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May 4, 2007

University Student-Athletes in Academic Danger

The University of Minnesota’s academic performance met NCAA requirements on Thursday but decreasing performance in men’s basketball and football are particularly distressing for university officials.

The story that ran in the Star Tribune was written by Dennis Brackin. This story reported that a large amount of teams were penalized for their academic performance.

A total of 112 teams -- none in the Big Ten -- were penalized Wednesday when the NCAA announced its latest APR scores, which measure student eligibility and retention within programs.

The story reported that the university’s academic performance over the last three years in men’s basketball and football were under the mandated NCAA guidelines. The story was actually able to successful quantify how poor the university’s basketball program was.

The university's 887 rate for men's basketball -- compiled under former coach Dan Monson -- was the lowest for any Big Ten program. But the university escaped the penalty of losing scholarships because they fell within a margin of error.

This story reported that the success of football and baseball are increasing while men’s basketball is decreasing because of retention issues. The story said that the university would have to fill out a plan of change in order to meet with success in these two sports. The story did report that there were some positives to be taken out of this report.

Men's basketball and football were the only programs at Minnesota below 925, although wrestling was close to the minimum with a 927. Seventeen of Minnesota's 25 sports ranked at or above the national APR average for their respective Division I sports.

I think that the biggest issue with this story was making it interesting to non-university readers while making sure that the story is objective rather than defaming the basketball or football players as all poor students. I’m sure that not all of these student-athletes are as poor academically as this story and the report might lead the reader to believe.

A second version of the story ran in the Pioneer Press and was written by Ray Richardson. This story reported much of the same information that the university was not very successful when it came to the academics of football and men’s basketball. This story cut right to the chase to tell the reader exactly what could happen if the scores don’t increase in the coming year.

Failure by the two programs to improve APR scores over the next academic year could result in the loss of scholarships.

This story reported a much more detailed account of how the APR scores are tallied.

Student-athletes earn one point for each semester they are enrolled and one point for each semester they are eligible for intercollegiate competition. The APR is calculated by taking the number of possible points for a sport during the three-year period and dividing that number by the total number of points earned from eligibility and retention.

I felt that both of these stories were pretty well written but that both of them had traces of sarcasm and could have been written more objectively. Personally, I feel that the majority of coverage of college athletic academics is usually negative. The student-athletes that I know actually do work very hard on their studies and try to prove that they belong here in the class room. I felt the Brackin version was slightly more detailed and that I preferred this detail over the brevity of the Richardson version. Therefore, I preferred the Brackin version although I would accept the Richardson version as a substitute.

Queen Visits The States

Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, was on hand in Richmond, Va., on Thursday to celebrate the settlement at Jamestown.

The story reported in the New York Times was written by Ian Urbina. This story reported that many people came to see the queen for many different reasons. The story reported the number of people that were present at the Virginia capitol on Thursday to see the queen.

They watched for different things as thousands gathered around the Capitol here under rainy skies with hopes of glimpsing Queen Elizabeth II on her first visit to the United States in more than 15 years. Her husband, Prince Philip, is accompanying her on the six-day trip.

There was another more broad social reason for the queen’s presence in Virginia on Thursday. This story reported what that broad social issue was.

In February, Virginia became the first state to pass a resolution expressing official regret for slavery. In recent weeks, some scholars and minorities had asked whether the queen would consider making a formal apology for Britain’s role in slavery and the way early English settlers mistreated the Indians.

The story reported that the queen has a very busy schedule and has a lot of things that she wants to accomplish before she returns to England.

Before her speech, the queen met representatives from eight Indian tribes in Virginia. She also planned to meet with Oliver W. Hill Sr., a 100-year-old civil rights lawyer whose litigation helped lead to the 1954 Supreme Court decision to end racial segregation in public schools.

I think that the biggest issue behind this story is deciphering why this story is important and deciding whether or not people should know about the issue. In some cases I feel like some information could be left out of the public’s knowledge in order to maintain safety and integrity.

A second version of the story ran in the Dallas Morning News and was written by the Associated Press. This story was essentially a long brief that simply reported all of the key information about the story. This story reported in the lead the issues that brought the queen to the United States.

Queen Elizabeth II arrived Thursday for the commemoration of Jamestown's 400th anniversary and praised the cultural changes that have occurred since she last visited America's first permanent English settlement 50 years ago.

This version of the story reported the historical significance of the last time that the queen came to the state of Virginia and reported why she was there at the time.

The last time the queen helped Virginia mark the anniversary of its colonial founding, it was an all-white affair in a state whose government was in open defiance of a 1954 Supreme Court order to desegregate public schools.

I felt like the brief version was nice to read but that I still lacked some of the key pieces of information. I felt like there could have been more in the briefs version of the story. I think that because the briefs version was so shoddy that the Urbina version was a necessary evil. I didn’t particularly like the idea that this type of story could be written in such a quick and concise way without many quotes or sources. Overall, I preferred the Urbina version because it felt more extensive and detailed.

Warriors Bounce Mavericks

The Golden State Warriors became the first No. 8 seed to advance in a seven-game NBA playoff series Thursday night with a 111-86 victory over the No. 1 seed Dallas Mavericks.

The story that ran in the San Jose Mercury News was written by Janie McCauley of the Associated Press. This story reported that an injured Baron Davis and a controversial Stephen Jackson were mainly responsible for the Golden State win on Thursday night. The story also reported that defense on likely NBA MVP Dirk Nowitzki was extremely important. The story reported how the game was won and who the Warriors will face in the second round.

Coach Don Nelson's emotional bunch of castoffs beat his old organization by holding likely league MVP Dirk Nowitzki to eight points and 2-for-13 shooting, after he saved the Mavs with 30 points in their six-point Game 5 win Tuesday. The Warriors, making their first playoff appearance in 13 years, will open the second round Monday night at either Houston or Utah.

The story also reported why Stephen Jackson was so controversial.

Jackson—who avoided a suspension for Game 6 after two ejections in the series—hit four 3-pointers during a decisive 24-3 third-quarter run and finished with a playoff career-high 33 points.

The story reported the historic context that made this win and this series so important.

The Warriors became only the third eighth seed to upset the No. 1 and the first since the opening round went from best-of-five to the current format. The Denver Nuggets (1994) and the New York Knicks (1999) are the only other teams to win a series.

The story reported that the historic nature of the series win by Golden State was not the only way that the Warriors accomplished something historic.

The Warriors traded for Jackson in January in an eight-player swap with the Indiana Pacers to pair him with a healthy Davis as this playoff-starved franchise tried—and ultimately succeeded—to end the NBA's longest postseason drought.

I feel like the biggest issue with this story is getting people outside of the Dallas and Oakland markets to want to read the story. I found that the only reason I read the story was because it was particularly historical. More often than not I find myself bored with professional basketball and therefore don’t generally read such stories. I did feel that this version was fairly successful in getting me to read the story and be interested in the event.

A second version of the story ran in the New York Times by Lee Jenkins. This story reported much of the same information as the McCauley version. This story focused more on the historically inept history of the Golden State franchise. This story reported that many other teams would dream of an NBA title while the Warrior just dreamed of getting into post-season play.

Few teams have ever been so excited about a No. 8 seed, and no team has done more with it. Golden State, making its first playoff appearance in 14 years, also made history Thursday night. They are no longer the Clippers of Northern California.

This story reported an interesting connection between the last Golden State playoff team and the current playoff team.

The moniker was a twist on Run DMC, a pioneering rap group that achieved its peak of popularity in the 1980s. Today, Mullin is the team’s executive vice president. Richmond is one of his assistants. Their coach then, Don Nelson, is the coach again.

This version of the story reported a much more detailed and extensive background of Stephen Jackson. This story went deep to show the reader what Jackson had done in his past.

Until Thursday night, Stephen Jackson was best known as a wild man with a mean streak. Jackson, then with Indiana, fought with fans at the Palace of Auburn Hills during the notorious brawl between the Pacers and the Detroit Pistons in 2004. He also fired a gun outside a strip club in Indianapolis last year. The Pacers had little choice but to trade him.

I felt that both versions of this story were interesting enough that I would have read them anyway but I did feel that the Jenkins was slightly more interesting to read because it provided more background and information. This version was significantly longer but I felt like the length was acceptable enough that the story could be read without fear that the reader would turn away. The McCauley version was nice but it was a little less interesting which makes it harder to read than the Jenkins version.

May 1, 2007

Orchestra Hall Gets a Face Lift

The board of the Minnesota Orchestra approved a $90 million renovation to Orchestra Hall on Monday to rejuvenate the building.

The story that ran in the Star Tribune was written by Michael Anthony. This story reported that the target date for the project was still in the future but that dates had been set to get the project done.

The project, slated to begin in 2009 and open in 2011, will include: expansion of the lobby onto Peavey Plaza adjacent to the hall; construction of a restaurant on the plaza and additional facilities to make the plaza more amenable to outdoor concerts; and installation of new seats, including 150 around the back of the stage.

The story reported that no architect had been selected at this point yet and that the hall would try to remain open during most phases of the reconstruction. The story did report where most of the funding for the project would come from.

Funding for the project, Grangaard said, would come mostly from private donations. Some money has already been raised, he said.

The story reported how much of a success the building was initially heralded to be but how the lobby space was thought to be insufficient and inadequate. The liability of the lobby was a driving force in the renovation. The story did report some of the renovations that will be taking place in the hall.

A new choral loft will be added behind the stage, where the extra 150 seats will offer a front view of the conductor. This addition will push the stage forward, closer to the audience.

I feel like the biggest issue with this story is making it relevant and interesting to the reader because at this point nothing has started and nothing will start for a fairly long time. They haven’t even chosen an architect to work on the project. This story doesn’t really seem to have any timeliness newsworthiness but it did have some proximity news value because we do live near Orchestra Hall. If it weren’t for this I feel like the story would be a total waste.

A second version of the story ran in the Pioneer Press and was written by Kathy Berdan. I felt like reading this story actually made me dumber. This story was listed on the top of the Pioneer Press’ big news of the day. It turns out that this story could have been compiled by a moderately trained monkey. I couldn’t believe that this story was even given room on the web site. The only information that this story reported was that a $90 million renovation had been approved and then it detailed where and how the renovations might occur. This story was a complete was of the Pioneer Press’ and my time.

As discussed above the Berdan article, if you can really call it that, was a waste of everyone’s time. There is no way that that type of story should be placed anywhere either in print or online. This story was an embarrassment to anything that has been called a story before it. Therefore, the Star Tribune version was better because it actually succeeded in looking like a human being might have written it.

Trucker Found Not Guilty in Crash

The truck driver involved in a crash that killed five and injured several more from Chippewa Falls High School was acquitted on all counts Monday.

The story that ran in the Star Tribune was written by Kevin Giles. This story reported much of the information regarding the crash that killed five people in 2005.

Kozlowski, 24, was driving to the Twin Cities when his semitrailer truck overturned on Interstate Hwy. 94 early on Oct. 16, 2005. Moments later, a bus carrying Chippewa Falls marching band students and chaperones crashed into the trailer, which was blocking both westbound lanes 3 miles west of Osseo, Wis.

The story reported the names and ages of all five people killed in the crash. It also listed their relationships as many of them were related and all of them were some way associated with the Chippewa Falls School District. The story reported the reactions and emotions that came from friends and family of the victims when the verdict was read.

As nearly two dozen friends and relatives of the crash victims watched in silence, Kozlowski hugged his attorneys after Judge William Gabler read not guilty verdicts on all 33 felony and misdemeanor counts against him.

In a rather long winded way the story reported the fight that took place between the prosecution and the defense. Essentially, the prosecution tried to prove that Kozlowski was too tired to be driving and was a danger to other drivers while the defense put the dead bus driver on trial because he was tired and was not wearing the glasses the he should have been wearing according to his drivers’ license.

The story reported that while the criminal charges were unsuccessful the legal fight is by no means over.

Monday's verdict ends criminal action in the case, but 10 civil suits are pending against Kozlowski, Whole Foods and the charter bus company, Chippewa Trails.

I think that the biggest issue in this story is relating the details of the case to both the criminal and civil cases that were brought. Obviously, the writer should not want to slander either side of the story but I felt like I could see the Kozlowski side of the story looking rather, slimy. I felt like Kozlowski and his lawyers came off looking like really inconsiderate and evil people and I’m not sure this should have been the intent.

A second story ran in the Pioneer Press and was written by Kevin Harter and David Hanners. I felt like the lead for this story was a bit more traditional and was a bit more helpful by providing just enough information without overloading the reader with information.

A jury in Hudson, Wis., deliberated less than four hours Monday before acquitting an Indiana truck driver on charges that he was criminally negligent in a 2005 bus crash that killed five people.

This version of the story reported much of the same information in a very similar manner. I did feel like in this version as well the details and quotes about Kozlowski were a little bit editorialized.

Kozlowski, a short growth of hair just barely concealing the tattoos that cover his scalp and neck, did not testify in his defense. His defense rested largely on expert testimony showing that the driver of the bus did more to cause the fatal accident than Kozlowski.

Once again as with the first version of the story this version also commented on the defense’s attempt to place blame for the accident on the bus driver who died in the crash.

The defense said Kozlowski had gotten enough sleep. But they also attempted to focus blame on Rasmus, the driver of the chartered bus. They introduced evidence that he had bad eyesight and wasn't wearing his glasses, as was required by his driver's license. And they said he was driving without getting enough sleep and that the bus had defective brakes.

I felt like both of these stories had good points and poorer points. I felt that the Pioneer Press version was a little bit easier to read. I thought that this version was a little bit easier to decipher. The information presented in this piece was a bit more concise and broken down which made it easier for the reader to read. While I thought that the Pioneer Press version was better to read, I recognize that the Star Tribune version was right on the mark as well and had many good points of its own. I felt like both stories served their purpose but that the Pioneer Press version did so in a way that was more conducive to my personal reading style.