« February 2007 | Main | April 2007 »

March 31, 2007

Ohio Baseball Team Gets Back To Playing Ball

Players from the Bluffton University baseball team got back on the field Friday, just four weeks after a tragic bus accident that killed five of their teammates.

This story ran in the Star Tribune and was written by John Seewer. The story detailed the journey that the players, coaches and victims’ families have gone through to get to this point. This story reported that the team lost their first game, which took place a month after the originally scheduled date, 10-5 but that the team was happy to get their focus back on baseball.

"Part of our team isn't out there," said Gwynne Freytag, whose son Brandon kicked out a hatch on the bus to allow players to escape the wreckage. "But it's a chance to move ahead for the boys. They're a team, and I've just got a feeling there's a lot of angels in the outfield today."

The story detailed the emotions associated with the event from the point of view of both the players and coaches.

"Once you get out here, you're a baseball player," said coach James Grandey. "Obviously today had a little more meaning."
Grandey couldn't coach and watched from the sidelines. His jaw is wired shut and his right leg is in a metal brace.

A second version of the Seewer story ran in the Cincinnati Post. The second version was very much like the first but Seewer did insert some new and different information including some quotes.

The surviving players voted unanimously to go on with the season. The team resumed practices March 19 and hopes to make up the four games it has missed in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference.
"The whole season is for the five of them," shortstop Ryan Baightel said after the game. "We owe it to them not just to play but to compete."

Both of the preceding paragraphs were unique to the second version of the story.

Both versions of the story were very well written and, I felt that, they captured the real story and emotion of the event. I felt like the increased length in the Star Tribune version was a little more appropriate but there was absolutely nothing wrong with either version, I really just preferred the Star Tribune version rather than the Cincinnati Post version.

Standoff With Police Ends In Suspect's Death

A standoff between Plymouth police and an armed attempted robbery suspect ended Friday with the suspect dead, of an apparent self-inflicted gun shot wound, police officials said.

The story that ran in the Star Tribune was written by Tim Ford. The story reported that the standoff last more than five hours. The story reported that the suspect attempted to rob the U.S. Bank in the Four Seasons Mall in Plymouth. According to the story, the suspect fled after the attempted robbery into the neighborhood surrounding the bank. The story said that it was not determined whether the suspect actually made off with any stolen money.

The Ford story reported that the police shutdown a several block radius of the standoff and that local schools went into lockdown.

As a precaution, Pilgrim Lane Elementary and Plymouth Middle School were locked down in the afternoon and Robbinsdale Armstrong High School was in a heightened security mode, a spokesperson for the Robbinsdale School District said.

A second story ran in the Pioneer Press and was written by Tad Vezner. This story reported much of the same information as the ford version. This version of the story reported really no specific information. There was no information about the location of the house and the story did not report the names of the schools that went into lockdown.

The Vezner version of the story was nearly entirely unhelpful and was very much a waste of the reader’s time. This story reported almost no detail and was very brief. This version lacked a lot of key information about the story. There were no relevant direct quotes used in the story and that made the story very useless. This stories length was also grossly inappropriate for an event of this caliber. The Ford version on the other hand was pretty acceptable and made a good effort to get at some good quotes and did a good job deciphering the chronology of the event which wasn’t as straightforward as some other stories. The Ford version was the only version that was useful to read and was the only one to be worth the reader’s time.

March 30, 2007

Tax Increase Approved By DFL Senators

Minnesota Senate Democrats proposed Friday an increase on income taxes for the wealthiest Minnesotans.

The story written by Rachel E. Stassen-Berger ran in the Pioneer Press. This story reported that the measure would impact a lot of Minnesotans and would fill the states budget with nearly $1 billion dollars every two years.

Under the plan, sure to be dubbed a "soak the rich" proposal, joint filers earning $250,000 a year would pay a new 9.7 percent income tax rate. The rate would impact about 60,000 returns, which is likely close to 120,000 people, and would raise $991 million for the state coffers every two years.

The Stassen-Berger story reported that the proposed tax increase will likely be vetoed by Gov. Tim Pawlenty and that if approved the new tax rate would be the highest in the nation. The story reported that Democrats know that they are facing an uphill battle but are willing to fight it in order to improve the aid that the state can provide to property tax relief and school funding.

But Senate Tax Chairman Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said the money would pay for property tax relief and increased education funding, which voters and the governor have said they want. Still, passage of the bill, expected Saturday, won't be easy, he said.

A second version of the story ran in the Star Tribune and was written by Brian Bakst. The Bakst version reported that the tax proposal would add a fourth tier to the three-tier system already in place in Minnesota. The Bakst version also reported that the new tax rate would be 9.7 percent and would raise nearly $1 billion. The Bakst version reported that Democrats approved the proposal over other tax increase proposals on Friday morning.

Senate Taxes Committee Chairman Tom Bakk said his Democratic colleagues rallied around the plan during a closed-door caucus Friday morning. They chose the approach over another one that would have raised income taxes across the board.

The Bakst version did a good job reporting background information about the current status around the nation with regards to upper-level tax brackets.

California, Vermont and Oregon are the only states with top rates at nine percent or higher. Minnesota's current top rate is 7.85 percent.

The story concluded by reporting that the proposition will likely be vetoed by Pawlenty and that the proposition was in the middle of some very difficult times.

With the Legislature poised to pass at least some sort of income tax hike — but not by enough votes to overcome a veto — an end-of-session scramble to re-prioritize fewer dollars for education appears likely.

There was a very large disparity in the way that these two stories were reported. The Stassen-Berger version of the story was very brief and did not provide any background information. The Stassen-Berger version elected instead to have the reader come back for a follow up story on Saturday. The Bakst version was a little bit difficult to read at first but as the story progressed he gave the reader a good sense of what was going on both locally and nationally in some other states. Bakst did a much better job synthesizing the information and writing a story that was much more appropriate lengthwise. Due to the brevity and the request to come back for a better version of the story on Saturday from the Stassen-Berger version I was relegated to prefer the Bakst version. I think that Stassen-Berger needs to realize that a reader isn’t going to come back for another story a day later; they will simply get the story form some other news outlet.

March 28, 2007

Former Major League Pitcher Recieves 14 Year Prison Term

Former Major League Baseball pitcher Ugueth Urbina was sentenced to 14 years in prison in Caracas, Venezuela on Wednesday for the attempted murder of five workers at his ranch.

This story ran in the Star Tribune and the New York Times and was written by the Associated Press. This story reported that Urbina was sentenced on Wednesday in a Venezuelan court for attempted murder. The story reported that Urbina had experience with several different Major League teams.

Urbina, a former pitcher with the Montreal Expos, Boston Red Sox, Detroit Tigers and Philadelphia Phillies, was also found guilty of illegal deprivation of liberty and violating a prohibition against taking justice into his own hands during a dispute over a gun on Oct. 16, 2005, according to a statement from the Attorney General's Office.

The story reported that Urbina continued to insist that he was innocent and that the sentence was too severe. The story reported that Urbina did have an altercation with the workers but that he left the situation and went to sleep in his house. The story reported that Urbina was a successful pitcher notching 237 saves which ranks him 30th all-time.

I think that the biggest issue with this story was getting all of the information and getting access to sources. In most cases the Venezuelan government is not very cooperative with media people. I think that the story tired to get to the sources that were available to them.

A different version of the story ran in the All Headline News and was written by Eric Williams. This story reported much of the same information as the version from the Star Tribune. This version of the story used, in some cases, the exact same information. That is that they used the exact same paragraphs and quotes. I thought that this was really weird and a little unprofessional to represent this story as one’s own when a lot of it was not Williams’. This story essentially gave all of the same information as the previous version but in a different order. This version did give some more information about Urbina’s career.

There wasn’t much to say about the second version of the story because it was basically a re-ordering of the first version. I felt like the Williams version was very unprofessional because of the similarity that it shared with the version from the Associated Press. Now, if Williams works for the Associated Press and wrote two different versions of the story I would be OK with that. As of now though, I am not. Therefore, I much preferred the Associated Press version because it appeared more original.

March 27, 2007

Senate Approves State-Wide Smoking Ban

The Minnesota Senate voted to approve a state-wide smoking ban Tuesday that would eliminate most indoor smoking in public areas.

The story that ran in the Star Tribune was written by Mark Brunswick. This story reported that the vote was approved 41-24 in the Senate. The Brunswick version reported that the smoking ban would take effect on Aug. 1. The story also reported how the ban would affect residents of the state of Minnesota.

The bill prohibits smoking in public places, aboard public transportation and at public meetings. Violations would be petty misdemeanors.

The story did report that there were options for bars and restaurants that would allow them to help with the loss of indoor smoking.

The measure allows bars, restaurants and bingo halls to build outdoor smoking patios. Electricity and heating would be allowed on the patios but not food or beverage service.

The story reported that workers who lost their jobs because of this smoking ban would be eligible for state assistance. The story finally reported that this bill still faces many hurdles in the House before it is approved but it appears that Gov. Tim Pawlenty would approve any measure that would reach his desk.

I think that the big issue with this story is the ability to get any substantial quotes for a bill that has simply passed the Senate. In this case I feel like the big issue was that this story wasn’t particularly newsworthy. This story is very preliminary so there wasn’t too much information to be had but the fact that the bill was passed needed to be reported, it’ just that there wasn’t much information to accompany the story.

A second version ran in the Pioneer Press and was written by Rachel E. Stassen-Berger. This version reported much of the same information. It was interesting to note that this version elected to run a quote in the second graph.

"I ask this body to have the political courage to vote yes today," said Sen. Steve Dille, R-Dassel.

I thought that the quote was slightly out of place and that it didn’t really add anything to the story. I know that I have trouble choosing quotes effectively but this quote seemed a little ridiculous. This story attempted to illustrate that there were opponents to the bill that tried to get things removed from the bill.

The measure had been to six Senate committees and changed a little at each stop. On the Senate floor today, members tried and failed to exempt bars, exempt private clubs, include public places on Indian reservations and allow cities to opt out of the ban through a referendum.

Both of these stories lacked a lot of background information and a lot of quotes. There wasn’t any background about why the bill was introduced or why it was introduced now. I thought that the majority of cities and counties already had smoking bans in place, so I would have liked to know why this measure is so important. I thought that both stories were acceptable. I felt like the Stassen-Berger version was a little too short and lacked some key information about how the bill would affect bars and restaurants. For this reason I really felt like the Brunswick version was more appealing. I thought that the Brunswick version was suffering form a lack of quotes but the information was presented pretty well.

March 22, 2007

Italy Completes Hostage Exchange Deal Wtih Taliban

An Italian journalist held hostage by members of the Taliban was released Wednesday after his home country released five Taliban prisoners in exchange.

This story ran in the Star Tribune and the New York Times and was written by Ian Fischer. The story reported that Italy traded five Taliban prisoners for the Italian journalist, Daniele Mastrogiacomo, 52. The story reported that the decision did not sit well with American officials and was the first time a hostage exchange had been made since the beginning of the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan.

"We don't negotiate with terrorists, and we don't advise others to do so either," said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack.

The story also reported that the exchange was not formally announced to NATO officials before it was carried out. The prisoners were being held by the Afghan government and not NATO forces. The story also reported that it wasn’t just American officials that were angered at the decision.

On a visit to Kabul on Wednesday, the Dutch foreign minister, Maxime Verhagen, said, "When we create a situation where you can buy the freedom of Taliban fighters when you catch a journalist, then in the short term there will be no journalists anymore."

A different story ran in the San Jose Mercury News and was written by Jason Straziuso. This version reported much of the same information and actually used the exact same quote from Maxime Verhagen. This story reported that the Italian government did not inform the American government of the action. This version of the story was the only version of the three to actually quote Mastrogiacomo.

"I believe that what has been done doesn't violate the sovereignty of a state or the autonomy of its foreign policy decisions," he said, referring to both Italy and Afghanistan.

Both of these stories were very well written and included a lot of useful information. For the most part, the Straziuso version was very nice because of the variety of sources that he used. This variety of sources even included Mastrogiacomo which I thought was key to the story. I thought that the Fischer version was easier to read and was more appropriate as far as length. Therefore, I preferred the Fischer version but both versions were very acceptable.

March 21, 2007

120-Year-Old Math Problem Cracked

An international coalition of mathematicians and computer scientists cracked what they believe to be the longest math problem in history, the solution for which they say would stretch over the island of Manhattan.

The story ran in the Star Tribune and was written by the Associated Press. The story reported that this international team solved the mathematical equation of the “Lie Group E8.? The story reported that the 18 member team took four years to solve the problem which involved 248 dimensions. The story claimed that the problem was long considered impossible.

The E8 group, which dates to 1887, is the most complicated Lie group, with 248 dimensions, and was long considered impossible to solve.

The story said that the explanation of the solution is also quite difficult.

"To say what precisely it is is something even many mathematicians can't understand,'' said Jeffrey Adams, the project's leader and a math professor at the University of Maryland.

The story related the amount of information to what its equivalent would be in music format to make the solution more real to the average reader.

When stored in highly compressed form on a computer hard drive, the solution takes up as much space as 45 days of continuous music in MP3 format.

The same Associated Press version ran in the San Francisco Chronicle.

A different version of the story was printed in the Salt Lake Tribune and was written by Matthew Keenan of the Bloomberg News. This story reported a much more important nature of the discovery.

Researchers using supercomputers unraveled a 120-year-old mathematics mystery, a solution they said promises advances in their field much like the mapping of the humane genome is aiding developments in medicine.

This version of the story reported that the solution would lead to the explanation of symmetry, string theory, and geometry. This story related the importance of the discovery to the innovations from the human-genome project. This version of the story reported that the data took 77 hours to solve on a supercomputer in San Diego.

Researchers broke the puzzle into smaller parts, producing partial answers that were later assembled to find the eventual solution. The final calculation took about 77 hours on the Sage supercomputer, built by San Diego-based Western Scientific.

Both of these versions were very acceptable. I felt that the Associated Press version was more easy and enjoyable to read, however, the Keenan version of the story was more detailed and I felt that the detail made the Keenan version more interesting. I also found that the Keenan version did a better job of interviewing multiple sources. I felt that the other sources gave the story some better voice. In total, I felt that I enjoyed reading the Associated Press version but found the Keenan version more informative and detailed. I couldn’t really decide which story I liked better but I did enjoy Keenan’s detail.

March 20, 2007

Police Uncover Possible Cockfighting Ring

St. Paul police officials discovered an arena suspected to be used for cockfighting in a St. Paul residence on Tuesday.

The story ran in the Star Tribune and was written by Howie Padilla. The story reported that St. Paul police were seeking St. Paul resident Pao Vang in connection with a hit-and-run accident. The story also reported that no charges have been filed and no arrests have been made. Vang said that he was aware of the illegality of cockfighting and that he wasn’t using the birds for that purpose.

"They were there for food," said Vang, 19, of the birds. "We don't do cockfighting. It's illegal here. We know that."

The story reported that there were 11 roosters in the basement of the house and that the birds had injuries all over their bodies. The police said that there was a pen that could have been used for the fights and an area for spectators. The birds were turned over to St. Paul animal control agents who will care for the birds. The story reported that cockfighting rings aren’t uncommon for the Twin Cities area but are hard to find.

Although Walsh said St. Paul police don't often find evidence of cockfighting, investigations of suspected cockfights in the metro area aren't uncommon, said Keith Streff, director of investigations for the Animal Humane Society in Golden Valley.
Streff, whose agency wasn't involved in Tuesday's investigation, says he has followed up on cockfighting allegations for more than 20 years. He said that investigators need to be able to prove that the birds were used for fighting.
Most significant cockfighting rings are discovered by accident these days, he said.

A second version of the story ran in the Pioneer Press and was written by Mara H. Gottfried. This version of the story reported much of the same information as the Padilla version. It reported that there were no arrests made and that there were 11 roosters and a hen all with various injuries. The only thing that was different in the stories was that the Gottfried version printed the exact address of the house rather than the address of the block of the house that the Padilla version reported.

The Gottfried version was once again inferior in length and reporting. The Gottfried version was essentially a glorified brief. There was not much length or depth and really did not provide any interesting points. The Padilla version had much more information and actually quoted the suspect in the case. Padilla went the extra mile to get at some very important sources and it showed in his writing.

Third-Grade Student Found With Marijuana

A St. Paul third-grader was suspended Monday after he was discovered with possession of marijuana.

The story ran in the Star Tribune and was written by Howie Padilla. The story reported that the student was in possession of a small bag of marijuana at a school on the 500 block of Concordia Ave. The story reported that they boy’s mother believed that someone must have left that bag at the house.

When police asked the boy's mother about where he might have gotten it, she said that a friend might have dropped it at the home, said police department spokesman Tom Walsh.

The story said that the case was turned over to Ramsey County child protection and that the school district was not disclosing how long the suspension would last.

School district officials said they are unable to disclose the length of the boy's suspension.
District spokesman Casey Mahon praised the student who brought the marijuana to the attention to administrators.

A second version of the story ran in the Pioneer Press, written by Mara H. Gottfried. This story reported that the school was the Benjamin E. Mays Magnet for Communication Arts and Leadership School. However, the story reported the lead in a very interesting and unprofessional way.

A third-grade student brought pot to a St. Paul school Monday and showed it to his friends, police said today.

Gottfried used the police report as the basis of the lead and elected not to use the school officials as the primary source. I thought it was interesting that Gottfried used the word “pot? in the lead and used the word “marijuana? in the second graph. I thought that the writer should have been consistent with the terms that she uses. This story was able to use the boy as a source and was able to confirm that the boy found the marijuana at his home. The boy’s mother still claimed that someone must have left it there. The story reported that the case had been referred to the county’s child protective services but did not say what that county was.

The Gottfried version was simply too odd to be enjoyable. The idea that she would use “pot? in the lead was extremely off-putting. I thought that the lead was very unprofessional. The story was far too short and the county was never specified on first reference. The only bright spot that I found in the Gottfried story was that she was able to use the boy as a source and quote him. Aside from this idea the Padilla version was far superior in its professionalism. The Padilla version was much more organized and slightly longer in length which was much more appropriate. I found the Padilla version much more enjoyable to read.

Pawlenty Voices Oposition To New High School Eligibility Rule

A new law for high school sports revoking the eligibility of students who transfer schools received some stiff criticism on Tuesday when Gov. Tim Pawlenty raised his concerns about the rule.

The story ran in the Star Tribune and was written by Brian Bakst of the Associated Press. The story reported that both the Minnesota House of Representatives and Senate have initiated measures to curtail the advancement of the new Minnesota State High School law. The story reported that the law would take affect in the fall of 2007 and would make any student who transfers schools without leaving their home address ineligible for one year of varsity competition.

Last week, the league's assembly voted unanimously to require students who transfer schools without changing their home address to sit out of varsity athletic competition for one year. The goal was to curb the type of recruiting more commonly associated with collegiate sports.

The story also reported that Pawlenty’s main goal was to make students as comfortable with their school as possible and to make every students experience as equitable as possible.

"A lot of kids who are academically interested or motivated to move schools or school districts also happen to be in extracurricular activities," Pawlenty said. "You don't want to punish them."

The same story ran in the Pioneer Press. The story was exactly the same. This fact was very distressing because it meant that neither of the two local daily papers wrote their own version of the story. They simply let the Associated Press, a foreign news service, write their story for them. I thought that this was particularly distressing because no one directly involved with the community was responsible for producing this story.

Other than the lack of community involvement of the Associated Press and its dispassionate feel of the story, the story was pretty good. I enjoyed the use of quotes and the variety of sources used in the story. I thought that the length of the story was very appropriate. It was very depressing to see both local papers outsource their stories to the Associated Press.

March 9, 2007

Justice Department Abusing The USA Patriot Act

The FBI improperly and illegally used the powers granted to them by the Patriot Act according a Justice Department audit released on Friday.

This story from the Star Tribune, written by the Associated Press, reported that the U.S. Justice Department audit stated that for three years the FBI underreported information regarding the number documents taken from businesses to Congress. I think the biggest issue for this story is condensing all of the information into a story that the reader wants to read and is able to read. In some cases I think that they story got a little long and boring but that is what happens sometimes in these types of stories.

Another story ran in the New York Times, written by David Johnston and Eric Lipton. This story reported much of the same information but did focus on the role of Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales. This story reported that the audit from the U.S. Justice Department was expected to come out on Friday but didn’t say when it would come out. This story did say that the story broke when Gonzales tried to dispel the pressure form U.S. Senators and Representatives about the job the Justice Department has been doing.

Overall, I thought that both stories were good and well written. I thought that the New York Times version was slightly more focused and engaging. I did think however that they New York Times version was too lengthy to be enjoyable. I thought that the Star Tribune version was more concise and that made it more interesting. I thought that both stories accomplished their intended purposes and that was a good sign.

Man Arrested For Not Getting Out Of His Car

A Fergus Falls man was jailed by police Thursday night after police say he refused to get out of his car during a routine traffic stop.

The story from the Star Tribune, written by the Associated Press with help from Brian Lokken, reported that the man was driving without a revoked license, had a loaded gun in the car, and had meth in that car as well.

The biggest issue with this story is getting the reasoning why the man refused to get out of the car. Unfortunately the reporter must not have been able to get access to the arrested man.

There was also a story printed in the Pioneer Press about the event. The story was written by the Associated Press as well. They were the same exact story. There was also another story reported in the exact same way by WCCO TV.

These news outlets all reported the exact same story but the story was pretty well written when considering that the story didn’t interview the arrested man. Overall, the story was pretty good but it was really nothing more than a long brief.

Man Shot on Metro Transit Bus

A local Minnesota man is in critical condition after being shot Thursday night on a Metro Transit bus in north Minneapolis.

The story that ran in the Star Tribune, written by Terry Collins, reported that a man named Cleveland Montgomery was shot on a north Minneapolis bus for unknown reasons and he remained in critical condition. The story reported that the No. 5 bus is one of the busiest of all Metro Transit routes.

I think the biggest issue with this story is reporting all of the limited information that was available. In this story not much was known at the time of the incident and there still isn’t much known.

There was another story that ran in the Pioneer Press about the shooting. This story was written by Nancy Yang. This story was simply too short to be even called a story. It reported that a man was shot and that was about all that this story would verify. This story simply claimed that information wasn’t available and that not much was known.

The Yang version was pointless and disinteresting. Therefore, the Collins version was the only acceptable story. Collins made efforts to get information and made efforts to quote sources for information. The Collins was the only acceptable story.

March 6, 2007

NATO Launches New Anti-Taliban Offensive

NATO forces launched their largest combined effort to defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan on Monday.

The story from the Associated Press ran in the Star Tribune and the New York Times. The story was written by Noor Khan. The Khan story reported that some 4,500 NATO soldiers and 1,000 Afghan soldiers were deployed to the northern part of Helmand province. The story reported that this was the largest NATO and Afghan military force to move into combat in the region. The story reported that the mission, dubbed Operation Achilles, was intended to drive the Taliban militants out of the reason so that work could begin on repairs on a hydroelectric dam that provides power to thousands of Afghans.

British troops have also been battling militants in the nearby district of Kajaki to enable repairs on a hydroelectric dam, which supplies close to 2 million Afghans with electricity.

I think the most difficult part about this story would be getting the point across through all that has happened in the Middle East. There is so much recent history that I think reporting the relevant parts of this history with the current events in an organized chronology would be the toughest part of the story writing process.

Another version of the story ran in the Los Angeles Times, written by Shafiqullah Azimi and Laura King. This story reported much of the same information but did have a very different flow to the story. The biggest and easiest difference to notice in the two stories was that the Azimi and King version did not use any direct quotes. At least in the Khan version there were some partial quotes and even some complete quotes. The Azimi and King version did also report that Opium trafficking has been a big part of the operations of the Taliban just like what was reported in the Khan version.

Drug revenues are believed to be funding the strong comeback by the Taliban militia, which had been left scattered and demoralized after the Islamist movement was toppled in 2001 by U.S.-led forces. The allied offensive in part was aimed at disrupting the drug trade, Western military officials said.
Col. Tom Collins, a spokesman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force, said the offensive was centered on "improving security in areas where Taliban extremists, narco-traffickers and foreign terrorists are currently operating."

Both of these stories reported much of the some information but did so in very different ways. The Khan version was much more quote centered and had what I though was more accurate information. I felt like the Khan version was much more organized and slightly more interesting to read. I really appreciated the incorporation of direct quotes because I felt like the nature of the story deemed direct quotes necessary. I thought that the Azimi and King version looked juvenile without any direct quotes. Therefore it was easy for me to prefer the Khan version.

March 5, 2007

Star Tribune Names Ridder New Publisher

The Minneapolis-based Star Tribune filled their vacant publisher position on Monday hiring Par Ridder, the former publisher of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

The story that ran in the Star Tribune, written by Matt McKinney, reported that Ridder was hired away from the Pioneer Press and was the frontrunner for the position from the time that the previous publisher, J. Keith Moyer, resigned. The story also reported that Ridder and his family have a long history in the industry dating back 114 years. The story reported that Ridder and his family have been operating the Pioneer Press in competition with the Star Tribune since 1927 and that Ridder understands that his new position may make things difficult at first for the paper that he formerly competed against.

I think that the biggest issue with this story is how to portray a story that is objective and interesting to readers. In some cases, unless you were interested in the news about the position, the average reader might not care too much about who the publisher of the Star Tribune is. I think that McKinney had to balance the needs of the average reader with the interests of the avid and knowledgeable reader. McKinney also had to balance an apparent conflict of interest throughout the story. A rival publisher comes over the river to his competitor and there is a story written by the paper that he now works for, that is a pretty hefty conflict of interest. Yet, as a journalist, McKinney is responsible for reporting the facts of the event and I felt he handled the situation dispassionately and with objectivity.

A competing story also ran in the Pioneer Press, written by John Welbes. The Welbes version reported that Ridder moved over the river to Minneapolis and that he met with the staff on Monday morning. Welbes also reported that Ridder made his decision on Friday that he would be making the switch. Welbes said that the potential new owner of the Pioneer Press was reasonable upset with the loss of Ridder.

“I’m surprised and disappointed,? said William Dean Singleton, the CEO of MediaNews Group Inc., which is in the process of buying the Pioneer Press.

Welbes reported, from the Pioneer Press angle, that Frederick B. Mott Jr. would take over Ridder’s position on an interim basis. Welbes reported that Mott has experience with MediaNews Group Inc. and Knight Ridder and that Ridder’s move would not change the media culture in the Twin Cities.

“If somebody’s going to run us out of the business it’ll have to be somebody who will stay more than two to five years,? Singleton said. Venture capital firms such as Avista typically buy properties, cut costs and then resell them at a profit.

I felt that both of these stories had some very good points and were pretty interesting despite the fact that I wasn’t very interested in the quibbles over a publisher of a newspaper. I felt that the McKinney version was a bit more dispassionate and objective and I appreciated this. The McKinney version may have been a bit shorter than the Welbes version and I think that made me like it a bit more as well. Both stories were acceptable and achieved what they set out to accomplish, which was to inform the reader about the event without a complete conflict of interest.

March 3, 2007

Gophers Capture MacNaughton Cup

The Gophers Men’s Hockey Team captured their second straight MacNaughton Cup Friday night when they defeated Michigan Tech 3-1.

The story from the Star Tribune by Dean Spiros reported that with the 3-1 win over Michigan Tech, the Gophers captured their second MacNaughton Cup. The story had several different points of view and used many quotes from a wide variety of players and coaches. The story reported that last year’s team was superstitious about touching the cup but this year they weren’t concerned at all.

"We were superstitious last year," said junior forward Evan Kaufmann, who scored the decisive goal Friday, "and we all saw how it worked out when we went that route. Superstition isn't what wins hockey games; it's what you do on the ice."

I think the biggest issue with this story was creating enough interest in a story that could really be described in the lead or even headline. How do you create interest in a story when the main point is that the Gophers won the MacNaughton Cup. The story does a pretty good job making sure that the story was very quote driven to create interest and intrigue.

A similar story ran in the Pioneer Press by Bruce Brothers and reported much of the same information. In most cases these two stories were so similar that they really didn’t differ much at all. The Brothers version had a much more feature type feel to it but it also had a lot of quotes to keep interest in the story.

I think, personally, that these stories were so similar that it was really difficult to decide which story was better. I felt like the Spiros version was a preference but I felt that the Brothers version was also acceptable. I wasn’t totally sure whether either of these stories were particularly special but I felt that they both got the point across.

Bush Visits Disaster Zone In Alabama

President Bush visited Enterprise High School in Enterprise, Ala. on Saturday, the site of a tornado that killed eight students.

The story from the Star Tribune, written by Deb Riechmann of the Associated Press, reported that President Bush made a special trip to see the devastation from Thursday’s storm that killed the eight students. The story reported that President Bush was very somber in his visit and had difficulty viewing the wreckage.

"Today I have walked through devastation that is hard to describe," he said, standing with students, one of whom had a tear running down her face. "Our thoughts go out to the students who perished. Thank God for hundreds who lived," he said.

The story also linked President Bush’s visit to the issues that arose following Hurricane Katrina in the New Orleans area.

The White House and the disaster relief agency came under severe criticism for the government's sluggish response to the Gulf Coast hurricanes that tore through Louisiana and Mississippi in 2005.

The story reported that the disaster relief efforts of this storm were much more organized and well planned. This story reported that hours after the storm leaders of the federal relief effort were on the phone with local officials in Alabama.

I think the most difficult issue with this story is managing to relate Thursday’s storm and Saturday’s visit with the larger picture. I think that Riechmann did a pretty good job of this by incorporating the criticism of the Katrina relief effort. Riechmann effectively melded the past with the present to create an interesting and newsworthy story that effectively affected the nation as a whole. I also think that Riechmann did a particularly noteworthy job in getting the reader emotionally invested in the story very early; this helped the reader want to read on.

On a mournful mission, President Bush climbed over piles of concrete, roofing, insulation, broken glass and textbooks Saturday that littered Enterprise High School, battered by a tornado that killed eight students.
Down hallway three, lined by blue lockers, he went in private, the corridor where the students died and scores more were trapped in Thursday's storm. The president also saw the wing — now just rubble — where students had hunkered down as the tornado approached.

The same Riechmann version also ran in the Pioneer Press, however, the New York Times ran their own version of the story, written by Adam Nossiter. The Nossiter version had a very different feel to it. The Nossiter version reported much of the same information about President Bush’s visit but was much more detailed about the lives of the students killed in the storm. This version spent little time on the visit of President Bush and instead relied on the stories of the students who died.

On Friday, dazed survivors — teachers and students — recounted their luck as they toured the perimeter of the painful ruins, the building’s spilled-out insides visible even from the great distance at which the authorities kept onlookers.
For grief-stricken parents like those of Andrew J. Jackson, a sturdy 16-year-old cheerleader and weightlifter, there was no consolation in their bewilderment.

The Nossiter version was much longer but I felt that this version had a more appropriate reaction to the storm. I thought that the story should have mentioned President Bush’s visit but should have focused on the students who died. It is always very tragic to lose students, especially in a natural disaster. I did think that the Nossiter version was difficult to decipher because the lead and the opening graphs were all about President Bush, but I didn’t feel that this was the most important thing that the story had to say. As a whole, the Nossiter version was much more preferred despite its length which bordered on being too long. The Riechmann version was acceptable but I felt like she missed the real point of the story.