, passing bills such as the toughened energy standards act, for instance. However, the relative calm may be shattered soon, as the DFL seeks to raise taxes to accomodate education and property tax relief. Pawlenty has responded with a threat to veto any tax increases.

According to the Star Tribune, Governonr Pawlenty has begun "fighting back" against the DFL initiative by drumming up popular support for his stance, via an "unusual radio ad campaign portraying DFLers as overeaters at the buffet of government services, eager to foist the tab off on others."

The Pioneer Press article is heavy in statistics and political jargon, rendering it virtually unreadable. However, the information detailed is valid and of importance, if excessive.

April 1, 2007

Herb Carneal, Longtime Twins Broadcaster, Dies

Longtime Twins radio broadcaster Herb Carneal died early April 1 of congestive heart failure at his home in Minnetonka, the team announced. He was 83.

According to the Star Tribune, Carneal "who received the highest honor in baseball broadcasting in 1996 when he was named the recipient of the Ford C. Frick award," had spent six weeks in the hospital during the winter battling "a variety of ailments."

According to the Pioneer Press, Carneal was a native of Richmond, Va., whose first radio job was right out of high school. He had called Athletics and Phillies games in Philadelphia and Orioles games in Baltimore before coming to Minnesota in 1962 — a year after the Washington Senators moved west to become the Twins. He would then go on to broadcast for the Twins for 45 seasons.

Both articles were obituary pieces, heavy with attributions to people who knew him or his work--namely, players, managers, and longtime fans. One particularily potent attribution which provided the closer of the Pioneer Press article was a Garrison Keillor stanza:

""Just give me two pillows and a bottle of beer. And the Twins game on radio next to my ear. Some hark to the sound of the loon or the teal. But I love the voice of Herb Carneal."

Man Dies in Two-Car Crash in St. Paul

One man was killed and another injured in a two-car crash in St. Paul Saturday night.

According to the Pioneer Press, police reported that the collision occurred at Dale Street and Wheelock Parkway.

According to the Star Tribune, the driver of the car died at the scene. His name has not been released. Meanwhile, police are looking for the two passengers in the car who fled after the crash. It was reported that the driver of the pick-up truck (the other car in the crash) sustained minor injuries.

Both articles are mere blurbs, and seem, at least to me, like questionable inclusions as articles. Why not merely wait on the story for a few hours, until additional details are released, allowing for a more complete telling of the story? Why the rush to get news of the actual crash to print?

March 25, 2007

Triple Killing in St. Paul Home Leaves Child Survivors, Police Seeking Clues

A St. Paul woman, her fiancé and her 15-year-old daughter were found shot to death inside their North End home March 24, leaving two survivors, siblings of the deceased daughter.

According to the Pioneer Press, a family friend said one of the children who escaped from the house at 292 Burgess Street told police how five gunmen barged in, demanded money and drugs and then started shooting.

According to the Star Tribune, St. Paul Police Chief John Harrington said that while what led to the shootings is unknown, he would be surprised if drugs were not part of the motive.

Of interest is the chosen presentation style of the story by the two respective publications. Whereas the Pioneer Press chose to report on the story like a typical crime feature, with a focus on institutional sources (namely, those within the police and a representative on the City Council), the Star Tribune presented the story with alternative angles in mind--namely, those of the impact on the neighborhood, as well as questioning the Police Chief in a more informal manner.

Minnesotan Wins Reality Show, Big Role in 'Grease' Revival

Laura Osnes, a 21-year-old Twin Cities native, won the starring role of Sandy in a Broadway revival of the musical "Grease" on the NBC reality show "Grease: You're the One That I Want" Sunday.

In a comparative fluff piece, attributions were key to the success of any article written on this topic. In the Star Tribune article, the first attribution made outside Osnes herself was her stepfather's reaction to the win. Following this, the writer found quotations from the director of Osnes' first production (when she was 10 years old) as well as from a community theater colleague. Comparably, the Pioneer Press article, following a similar quotation from Osnes, spoke with her fiancee, as well as with her director in her most recent production as well as one who directed her when she was a teenager.

For some reason, the Pioneer Press piece was granted more words to tell the story than the Star Tribune--an indication of media pressures and readership/revenue concerns? Sadly, all too likely.

March 4, 2007

Is It Safe? Tainted Water in Washington County Stirs Community Concerns

The recent discovery of trace amounts of a 3M-manufactured chemical in the water wells of Washington County has prompted concern among residents.

An article on the matter from the Star Tribune addressed the matter by consulting the environmental health division director at the Minnesota Department of Health, John Linc Stine, whom has been burdened with the responsibility of answering the question on everyone's mind: Is the water safe to drink? The answer, according to the Star Tribune's piece, is "We don't know." Not enough is known about the substance nor the dosage to allow a more precise answer.

The Pioneer Press took a noticeably lighter approach in presenting the information, both in terms of structure (the lead begins "Move over, arsenic...a new pollutant is in town") and content (the article addresses the "witch's brew" of chemicals found in the tap water of every county).

However, both articles emphasized the relative lack of concrete information at hand, and the lack of the definitive answer most readers likely desire to answer the question: Is the water safe?

Child Molester Receives 10-Year Sentence

A homeless man who admitted molesting a 12-year-old autistic boy on a St. Paul park bench was sentenced to 10 years in prison March 2.

According to the Star Tribune, Charles J. Sathers, 59, admitted that he engaged in oral sex acts with the boy Nov. 4 at Kellogg Park in St. Paul, corroborating with several witness testimonies.

The Pioneer Press also addressed the issue, in considerably more depth, both in its depiction of the criminal incident itself, as well as through the addition of comments made by the father as well as the father's role in the story. The inclusions of these details makes for a much stronger, more visually coherrent piece, with the mere addition of a hundred more words or so.

February 25, 2007

Chaska Man Found Frozen to Pavement Dies

A man found partially frozen to the pavement in Chaska over the weekend died the evening of Feb. 25. The man was identified as Sean Patrick Humphrey after several hours effort by the police, due to Humphrey's lack of identification on him at the time.

Both the Pioneer Press and the Star Tribune published very similar articles on the incident using the statement made by the Chaska Police Department Seargent Mike Duzan as their principle source. However, where the Star Tribune focused almost entirely on the facts of the case through paraphrasing of Duzan's statements, the Pioneer Press utilized direct attributions, quoting Dusan throughout the piece to separate and introduce fact blocks, as well as build compassion and sympathy in readers.

Though both methods are fair and effective, consideration of the fact that the police statement and both articles feature phone numbers imploring readers to call if they have word of Humphrey's whereabouts around the time of his death lends significant credence to the Pioneer Press's presentation. A more compassionate style might just persuade those with information to be more open to the idea of sharing.

Snowfall in Minnesota Prompts Emergency Measures, Differing Articles

Double-digit snowfall in Minnesota prompts tried-and-true snow and ice measures into effect over the weekend of Feb. 23-25. Accumulations ranged from 8 to 15 inches, according to the Associated Press, and were to continue into Sunday. According to the Star Tribune, the heaviest snow was expected about the center of the metro area and into southeast Minnesota and western Wisconsin.

The Associated Press article addressed various happenings as a result of the storm, including the critical condition an 18-year-old man was left in after being found partially frozen in the snow by a snowplow driver, as well as the crowding of area hotels as travelers were forced to abort their trips and shack up for the night.

The Star Tribune opened its article with a discussion with the "snow and ice fighters" working for the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport, before launching into other happenings, including plans of high school athletes competing in weekend tournements, as well as the optimistic response of a regional state park.

February 19, 2007

Car Crash and Subsequent Explosion Kills Woman, Wounds Officer

A pick-up truck crashed into a home in Prescott, Wis., Feb. 17, causing a natural gas explosion leaving the driver of the truck dead and a police officer injured.

The Associated Press described the incident in brief, quoting the Prescott Police Chief in detailing how the truck crashed into the home. A woman, said to be around 40 years old, was driving northbound on Pearl Street when she struck the home. Officer Benjamin Henrich responded to the scene, where, as he attempted to contact the driver, detected the presence of natural gas. Shortly thereafter, an explosion rocked the scene, killing the woman driving the truck and throwing Henrich 15 to 20 feet away, burning his hands and head. The homeowners were unharmed.

The Star Tribune addressed the story with significantly more detail, acquiring eyewitness accounts and testimonials. Of note is the Tribune's decision to release the name of the woman before authorities officially did so, based upon the statements of a "neighbor and co-worker." Family members of the purported victim refused to speak with the press on the subject of the victim.

February 18, 2007

Head-on Car Crash Kills Man, One of Three in Three Days

A head-on collision on Hwy. 52 in Inver Grove Heights killed a man Feb. 17.

According to a brief published in the Pioneer Press, a southbound driver identified as 24-year-old Antonio Alatorre-Garcia, of Minneapolis, crossed the median on Highway 52 near Inver Grove Trail around 6:50 a.m., colliding with and killing the driver of a northbound driver, who was not identified by authorities. Alcohol was involved and charges had yet to be filed.

The Star Tribune included the incident in an article on three median-crossing deaths on three Minnesota highways in three days. The article included a statement made by the Minn. Department of Transportation on the matter of the crashes, aiming to impress upon drivers the need to drive slower and responsibly.

Of note, iin perhaps one of the most confusing leads printed in recent memory, the following line was used for the Star Tribune's article: "A collision on Hwy. 52 in Inver Grove Heights on Saturday morning killed a driver whose vehicle was struck head-on by another that had crossed the median."

February 4, 2007

Minnesota and Wisconsin Discuss Reciprocity Agreement

The University of Minnesota has raised the possibility of a discontinuation of the reciprocity pact allowing Minnesota and Wisconsin students to attend schools in either state at a rate comparable to that of a school from their home state. The issue stems from the fact that while Minnesota students have had to deal with in-state tuition hikes at the University of Minnesota, including multiple double-digit increases, Wisconsin students under the pact pay the tuition rate of the comparable school from their state of residence, namely the University of Wisconsin- Madison, which current statistics now show to be $1,200 a year less in tuition, as reported in the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

The Minnesota Daily emphasizes the case as presented by University of Minnesota officials--namely, that Wisconsin students should have to pay rates equal to that which Minnesotans pay. However, the Pioneer Press article brings to the fore the fact that the U of M is hardly the only school involved in the pact. According to the article, "the smaller schools and their students seem stuck in the middle of the sparring between the U, which wants Wisconsinites to pay more, and Wisconsin, which says its students shouldn't be punished for Minnesota jacking up tuition on Minnesotans."

The Pioneer Press article details how, regularly, Wisconsin residents cross the border to attend institutions like Century College in White Bear Lake, MN, while Minnesota residents due likewise to attend schools such as UW- River Falls. Both schools provide educations at a rate more affordable to students than those institutions in their home state.

January 28, 2007

Sword-wielding Teen Kills Mom

A teenager wielding a sword killed his mother and injured three others, before falling to police gunfire January 26, and Huron, S.D. police have been tasked with learning why, according to the Associated Press.

As reported by Argus Leader Media, Josh Gilchrist, 16, a sophomore at Huron High School, was shot and killed early Friday after assaulting officer Dan Kight. As detailed by the AP report, Police Chief Doug Schmitt described how, upon arriving at the Gilchrist residence, 14-year-old Rebekah Gilchrist was found, with cuts upon her lower arms and hands. Shortly after, Josh Gilchrist was found, armed with a long sword. Gilchrist began swinging at the officers, striking one multiple times, before finally being subdued by gunfire. A subsequent search of the home revealed the boy's mother, Betty Gilchrist, 49, dead from sword-sustained injuries, as well as an injured foreign exhange student. Meanwhile, the family patriarch, Jon Gilchrist, was not home at the time.

Two of the four officers present fired their sidearms, and as a result are on paid suspension pending an investigation.

In an intriguing note, Chief Schmitt, in the Argusy Leader Media report, described the sword as "like a samurai sword" whereas the officers spoken to for the AP piece detailed the sword as more like "something you'd probably see in an ancient knight type movie."