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February 28, 2007

Cheney Target Of Terrorist Attack

A suicide bomber attacked the U.S. military base in Afghanistan that Vice President Dick Cheney was visiting Tuesday killing 23 and wounding 20 more.

The story that ran in the Star Tribune was written by Alisa Tang. The story reported that the Taliban was claiming responsibility for the attack but that Cheney was not hurt in the attack. The story reported that one American contractor was killed and one South Korean soldier were killed as well as the 21 Afghan troops. The story reported that Cheney was a target and that he was moved for safety reasons but continued his trip as planned. I think the biggest issue with presenting this story is decoding the chronology and synthesizing the information so that the average reader can understand what happened. The story began early with a brief chronology of events leading up to the attack.

About two hours after the blast, Cheney left on a military flight for Kabul to meet with President Hamid Karzai and other officials, then left Afghanistan.
The vice president had spent the night at the sprawling Bagram Air Base, ate breakfast with the troops, and met with Maj. Gen. David Rodriguez, the commander of U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
He was preparing to leave for a meeting with Karzai when the suicide bomber struck about 10 a.m., sending up a plume of smoke visible by reporters accompanying him. U.S. military officials declared a "red alert'' at the base.

The chronology was placed rather early in the story and this was interesting but I felt that knowing the chronology of events was nice.

An article about the attack also ran in the New York Times, written by Abdul Waheed Wafa and Carlotta Gall. This story handled the attack in a much more in-depth manner. This story reported a discrepancy in the coordination of security forces even while Cheney was present. This discrepancy and lack of communication between the security personnel could have provided a major security breach.

“There has been recent intelligence to suggest that there was the threat of a bombing in the Bagram area,� the spokesman, Col. Tom Collins, said at a news briefing in Kabul.
“It is clear there are suicide bombers cells operating in this country,� he said. “There are some operating in the city of Kabul, and as our intelligence suggests, they had the capability in the Bagram area.�
Yet the Afghan police chief for the Bagram district, Muhammad Salem Ehsas, said Wednesday that he had been unaware of any threat of a suicide bombing in the area. His remarks suggested a lack of coordination among security forces, even at a time when Mr. Cheney was present and security concerns would presumably be heightened.

This discrepancy got raised within the first three graphs of the story and was essentially one of the main points. The NY Times version continued much more in depth and provided much more significant and meaningful quotes.
After reading both of these stories it is evident that the NY Times version was much more comprehensive in its coverage and was, for me, much more satisfying to read. I thought that while the Tang version was acceptable, the NY Times version went above and beyond in the coverage and provided me with much more information than the Tang version. I felt that the NY Times version told me a very important issue in the attack in the first three graphs which was that there was a major security compromise.

Coon Rapids Soldier Dies In Iraq

A Coon Rapids, Minn. Army soldier died Monday in Iraq when a bomb exploded near his vehicle, Defense Department officials said on Wednesday.

The story that ran in the Star Tribune, by the Associated Press, reported that Sgt. William J. Beardsley, 25, died Monday in Diwaniyah. The story reported what unit Beardsley was a part of and that he was the 52nd person with Minnesota ties to die in Iraq or Afghanistan. I think that the big issue with this story is getting relevant information into a story and getting it out quickly. This story seemed more like a brief and I would expect to see another story run later once his family is notified. This story would undoubtedly have quotes and background information that this version lacked. I think that the time constraints dictated the way this story was written. However, this story did have a very breaking news type lead that was done very well in combination with the second graph or the nut graph.

An Army soldier from Coon Rapids was killed in Iraq when a bomb exploded near his vehicle, the Defense Department said Wednesday.
Sgt. William J. Beardsley, 25, died Monday in Diwaniyah. He was assigned to the 260th Quartermaster Battalion, 3rd Sustainment Troop Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division of Fort Stewart, Ga.

A very similar story ran in the Pioneer Press, written by Tad Vezner. The Vezner version delayed the information about Beardsley’s unit until the third graph and instead presented a very different lead and second graph or nut graph.

A Coon Rapids soldier died in Iraq Monday after an improvised bomb went off near his vehicle, army officials said.
Sgt. William Joseph Beardsley, 25, died in Diwaniyah, Iraq, of wounds from the explosion. Diwaniyah is a mostly Shiite town 80 miles south of Baghdad.

Both stories reported very much the same information and both stories were very much in the style of a breaking news story.

I felt that these two stories were almost too similar to choose a favorite or a preference. However, in light of the fact that I feel that I should choose one, I feel that the Vezner version’s decision to delay the unit information until the third graph was something that I agreed with and something I appreciated so I would say that I preferred the Vezner version for this reason.

Nickelodeon to Sponsor MOA's Park

The Mall of America received new corporate sponsorship for their amusement park Wednesday when mall officials signed a deal with cable TV giant, Nickelodeon.

The story ran in the Star Tribune and was written by Chris Serres. The story reported that the Mall of America and Nickelodeon reached a deal to replace the former Camp Snoopy with all sorts of Nickelodeon characters. The story also reported that there are already plans for a new upside down rollercoaster in the mall. This story reported that a free fall ride was also possibly in the mall’s future. I think the hardest thing about this story was getting adequate information about the signing to make the story really interesting. This story didn’t have a lot of information and there were no quotes. I thought that this was a little odd and gave the story an uneasy feeling. It was really more of a brief than anything else. I found that the majority of the news was present in the lead.

It's official. The Mall of America is teaming up with Nickelodeon to be the face of its amusement park formerly known as Camp Snoopy.

I felt that this lead pretty much told me everything that I needed to know about the story.

The Pioneer Press also ran a story about the signing. The story was written by Gita Sitaramiah and reported much of the same information as the Serres version. The lead in this version was a little different and shared a similar feature feeling as the Serres version.

The Mall of America's theme park will be recreated with a Nickelodeon theme starting next year and one new upside down roller coaster is already planned.

This lead elected to put in some of the new plans for the park in the first graph. I thought this might have been a little unnecessary because I didn’t really need to know what the plans were for the park.

I guess all in all these stories were too similar to really develop too much of an opinion. I thought that the Sitaramiah version really put some unnecessary information in the lead and that bothered me a little, so on that note I would say that I preferred the Serres version. Both versions lacked quotes and that bothered me so they both had things to work on.

February 22, 2007

Anna Nicole Smith To Be Buried in Bahamas

The remains of Anna Nicole Smith are to be buried in the Bahamas urged a Broward County, Fla., judge on Thursday.

The story that ran in the New York Times, written by Maria Newman, reported that Broward County Circuit Court Judge Larry Seidlin ruled that the body of Anna Nicole Smith should be placed with her daughter, Danielynn Smith, and that since Danielynn is only 5 months old that the body should be looked after by the court appointed guardian of Danielynn, Richard Milstein. The story also reported that Judge Seidlin was pretty specific in how he wanted the body buried.

He said it would be up to the guardian, Richard Milstein, a lawyer, to determine where Ms. Smith should be buried, but he made it clear he wanted that to be the Bahamas, where Ms. Smith had lived for the last few months of her life.
“I want her buried with her son in the Bahamas,� he said. “I want them to be together.�

This story details the entire history of Anna Nicole Smith over the last several years but in all cases Newman uses quotes from the case to back up the points made in her story.

I think that the biggest issue regarding this story is uncovering all of the information and synthesizing it into something that a reader can digest easily. There are many different issues present in Anna Nicole Smith’s death. There are paternity suits, suits over where to bury the body, confusion about how she died, implications of drug addiction and possible implications of Smith’s boyfriend Howard K. Stern, and issues regarding her wishes upon death. All of these issues should be addressed in the story but that is a lot for a reader to swallow if not synthesized correctly.

A pair of stories by Matt Sedensky of the Associated Press ran in the Star Tribune and the Kansas City Star. These stories both reported much of the same information as the Newman story but delivered the information in a much different way. The Sedensky version of the story detailed much more of the information regarding Anna Nicole Smith’s personal life and many of the issues that continue to plague her family and friends.

The dispute over the burial was one of many surrounding Smith. Stern is listed as Dannielynn's father on the birth certificate, but Birkhead said the girl was his.
A California judge is handling the paternity case, but Birkhead's attorneys plan to ask a Florida family court judge on Friday to order a sample of Dannielynn's DNA to be collected in the Bahamas, or require the girl be brought here for DNA testing.

While I thought that both versions of the story did a pretty good job reporting on all the things that have been happening with the case, I felt that the Newman version was slightly more interesting and found that the language used in the Newman version was, personally, more appealing. I felt that both stories were very much on an even plane in regards to their readability and therefore I only slightly preferred the Newman version.

Italian Premier Resigns

Italian Premier Romano Prodi resigned Wednesday following the controversial failure of the adoption of his foreign affairs policy, which included Italy’s mission in Afghanistan.

The story reported in the Star Tribune, written by Frances D’Emilio of the Associated Press, said that Prodi’s resignation occurred when his party failed to gain the majority vote on his foreign policy proposal. The D’Emilio version reported that the loss was only by two votes and that because of the loss it was necessary for Prodi to resign.

"Foreign police involves the role and image of Italy in the world and the life of our soldiers committed to international peace mission,'' said conservative opposition leader Silvio Berlusconi, whom Prodi had defeated in elections in April. The loss meant Prodi had the "obligation'' to resign, Berlusconi insisted.

The story reported that it could be possible for Prodi to form a new government in Italy but that that option was highly unlikely.

Prodi aides did not rule out the possibility that President Giorgio Napolitano, who accepted the resignation, would ask Prodi to try to form a new government.

I found that the most difficult aspect of this story was understanding Italian politics. I feel that this was the biggest problem for D’Emilio, who had to convey an international story with appropriate background to give his readers, who may not be aware of Italian politics, a sense of what was happening.

The New York Times also ran a story about the Prodi resignation. The story by Ian Fischer reported much of the same initial information as the D’Emilio version, however, the Fischer version was far more comprehensive and was much more willing to provide background information in an effort to make the reader more educated about the political system in Italy. The Fischer version was the only version to use extensive quotes and was the only one to use quotes elaborating on why the two dissenting votes voted that way.

“I can’t in any way give my vote to this government with this foreign policy,� said Fernando Rossi, a senator from the Italian Communist Party and one of the dissenters.

The Fischer version of the story was very upfront in describing the political turmoil that has plagued Italy since the fall of the regime of Benito Mussolini and the end of WWII.

But the government’s collapse also reflected its own inherent weaknesses, possibly signaling that Italy’s chronic political instability may be coming out of remission. In a nation that has had some 60 governments since World War II, Mr. Prodi has presided uneasily over a coalition of nine diverse parties, ranging from moderate Catholics to Communists.

This story inherently came with many different facets and would be very difficult and time consuming to cover; however, I feel that only the Fischer version of the story accurately represented the gravity of the situation. I felt that the D’Emilio version was much too short and did not provide me with the type of information that would allow me to comprehend what had happened on Wednesday. The Fischer version, despite being very long, continually provided interesting and pertinent information which kept my interest and informed me about what happened in a way that the D’Emilio version did not. The Fischer version also made much better use of the nut graph concept allowing the reader to gain useful background information and then providing quotes to detail the nut graph after creating a point. Fischer did the best job of supporting the claims that his story made. In most cases Fischer used quotes to support his point but even then his quotes were used effectively.

February 20, 2007

Blair Announces Major British Withdrawal From Iraq

British Prime Minister Tony Blair announced Tuesday that the number of British troops in Iraq will be cut in half in the coming years and that 1,500 soldiers would be returning to Great Britain almost immediately.

The New York Times ran a story by Thomas Wagner on Tuesday regarding the announcement that Blair made. The Wagner version was also printed by the Washington Post and the San Jose Mercury News. The story reported that Great Britain would withdrawal half of their 7,100 troops currently stationed in Iraq by the end of 2007. The Wagner story reported in-depth about the issues facing Blair and the United States with regards to Iraq. Wagner provided plenty of background information because most of his readers may not be familiar with the British political system.

The biggest issue with the Wagner story is the difficulty in conveying the complexity of the British political system and the circumstances behind the announcement by Blair. In many cases Wagner’s audience may not be aware of how the British political system works and the audience may also be unaware of the current British involvement in Iraq.

Wagner concluded with the ultimate goal of the Blair administration.

Treasury chief Gordon Brown, who is likely to succeed Blair, has said he hoped several thousand British soldiers would be withdrawn by December.

The Independent Online also ran a story about the Blair announcement. For the most part the Independent Online version by Nigel Morris reported much of the same numbers as the Wagner version but decided to rely much more on the numbers than the Wagner version.

It is planned that the 1,500 British troops due to return during April when their tour of duty ends will not be replaced. Another 1,500 will withdraw from the Basra frontline to barracks to prepare for their departure by December.

The Morris version also contained a lot of background information on the circumstances that led to the Blair announcement. For the majority of the story Morris reported on the American reaction to the British withdrawal. Morris reported a lot on the reaction of President Bush and his declaration that the British withdrawal was a step toward victory in Iraq.

While both of these stories carried a heavy burden of information for the reader I felt that the Morris version was much more appealing to me. I thought that the Morris version was much more length appropriate. I felt that the Wagner version dragged on a little longer than my interest could handle. I felt that both of the stories did a good job conveying all of the complexities of the British political system. Both stories were able to inform me as to how the British system worked and how Blair arrived at his announcement. Overall, I thought that both stories were newsworthy but that the Morris version was a personal preference.

Life Time Fitness CEO Pleads Guilty to Misdemeanor Assault

Life Time Fitness CEO Bahram Akradi pled guilty to misdemeanor assault on Tuesday stemming form an altercation in the Minnetonka High School parking lot.

The story in the Star Tribune, by Rochelle Olson, reported that Akradi was involved in an altercation with a student, Scott D. Hanson, in the parking lot of Minnetonka High School. Akradi said that Hanson was driving erratically and that Hanson’s behavior scared him and his 14-year-old daughter. Akradi said that he did get out of his car and grab Hanson but said that he did not dent the car and did not remove Hanson from the car because Hanson was wearing a seatbelt.

But after his court appearance, Akradi said Harrison sped toward him as if he was going to hit him. Akradi said his daughter, who was then 14, was in the car and both were scared by Harrison's behavior. He admits he grabbed Harrison's shirt but said he didn't pull him out of the car because the student was wearing a seatbelt.

Scott Hanson gave a very different account of the event. Hanson’s report was reported first which makes very logical sense that the story told by the complaining party would be reported first.

According to the complaint filed in Hennepin County District Court: The victim, Scott D. Harrison of Minnetonka, who was 17 at the time, drove his BMW into the school's parking lot on Feb. 23. A black Humvee driven by Akradi cut him off, and Harrison honked his horn. Akradi got out of his vehicle and hit the front panel of the teen's car, leaving a dent. He yelled for Harrison to get out of the car. When he refused, Akradi tried to pull him out of the car, ripping his shirt, the complaint said.

The most difficult part of this story is creating interest and telling a story without looking like a war monger. I felt that, in this case, Olson might have gone a little too far to dig up a story. Akradi pled guilty to a misdemeanor not some thing serious. Yes, he is a public figure and in some cases public figures are held to a higher standard, but realistically I felt that I would probably acted in the same way as Akradi. Therefore, I felt that Olson might not have had the best of intentions in writing the story the way she did.

The story that ran in the Pioneer Press, by John Welbes, reported many of the same facts but I thought that the Welbes version was much more realistic and appropriate. I though that the headline for the story by Welbes was a bit too harsh and very much editorialized.

Life Time Fitness CEO pleads guilty, vows: 'I'm not going to take crap from anyone'

The headline for the Olson version of the story was much the same but rather softer and less editorialized.

Life Time Fitness CEO guilty, but not sorry

The Welbes version of the story was much shorter and to the point. There wasn’t as much background information present in the Welbes article but I found that it was mostly unnecessary any way.

Therefore, I felt that the Welbes version of the story was much more appropriate because of its length and the background provided. I thought that the Olson version of the story was much too long and only succeeded in making her look like a story monger. I felt that it was rather unfair for a story with the length of the one written by Olson to be written about a man who pled guilty to a misdemeanor, even if he is a public figure.

February 19, 2007

Ponson Brings Questions to Twins' Camp

Sidney Ponson entered Minnesota Twins spring training camp Monday as one of the biggest issues facing the team this season.

The story printed in the Pioneer Press, written by Jason Williams, that this would be a make or break season for Ponson. Williams called the season the “Last stop between a Fresh Start and the End.� Ponson acknowledged the desperate situation that he was in with the Twins in the report by Williams.

"It's make or break for my career this year," the oft-troubled pitcher said soon after reporting to spring training with his new team Sunday morning. "If I mess up, I don't think I'm going to get any more chances."

The Williams story went on to report about the chronology of how Ponson arrived with the Twins and the circumstances of his digressions over the past few years.

Three weeks after being released from jail, Ponson was arrested for drunken driving in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. That reportedly angered the Baltimore Orioles organization, which had signed him to a three-year, $22.5 million contract before the 2004 season. Ponson was arrested on a drunken-driving charge again in August 2005, leading the Orioles to release him and terminate his contract.

While I feel that there are many issues with reporting on spring training when the team hasn’t even fully reported to camp yet, I feel that the biggest issue facing Williams is that he needs to make an interesting story about Ponson from spring training that was different from the story that ran soon after Ponson signed with the Twins in the off-season.

A similar type of story detailing Ponson and his potential impact on the Twins was written by Star Tribune writer La Velle E. Neal III. This story ran very similarly to the Williams story. Both stories reported how Ponson had recommitted himself to off-season training and his history with the law and being overweight. However, the Neal story had a very different lead and it made a rather odd statement about the rest of the story.

Sidney Ponson tried to make a point Sunday: As long as his pitches pack a punch, why should everyone worry about his paunch?

It’s not very often that a story begins with a question and in this case I think it is rather misplaced. I feel like Neal used it as the lead simply for the pun that it makes. I would also say that whenever possible puns and clichés should be left out of reporting and especially sports reporting. Both of these stories used a quote to follow the opening graph of the story. I think that it is interesting to note that the Williams version of the story gets to the point much quicker than the Neal story. The Neal story takes a long time and takes a very confusing route to the meaning of the story. The Williams story is much more upfront with the point and the quote by Ponson is much more relevant in the Williams story. It takes the Neal version of the story six graphs to get to the point of the story.

So Ponson, a former 17-game winner who's made headlines for his weight and run-ins with the law in recent seasons, looms as a potential solution.

Being a sports enthusiast and more importantly a baseball aficionado I find myself pretty well informed about the issue represented in these stories already. I had a lot of prior knowledge regarding Ponson’s history and his troubles with weight and the law. For this reason I felt personally insulted that the Neal story took so long to tell me the real point of his story. I know that Ponson has had issues in the past and I know that the Twins’ pitching rotation lacks depth. I want to know if Ponson is going to work well in this rotation. For this reason I preferred the Williams version. I felt like Williams had a better understanding of the main point that the reader needed to know. I find it important to note how ridiculous it was for the Neal story to begin with a question and a pun in the lead. I found it very hard to read on after that point because the story lost almost all credibility with me.

February 16, 2007

Skier Dies After Crashing Into Tree At Lutsen

A Silver Bay, Minn., man died Thursday after colliding with a tree at Lutsen Mountain ski resort Cook County police said Friday.

The article in the Star Tribune, written by the Associated Press, reported that William “Bill� Jordan, 61, died after he struck a tree on Moose Mountain at the Lutsen ski resort. The story reported that Ski Patrol found Jordan unconscious and not breathing around 11:30. Jordan was taken to Cook County North Shore Hospital and pronounced dead there, according to the article. The story reported that the incident was still under investigation. I think that this fact is the biggest challenge with this story. While the incident is under investigation there may not be much information given to the media and therefore the story could be hard to write. This was a very short article most likely because there wasn’t very much information to report as of yet.

The Associated Press story was also printed in the Pioneer Press. Both stories were the same which I believe can be attributed to the lack of information that was available. This was certainly a newsworthy event and deserved some coverage but without the information the reporter(s) most likely had their hands tied trying to get any potential leads or sources.

Due to the fact that these stories were the exact same I can’t say that either one of them were better or worse than the other. I will say this though, I feel that the reporter did a very good job reporting the facts that he/she might have had and I understand that the story was limited by the information that was released to the public and the media. I did appreciate that the story was written because I thought that it had some news value and was an interesting story. Overall, the story was what it was because of the nature of the ongoing investigation and that must be understood in order to judge this story on its value.

It is also important to note that three other news outlets in the area also reported the incident in the same fashion with the same version of the story.

University of Illinois Releases Mascot

The University of Illinois announce Friday that their mascot, Chief Illiniwek, would be terminated following the final home Men’s Basketball game, ending years of controversy over the use of a Native American mascot.

The story in the Chicago Tribune, by Jodi S. Cohen, reported that the mascot would not return following the conclusion of the 2006-2007 Men’s basketball season. The story also reported that two students who portray the mascot filed suit against the university and the National Collegiate Athletic Association to save their mascot. “The Chief� has lived under much controversy over the past five years but this story only reported one instance of a student being threatened for having anti-Illiniwek beliefs. Much of the Native American population finds this practice and the use of the mascot to be demeaning to their way of life and their history. I feel that the biggest issue with this story is equally representing the viewpoints of the students, the university, the NCAA and the Native American population. In this story, Cohen generally only addresses the students’ views in any detail. While the university’s views and the NCAA’s views are only minimally discussed. Also, Cohen pushes the Native American reaction and chronology to the very end of the story as almost an after thought.

Last month the Oglala Sioux tribe that sold the university some of the chief's regalia, including moccasins, peace pipe pouch, breastplate and war bonnet with eagle feathers, demanded them back.

The story was also reported in the New York Times in the form of a formal article and an article in The Lede. The formal article by The Associated Press ran in the New York Times was much more limited than the Cohen version. This story reported much more on the controversy surrounding the mascot and less on the law suit filed by the students who play Chief Illiniwek. This story also emphasizes the importance of removing the mascot to the university’s ability to host post-season events such as playoffs.

School officials said they received a letter from the NCAA on Thursday that said the school will no longer be banned from hosting postseason events if it drops the mascot and related American Indian imagery. The NCAA's sanctions thus far have prevented Illinois from hosting postseason events in two low-profile sports.

The Lede version of the story also focuses on the reaction that the Native American population has had to the mascot’s removal. In most cases the Native American community is pleased to see the mascot removed as they felt that it was demeaning and racist.

Charlotte Wilkenson, 32, a Native American graduate student at Illinois, said to The Tribune: “This will be a time when we finally honor the people who have been fighting the issue, who have been saying all along to retire the chief in name, in symbol, in performance.�

The Lede reported little on the reactions of Illinois alumni who would miss the mascot but the story did make mention of these beliefs.

An Associated Press version also ran in the Star Tribune. This version was slightly different than the version that ran in the New York Times but fundamentally reported the same things. This story reported the story in much the same way as well. There was mention of the controversy, then a history of the mascot, then a reaction by a school official, and finally the information regarding the law suit.

While I found that many of these stories told the same story I found that the Cohen version in the Chicago Tribune was simply misguided. I think it is important to mention the fight that the Native Americans have been fighting, after all, would the university have gotten rid of the mascot if so many people hadn’t objected to its presence. I felt that the Native American viewpoint was significantly underrepresented in the Cohen version of the story. I did feel that The Lede did a very good job synthesizing all of the information that was reported in the various news outlets.

February 15, 2007

Father and Son Found Dead in Richfield

Richfield Police are investigating a suspected murder-suicide after discovering the bodies of a father and son in a Richfield motel room on Thursday.

This story was printed in the Pioneer Press and written by Tad Vezner. The major issue with this story is trying to get enough information from the police who were not very forthcoming with information because of the on-going investigation. In most cases Vezner elected to paraphrase the quotes that he did receive from Richfield Police Chief Dan Scott. The story gives a good account of the chronology of the kidnapping and the suspected murder-suicide. Autopsies are being conducted by the Hennepin County medical examiner and the results will provide further knowledge about the circumstances of both deaths. Throughout the entire story there is only one quote, which was from Scott, but the majority of the information was attributed to police or Scott directly.

The Star Tribune also wrote a story about the incident in Richfield. The story by Jim Adams was very similar in that there weren’t a lot of direct quotes to be used. The Adams story did do something interesting with the lead in that there was only one age reported.

Richfield police aren't sure exactly how a father and his 7-year-old son died Wednesday in a motel along Interstate Hwy. 494, but they believe it was a murder-suicide.

The Vezner story gave both ages of the victims in the lead.

Police found a 47-year-old man and his 7-year-old son dead on the floor of a Richfield hotel room Wednesday, prompting an investigation into an apparent murder-suicide.

The Adams story didn’t even mention the age of the father involved until the fourth graph. The Adams story reported much of the same information as the Vezner version because there was simply not enough information to write several different versions of the story. The names of the victims and their family have not been given because the police were still trying to contact the family when the stories went to print. The Adams story lacked any direct quotes but also used Scott as a major source of attribution.

Much of these stories were very similar because of the scarcity of information that was released to the press at the time of the discovery. In this case both writers had little to go on so therefore the stories turned out very similar. The only major thing that bothered me about either of these stories was that at the end of the Adams version he decided to report about the last homicide to occur in Richfield back in 2002.

Newspaper files show the last homicide in Richfield happened in March 2002, when Anne N. Gunther, 30, was knifed to death by her ex-boyfriend, who was later convicted of the crime.

I thought that this information was totally misplaced in this story because other than occurring in the same city it had nothing to do with the story that he was reporting on. So, on that basis, I felt that the Vezner version was more appropriate in length and the topics covered. Overall though, the stories were so similar that I believe they both served their purpose very well.

February 14, 2007

Guniea Declares Martial Law

President Lansana Conté of Guinea placed the country under martial law Monday after several protest fro his departure turned violent. Guinean citizens are calling for Conté to resign his position.

This story from the New York Times, by Lydia Polgreen, describes the harsh conditions in the country and the issues facing the leaders of the country and the leaders of the radical political organizations calling for Conté’s resignation. This story possesses much more of a feature story method than a hard news story. The lead in particular is evidence of the feature style taken by Polgreen.

Guinea’s embattled and ailing president declared martial law on Monday, hoping to stop a wave of violent street demonstrations and a general strike that have crippled the country and brought it to the brink of insurrection.

While this lead does posses elements of a hard news story this lead is not particularly brief and does not totally represent the total story. The story reports the reasons that the Guinean protesters are demanding. The story doesn’t report anything about the martial law or its enforcement so far. The story reports the history of the events and the ramifications that a civil war in Guinea could produce but offers little knowledge on the martial law itself. I think the biggest issue facing this story is how to get effective quotes about the martial law. This may have caused the story to run in the direction that it did. Polgreen did what she could to describe how the events following the declaration of martial law would affect the country. She also tries to report how the declaration came about and maybe that was the part of the story that she could get at the time. However, getting key information about the martial law looks to be the most difficult part of the story. Polgreen appeared to face difficulty in getting any information from President Conté. This would also be a key issue with regards to the story.

The Star Tribune ran an extremely brief article on the martial law declaration. The story, by Paul Fornier, reports that the U.S. government ordered all U.S. families out of the area following the declaration of martial law. This story was brief and almost doesn’t constitute a story but it also did not describe the conditions or the action of the martial law in Guinea.

The Durham Herald Sun also ran a story about the martial law. The story, by Paul Fournier, appeared to be a possible longer version of the brief that ran in the Star Tribune. However, the last names were spelled differently but they both were credited to an Associated Press writer. Nevertheless, this story was much more detailed and reported more on how the martial law had affected the country. This story delayed longer into the Tuesday news day had a much more complete background and had a much better use of sources. This story reported, more accurately, on how the marital law was affecting the country.

Despite the curfew, residents reported hearing gunfire in the outskirts of the capital Tuesday and said some young people were trying to resume protests.
"They are still firing heavy arms. I didn't sleep all night because of the shooting," said Aissatou Diallo, a resident of the Madina neighborhood.

In my opinion, the news event here was that the country of Guinea was under martial law. I understand that some background about how the country got there is needed but I still believe that the story was the declaration of martial law. Therefore, I feel that the second Fournier story was the most appropriate. This story was the only one to focus on the real news value of the story. I thought that the Star Tribune version was simply a waste and totally missed the point of the story. This story was just a waste of news space because it failed to advance my knowledge of the situation. The Polgreen story was nice but I feel that the Fournier version was much more accurate with the news of the story and was more accurate in the quotes used in the story.

I think that one of the most interesting things about all of this is that either the Durham Herald Sun or the Star Tribune most likely spelled Paul Fournier’s name wrong. One of them misspelled the name and I found that pretty funny.

February 12, 2007

Boston Police Arrest 10-Year-Old In Assult Case

A 10-year-old girl was arrested by Boston Police Monday after reportedly assaulting a woman at a local Target store.

The story printed in the Star Tribune, written by the Associated Press, was essentially a long brief. The same story also ran in the Washington Post. The story was organized like a hard news story but lacked the depth that would likely have been associated with a hard news story. The lead was informative and interesting without becoming clouded with information. The second graph clarified the ideas in the lead. After the first two graphs the story said that there were three other girls involved in the attack but none of these three had been charged. Then the story jumps into a quick chronology and finishes with the fact that the victim was treated at a hospital. It did not say the name of the hospital. The biggest issue with this story is how to make it newsworthy without making it a huge story. People in cities other than Boston might not care about the incident other than it was kind of funny so how to write a story that is detailed enough to be interesting and yet still cover all the facts. In this story the writer elected to present only facts and to omit any quotes in an effort to let the chronology tell the real meat of the story. The girl was arrested yes, but why she was arrested was the real thing that the writer wanted people to see.

The woman apparently had bumped into the 10-year-old girl in an aisle at a Target store and refused to apologize, Chrispin said. Witnesses told police the four girls then knocked the customer to the floor "where she was being hit, her hair was being ripped out, and her pants were taken off,'' he said.

The Boston Herald had a much different story to tell because of the different readership that this paper deals with. The readers of Boston would naturally be more interested in this story than places like Washington D.C. or Minneapolis. This article, by Michele McPhee, was much more detailed and the background presented was much more extensive. The lead was unfortunately very convoluted and contained an inordinate amount of information that should have been delayed into a second graph.

Boston police arrested a 10-year-old girl yesterday and charged her with assault and battery with a dangerous weapon - her shod foot - after she and friends were accused of brutally attacking a customer at the South Bay Target department store in Dorchester after the victim bumped her.

The rest of the McPhee story went on to describe the attack in more detail than the other two stories. The story included the chronology of the attack with more details and then proceeded to document the background of the area of the attack and the apparent problems Boston is facing regarding teenage girl gangs. The story finishes with a detailed account of one victim’s injuries as the story wraps up with a particularly brutal account of the injuries inflicted by the girl gangs of Boston.

In March 2006, an 8-year-old boy was stomped by a group of girls in Dorchester in an attack that left him unconscious with four broken ribs. Weeks later, his older sister, 16-year-old Shelly Herring, was stabbed in the stomach while defending her brother.
Herring’s wound required a seven-hour surgery to repair her torn bladder, leaving her with 27-staples stitching her stomach together.

Overall, I thought that all of the stories served their purpose. I did, however, like the McPhee version of the story because I felt that while I wasn’t personally connected to the issues facing Boston that the additional information was interesting and something that I enjoyed reading. I felt that I actually learned something from the McPhee version whereas I felt that I just read and laughed at the headlines for the Star Tribune and Washington Post versions. I guess in the end it comes down to personal taste and print space but I felt that the added background was a welcome addition to a story that could have really been told in maybe three graphs. Its not everyday you get to read about a crazy assault involving a 10-year-old so I guess maybe this story was just something to laugh at and think about.

February 8, 2007

Anna Nicole Smith Dies Following Collapse

Anna Nicole Smith, an enigmatic celebrity personality, died Thursday after collapsing in her hotel room.

Who would ever have thought that the death of a celebrity such as Anna Nicole Smith could spark so much media coverage? The story printed in The Star Tribune, taken from The Associated Press, was the first story that I found. I think that the biggest issue with this story and these types of stories in general is unraveling the chronology. There were so many things that had happened to Smith in the last few months and Smith had her finger on a number of different projects throughout her life and even to her death. The Star Tribune version laid out some of these events right in the opening of the story. Like in the third graph:

Just five months ago, Smith's 20-year-old son died suddenly in the Bahamas in what was believed to be a drug-related death.

The Star Tribune version isn’t totally able to decode and decipher the chronology that was Smith’s life but rather the story is very scattered and, to be honest, some what disorganized. The story begins with Smith’s death, then information about the odd circumstances of her son’s death, then back to details about Smith’s death, then to Smith’s job history.

Recently, she lost a reported 69 pounds and became a spokeswoman for TrimSpa, a weight-loss supplement. On her reality show and other recent TV appearances, her speech was often slurred and she seemed out of it. Some critics said she seemed drugged-out.

Now, some of the information could be placed here because of the drug-related comments. However, the story goes on to detail Smith’s son’s death later and this information might be more appropriate later on in the story not in like the fifth graph.

Smith’s death triggered a number of media outlets to cover the story from all across the country. The Lede, The Pioneer Press, and The New York Times all ran versions of the story. However, a more informative and interesting story was run in The Los Angeles Times by Michael Muskal. This story shared the same issues as The Star Tribune version. The Muskal version had a much more appropriate organization of the chronology of Smith’s death. The lead especially was much more of a hard news lead and was more appropriate for the type of story that this was at the time.

Anna Nicole Smith, the Texas waitress who climbed into the top echelons of wealth and sexual glamour, died in Florida today, officials reported.

While the lead is informative and catches the reader’s interest, it doesn’t get too convoluted with information like names, dates, and times. The second graph is much more informative in a style that would fit a hard news story.

The former Playboy model and reality television star reportedly collapsed in her hotel room and was rushed to a hospital about 2 p.m. EST but was pronounced dead.

The second graph begins to illuminate the circumstances that lead to Smith’s untimely death. The Muskal version of the story was also much more concise and only reported the relevant information. As The Star Tribune version progressed I found myself loosing interest and becoming bored with the weird facts surrounding Smith’s life and death because I had heard many of them before. The Muskal version was much more focused on the death and not the auxiliary information about her life.

When I first saw the headline and picture I could hardly believe my eyes. Then I checked some other news outlets and quickly realized how true the story was. The Star Tribune version was informative but it took a lot of effort to decipher what exactly happened and when. Reading the Muskal version was much more enjoyable because I wasn’t constantly trying to figure out why the story was saying what it was saying. The Muskal version was much better because of the commitment to organization that would help the reader read the story. I felt that the length of the Muskal version was also much more appropriate. The Star Tribune version was much too long and gave me really more information than I wanted to know, so therefore I lost interest as the story progressed. Overall, I think we will just all have to admit that Smith’s life and death were tragic and that any reporter who covers the story really needs to devote a significant amount of time to organization before they assume the reader wants to read everything that the reporter might have found out.

Alfonso Rodriguez Recieves Death Sentence

The man convicted of kidnapping and killing University of North Dakota student, Dru Sjodin, was sentenced to death Wednesday by a U.S. district judge in Fargo, N.D.

This story printed by The Star Tribune, written by Chuck Haga, on Wednesday had a lot of big issues to deal with. The main issue was the issue of the finality of the decision. Yes Alfonso Rodriguez was sentenced to death but he may not be executed for several years. The appeals process could delay any closure for the Sjodin family for several years. Yet, Haga had to make the story substantial and give as much closure to the event as possible. With the amount of press coverage and the emotions tied to this story Haga had to be very careful how he address the information and how the story was organized. I thought that it was particularly interesting to see the way that Haga handled the lead. The lead was cluttered with names and titles, which is different from the normal lead format.

Alfonso Rodriguez Jr. is expected to move another step closer to execution today as U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson is scheduled to formally sentence the repeat sex offender to death for the 2003 kidnapping and killing of Dru Sjodin.

With the amount of press covering this event from its beginning in 2004 The Star Tribune wasn’t the only local media outlet to cover the story. The Pioneer Press also ran a story about Rodriguez’s sentencing. It was written by Dave Kolpak. The Kolpak version had a different and less difficult lead to read.

The man convicted of killing college student Dru Sjodin was formally sentenced to death Thursday by a judge who said it was the most difficult day of his life.

Kolpak’s lead was shorter and more concise yet still mentioned the victim in the lead. Now in a case like this the victim’s name can go in the lead because it is a big enough event that just about everyone in Minnesota and North Dakota has heard of Dru Sjodin and many people are away of the case. However, I think that the Kolpak lead was much more sensible because he delayed the details of the judge’s name until the second graph. He also delayed the name of the convicted man, Rodriguez, to the second graph which I though was appropriate.

While both stories were well written and interesting to read, I felt that the Kolpak version lacked much of the chronology that I would have appreciated being given. I felt that the length of the Haga story was much more appropriate for a story of this magnitude. This sentence was the first death penalty sentence in the state of North Dakota in more than 100 years and the outpouring of support for the family of Sjodin was immense. I felt that the chronology given by Haga gave the story more closure than did the Kolpak version. However, I really liked the way that Kolpak decided to end his story. In most cases I’m not fond of ending a story in a quote but this just seemed fitting.

Before the sentencing, about 15 of Sjodin's relatives and friends spoke about her life and the impact of her death. Her mother, Linda Walker, was the last of the group to speak.
"I have been told to talk from my heart," Walker said. "My heart has been torn into a million little pieces."

February 7, 2007

NASA Astronaut Arrested On Attempted Murder Charges

Capt. Lisa Nowak, a NASA astronaut, was charged Tuesday with the attempted murder of a woman who Nowak believed was fighting with her for the affections of Cmdr. William A. Oefelein.

The story printed by The New York Times, written by John Schwartz, details the fall from grace that Nowak has experienced in the last few days. The difficult part of this story is making sense of everything that has happened and getting the right information into the story. With NASA and the federal government involved there are a lot of hoops that Schwartz most likely had to jump through to get any sort of relevant information. This story is very detailed and an article on it would be required to have a detailed chronology. This chronology was most likely the toughest problem with the story because Schwartz needs the story to be interesting and informative without being too long and boring the reader. That was the difficulty of the story. I think that the third graph of the story really tells the truth of the rest of the story.

She is charged with the attempted murder of a woman she believed to be her rival for the affections of a fellow astronaut. Police officials say she drove 900 miles to Florida from Texas, wearing a diaper so she would not have to stop for rest breaks. In Orlando, they say, she confronted her rival in a parking lot, attacking her with pepper spray.

The story was also covered in an article in The Los Angeles Times which was written by Lianne Hart, John Johnson Jr., Karen Kaplan, and Alan Zarembo. The Pioneer Press also printed the LA Times story. This version of the story was much like that of Schwartz in that the chronology was very detailed and was very informative about the action of Nowak. The LA Times story had much the same synopsis as the Schwartz story but The LA Times version ran the synopsis in the fifth graph in an interesting way.

Wearing a trench coat and wig, Nowak, 43, fired pepper spray at Shipman, who managed to escape and alert police. Investigators said Nowak was carrying a 4-inch Buck knife, a steel mallet, latex gloves, rubber tubing, garbage bags and a BB gun in a black duffel bag.

The LA Times version mentioned the distance that Nowak traveled and how she was dressed in the fourth graph. Both stories did use nut graphs to summarize information that was very complicated and difficult to digest in one big paragraph.

I felt, after reading both versions, that the Schwartz version was a little bit more pleasing. I felt that the way that Schwartz addressed the lead was more concise and tighter, in that he got to the main motive of the attempted murder much faster than did the LA Times version. I did feel that both stories did a nice job decoding the chronology and making the story interesting to read. Although the story pretty much made itself interesting. Who doesn’t want to read about a crazed NASA astronaut? I personally found the story to be extremely funny and it brightened my day to think that even astronauts can be crazy. I mean this story was really about the craziest stalker that I think I have heard about in a while. I did not really like the fact that the Schwartz version made the illusion that Nowak was happily married and only near the end of the story does he say that the couple had “separated a few weeks ago.� The whole time I was reading I thought that Nowak was simply deranged and was having an illusionary affair when in actuality she was estranged from her husband. The LA Times version mentioned the separation in the second graph and I appreciated this information being much earlier in the story.

Mercury Spill Closes New Brighton School

A mercury leak at St. John the Baptist School in New Brighton, Minn., forced school officials to close the school on Wednesday while officials try to determine the extent of the leak.

This article was printed in The Star Tribune, written by Tim Ford, on Wednesday afternoon. The biggest challenge for this article was to obtain enough background information to make the story important without sacrificing the key element in the story which was the danger to the students and families. To address this situation Ford worked in as many paraphrased quotes as he could to give the story weight without it looking too quote heavy.

Sam Brungardt, an information officer with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA), recommended that people place shoes or clothing that may have been exposed in sturdy plastic bags to bring in for testing. Officials would ask to take and dispose of items that are contaminated. People concerned about possible contamination in their homes can contact the MPCA, Brungardt said. Several dozen students and parents already had items tested Tuesday night.

Ford did try and find several sources to back the information and this too helped the story maintain its news value while still being an important resource for the parents of the affected children. Ford inserted many references to organizations that would help or that were already helping with the clean up.

The New Brighton Fire Department, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, the state Department of Health and the North Suburban Hazmat (hazardous materials) Team were at the school to assess the leak and work on cleanup.

A second article ran in The Pioneer Press, written by Tad Vezner, about the story. Vezner’s article was more of a brief than anything and was no where near as comprehensive as Ford’s version. The Vezner version of the story did have an interesting change to the lead. This story didn’t mention the school by name until the second graph where it mentioned the name and address of the school.

A mercury spill involving chemistry class supplies at a New Brighton church-based school Tuesday afternoon has authorities checking whether some children were contaminated.
The spill at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church & School at 835 Second Ave. N.W. occurred during class time. Authorities said it appeared to have leaked from a box of chemistry supplies.

I felt after reading both stories that the Ford story was more in-depth and was more informative in nature. I felt that the Vezner version was useful but I didn’t like the brevity of his version. Both stories did a very good job organizing the information into useful sections. The Vezner version only quoted one source but used all the information from that source in one location. The Ford version used some more sources and didn’t localize the quotes from sources in one location. In this version the quotes from Brungardt were in multiple places throughout the story. And the principal of the school, Sue Clausen, was also quoted in different places throughout the story. Overall, I felt that the organization of Ford’s piece was acceptable and that the sources being used in different places didn’t distract me from reading the piece.

February 6, 2007

Floods Devastate Indonesia

Floodwaters in Jakarta, Indonesia have forced over 300,000 people to evacuate their homes after rivers overflowed their banks after extended rain hit the city.

The biggest challenge for this article printed by The New York Times, written by The Associated Press, was to find anyone who was the victim of the flood’s devastation. For the most part the city of Jakarta sounds like an area of chaos. For this story the Associated Press reporter elected only to quote one official in charge of assessing the dangers that the rivers pose to the city. There wasn’t any reaction to the floods just the information that 340,000 people were fleeing the area and that the flood had already taken as many as 20 lives.

Edi Darma, an official at the Flood Crisis Center here, said 20 people had died in the city and surrounding towns as of late Sunday, most either by drowning or electrocution.

The Associated Press was also responsible for another story about the Indonesian flood that ran in The Washington Post. Both stories were published on the same day but The Washington Post ran the most updated version and listed the casualties at 25 rather than 20. The Washington Post elected to wait as long as possible to run a story about the flood in an effort to have the most up to date information regarding the event. The Washington Post version of the story was much more informative because of the use of several different prominent sources like the governor of Jakarta.

Jakarta's heavily criticized governor said he could not be held responsible for the worst floods to hit the city of 12 million in memory, saying they were a natural phenomenon.
"There is no point in throwing abuse around," Governor Sutiyoso, who like many Indonesians uses one name, told el-Shinta radio station.

The USA Today also ran a story about the Jakarta floods. The story was also written by the Associated Press with photographs by Reuters. This story has been updated since the original story to have the most up to date information and the death toll has now reached 36 according to this article. The USA Today version uses largely the same sources as The Washington Post story and therefore has much the same feel with only updated statistics and some updated information.

Overnight downpours sent storm waters coursing back into some low-lying areas of Indonesia's capital on Tuesday, as authorities warned of the threat of diseases and anger mounted at the government's response to the disaster that has killed at least 36 people.

Personally, there are many different things that set these stories apart. The one thing that they all share in common is that they were all written by The Associated Press. While I fell that this is the way of the news in today’s society it does frustrate me that so many news outlets are running stories from the same place. I felt that The Washington Post version was most helpful and informative to begin with. Since the original story though, The USA Today has been the most diligent in updating the information. I appreciated The USA Today version because it was the most up to date but I felt that The Washington Post version was the most appropriate version for length and the sources that were quoted. I felt that The USA Today version was a little too lengthy for my liking. The New York Times version simply didn’t source enough information to hold my interest, which is probably the reason that it was the shortest of all of the articles.