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.

April 28, 2007

Vikings Take Peterson With First Round Selection

With the seventh overall selection in the 2007 NFL draft on Saturday the Minnesota Vikings selected University of Oklahoma running back Adrian Peterson.

The story that ran in the Pioneer Press was written by Jon Krawczynski. The story reported that despite a collar bone that was still on the mend the Minnesota Vikings selected Adrian Peterson to back up starter Chester Taylor. The story reported the reaction of Vikings’ Head Coach Brad Childress.

"We're obviously elated to have this guy," coach Brad Childress said. "He is an explosive football player that can take it to the house every time from any point on the football field. He has that kind of speed and ability."

With talented Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn still remaining at the No. 7 selection some fans expressed sympathies that would have preferred seeing Quinn holding up a Vikings jersey rather than the Cleveland Browns jersey he sported later on in the morning.

The Vikings passed on Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn to select Peterson, apparently comfortable going into next season with second-year QB Tarvaris Jackson and inexperienced veteran Brooks Bollinger competing for the job.

I think that the biggest issue with this story is making the story interesting to people who may have already heard about the pick either on TV or on the radio. I think that the issue is also relating the event to the broader NFL draft issues of day one. I think that this story did a good job making the story interesting and keeping the story brief in order to keep a broader audience interested.

A second version of a very similar story ran in the Star Tribune and was written by Kevin Seifert. This story began by also reporting the depth at the No. 7 position and how the Vikings had a tough decision between Quinn and Peterson. The story also reported a brief reaction by Childress about Peterson.

Ultimately, the Vikings turned down an offer to move into Washington's No. 6 spot and take Landry. They passed on Quinn, who plummeted to the No. 22 overall spot, and celebrated the arrival of Peterson -- arguably the draft's top offensive playmaker whom coach Brad Childress called a "bright-eyed, electric kid."

This story like the first detailed the injury history of Peterson’s collar bone and the issues that the Vikings may have in the future with this injury.

The Vikings set their sights on Peterson after his quiet April 13 visit to Winter Park. They X-rayed and examined his much-discussed right collarbone, which might need additional surgery, and received a glowing endorsement from running backs coach Eric Bieniemy, who once recruited him as a UCLA assistant coach.
Peterson's collarbone, originally broken last October, ballooned into a national story last week when Peterson acknowledged he had re-injured it Jan. 1 during the Fiesta Bowl. Rick Spielman, Vikings vice president of player personnel, said last Wednesday on KFAN-1130 that there was a "rumor" that Peterson needed surgery to correct the injury.

These stories both shared the same goals in writing and I felt like both of them met their goals, however, I felt like the Seifert version was much more detailed and interesting. While the Seifert version got a little long I still found the reporting more profound. The Krawczynski version was fine to read but I felt like Seifert did a better job covering the event and all of the issues surrounding the selection of Peterson.

April 22, 2007

Wild GM Still Firing Shots

The season may have ended on Thursday for the Minnesota Wild but the shots are still flying Saturday particularly between Wild General Manager Doug Risebrough and Ducks’ General Manager Brian Burke.

The story that ran in the Star Tribune was written by Michael Russo. The story reported that the animosity between the teams and especially the general managers began with a questionable punch from Anaheim’s Brad May that left Wild defenseman Kim Johnsson with a concussion. The story reported that May tried to smooth the situation over but was rebuffed by Johnsson.

The story reported the history of violence that has followed Burke around throughout his career and that Risebrough was not happy with the situation.

Risebrough, who said, "May's probably made a lot of those calls," insinuated that actions like May's follow Burke around, a subtle reminder that Todd Bertuzzi broke Steve Moore's neck when Burke managed the Canucks.

The story reported that Johnsson said that the attack was unprovoked and that he would have been much more willing to accept the circumstances of the fight if it had been provoked.

"I'm disappointed ... that stuff like that can happen," said Johnsson, who thought his cheekbone was broken. "I feel that's not the right way to do it. If he wants to fight, at least tell me that he's going to do something so I can protect myself."

I felt like the biggest issue with this story was being able to relate it back to hockey in general. This story shouldn’t have been about a fight between teams that escalated in the playoffs. I felt that it should have related to the more general history of hockey violence and physicality in the last couple of years. After all Todd Bertuzzi nearly killed another player when he violently attacked the player from behind, breaking his neck in the process of the unwarranted attack. That is what I thought could have been played up a little bit more.

A second version of a similar story ran in the Pioneer Press and was written by Brian Murphy. This story reported much of the same information that led to the verbal altercations between the two teams. However, this version did a much better job of relating the recent events to the past series that Burke and Risebrough have been involved in back in 2003. This version also reported the reaction of Johnsson after the event.

Recalling the scrum that developed at the end of Game 4, Johnsson did not realize it was May confronting him nor was he prepared for what happened.

Both of these versions were very well written and did a very good job keeping the reader’s interest. For the most part these stories were very similar but I felt that the Murphy version was more detailed and therefore more interesting to a sports fan like myself. Overall though, both stories were very acceptable and I felt like the length of both stories illustrated the importance of the issue and event for the readers.

April 10, 2007

DNA Points to Smith's Baby's Father

DNA evidence proved Tuesday that Larry Birkhead is the father of the late Anna Nicole Smith’s baby daughter.

The story reported in the Star Tribune was written by Jessica Robertson of the Associated Press. The story reported that Larry Birkhead was essentially the biological father of Dannielynn Hope Marshall Stern. The story reported that Birkhead and Howard K. Stern were in the midst of a challenging legal battle because despite the fact that Birkhead is the biological father, Stern’s name is on the birth certificate. The story reported that despite this new knowledge in the case there are still challenges for the custody of the child.

Stern, who was Smith's lawyer and later became her companion, said he wouldn't fight for custody, but a lawyer for Smith's mother, Virgie Arthur, indicated she might. The judge scheduled another hearing for Friday in the pink colonial courthouse to discuss who will raise the girl, who could inherit hundreds of millions of dollars.

The story did report that it looked as though things were going nicely and that both sides, Stern and Birkhead, were working for the good of Dannielynn.

"I'm obviously very disappointed, but my feelings for Dannielynn have not changed," he said, adding of Birkhead: "I'm going to do whatever I can to make sure he gets sole custody."

I feel like the biggest issue with this story was getting at what was going to happen and why so many people are interested in this dead celebrities baby. It would be much simpler to have a court decide who is best for the child and yet all of these legal proceedings are preventing that from happening. Overall, I think the big issue is getting the average reader to care about what is happening to this situation regarding the ending of Anna Nicole Smith’s life.

A second story ran in the New York Times was written by Maria Newman. This story reported much of the same information in a similar manner. This story even reported many of the same quotes within the story. The story reported, as in the first article, that Stern was going to cooperate with the court in the interest of Dannielynn.

Mr. Stern, who was also at the hearing, emerged from the courthouse and said he would not fight the decision declaring Mr. Birkhead the father. “My feelings for Dannielynn have not changed,? Mr. Stern said. “I am not going to fight Larry Birkhead for custody. I’m going to do whatever I can do to make sure he gets sole custody.?

It seemed that both of these stories used much of the same information and in some cases used even the same exact quotes. The fact that they used the same exact quotes seemed very odd and was a little off putting. Aside from these oddities, I really preferred the Newman version because it was shorter and more concise. I felt like this story is just getting really ridiculous and therefore doesn’t really deserve any additional space than that of the Newman version. I think that this issue should just die and that the media should just quit covering the events surrounding Smith’s final affairs.

April 7, 2007

15-Year-Old Girl Held Hostage for Meth, Sex

A 15-year-old runaway girl escaped the house in rural Wisconsin where she was being held captive and forced to have sex for methamphetamines.

The story in the Star Tribune was written by Tom Ford. The story reported that a 15-year-old girl was held at the house of Daniel Owens near the town of Osceola, Wisconsin. The story reported that the girl had been held there for three weeks and that Owens had received payment of methamphetamines from Kevin Madsen in exchange for Madsen having sex with the girl. The girl’s name was not released and Madsen and Owens are both in custody awaiting trial on several charges and $50,000 bail. The story reported some of the terrible atrocities that the victim went through during her three week ordeal.

The girl also told investigators that Owens got angry with her and hurt her several times between March 7 and 28: He threw an ashtray at her, cutting her leg severely, and he burned her once with a meth pipe on her calf and once with a small butane torch on a thigh, the warrant requests said.

The story reported that the girl knew Owens through a relative and that she had runaway once before and ended up at Owens’ house.

In that earlier case, Owens first lied about her whereabouts but soon after contacted authorities to let them know the girl was there, Smith said. There have been no reports that any abuse occurred then, he said.

The story reported that the police had visited Owens’ home looking for the girl twice before.

Polk County deputies twice went to Owens' house looking for the runaway girl, and both times the girl was told to hide under a piece of plywood in Owens' bathtub, authorities said.
The second time, Owens and Madsen put something heavy atop the plywood, and the girl couldn't escape, said Lt. Steve Smith. She was not let out of the tub for about 16 hours, perhaps as long as a day, he said.

I think that the biggest issue with this story was the limited nature of the sources. Ford most likely did not have access to the victim or the two men responsible for the terrible acts, therefore Ford would have had to rely on the police and the charges and reports filed with the police for information.

A second version of the story ran in the Pioneer Press and was written by Kevin Harter. This story shared much of the same information with the Ford version. The lead of this story, however, was very different and had a little bit of an odd feeling to it.

Two western Wisconsin men have been accused of trading on the innocence of a 15-year-old girl, held captive in a dilapidated home, so one could get high on methamphetamine.

I didn’t feel like the lead was as straightforward as it could have been and that made things a bit more difficult to read. The story reported much of the same information as the Ford version but did spend much more time detailing the reaction of the residents of Nye, Wisconsin where the events occurred. The story was very unfocused and really avoided the real story which was the poor girl’s ordeal. I think that this unfocused nature may be because the writer couldn’t get access to a wide variety of sources, like the victim, her family, or the perpetrators.

Both of these stories were fine to read but the Harter version was simply too unfocused to be really enjoyable and informative. It was like reading a bad short story in that you read it hoping that it ends well and then in the end you just end up disappointed. There wasn’t anything to be disappointed about in the Ford version because he really stayed focused on the ordeal of the poor girl, which was the newsworthy element of the story. Therefore, the Ford version was much more appropriate in focus and was much more informative.

March 31, 2007

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 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.

March 9, 2007

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.

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.

February 22, 2007

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 16, 2007

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 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.

January 31, 2007

Clemens Debates Success of Retirement

Roger Clemens has yet to make a decision about his pitching future this season but with spring training looming just over two weeks away a decision could be made soon.

The story printed in The Houston Chronicle detailing the cities favorite baseball son was one of mystery and intrigue. The story, by Associated Press baseball writer Ronald Blum, had a very interesting problem to deal with. While baseball fans across the country are wondering where “The Rocket? might land there wasn’t a definitive answer given by Clemens. With an audience awaiting the word, it is Blum’s goal to be there if Clemens makes a decision. The difficulty in this story was whether there was enough information to generate interest from the baseball audience despite the lack of a decision by Clemens. In this type of situation Blum worked hard to get as many quotes to create some idea of what Clemens might be leaning toward.

Roger Clemens talked about his plight and laughed. "I'm failing at retirement," he said. "Let's just face it. I'm failing miserably at it."

Blum thought that without a decision to drive the story that the quotes from the interview were the most important part of the story. Blum actually opened the story with the section listed above. This is one of the rare times that I think a quote is acceptable in a lead, because it is the quote here that will drive the story.

Earlier in the week the Associated Press wrote a story that was published in The Dallas Morning News that had essentially the same thing to say. This story, however, had a different approach regarding the quotes. This story, despite its length, details the reasons that Clemens might return and what teams he might return to. This story was a quick interest story meant to create interest. This story does so through the quotes.

Overall, both stories were acceptable and did a very good job at what they were intended to do, which was to create interest and intrigue. I felt that the length of the Blum story made me feel more aware of Clemens’ situation and made me feel like I learned more from the story than from The Dallas Morning News version.

Both of these stories relied heavily on quotes to drive the interest of the story. In both cases quotes were used to lead paragraphs whenever possible. When the situation did not allow the quote to lead the paragraph it was because it was the lead or the subject’s first introduction to the story. Both stories used quotes in an appropriate way, always using said. Even when another word might have been used in literature, said was still kept in these stories which made them both informative and entertaining to read.

January 25, 2007

NFL Gets Tough on Steroids

Steroid testing in the NFL will now come with harsher punishments for a failed test after the National Football League and its players union agreed to new terms on Wednesday.

The story broke late Wednesday night following the meeting between NFL officials and union representatives. The New York Times published an article, by Judy Battista, detailing the extent of the new testing policy. The challenge for this story was to find a way to make the story worthwhile despite the fact that no players have been hit with the stiffer punishment yet. This is very much a preliminary story and therefore it is more difficult to find really meaningful information without having a specific event, a player suspension, to point to. Battista elects to detail the past punishments for players who violated the previous steroid policy. She details the actions that would change the situation of San Diego Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman. Battista describes how things would change if Merriman were to have failed the steroid test under the new agreement.

Gene Upshaw, the executive director of the National Football League Players Association, said in an interview that as soon as next season, players who tested positive could also be barred from consideration for postseason awards. Such recognition became an issue during the regular season that ended last month when Shawne Merriman, a San Diego Chargers linebacker, was suspended for four games after a positive steroids test, but was named to the Pro Bowl.

Battista elects to delay the specifics of the new agreement until later in the story so that she might be able to interest the reader by illustrating how a specific situation might have changed as a result of the new agreement. Battista uses an anecdotal type of story to hold the readers interest until she decides to address the exact stipulations of the agreement.

Several other organizations opted to run the same story, written by the Associated Press., The Star Tribune, and The Pioneer Press all ran the same article. However, this story also elected to delay the really news lead into the body of the story and elected to print a rather descriptive lead instead.

The NFL is going deeper into the wallets of players who get caught using steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs.
After four months of sometimes-intense negotiations, the league and union announced Wednesday more extensive testing for performance-enhancing drugs and the addition of the blood-boosting substance EPO to its list of banned substances.

This specific lead forces the reader to wait through the opening paragraph before the reader actually gets the hard news of the story. However, in this case the headline and sub-headline do a very good job describing what the story will be about.

The USA Today elected to run its own story with a different style. The article, written by Skip Wood, presented the hard news part of the story in the very first paragraph. In the Wood story the reader knows exactly what the story is about within the first 10 words. This hard news style gives the Wood story a unique feel when compared to the story that was run and copied in the three other news media outlets.

Personally, I felt that the Wood story was very successful with the lead and using the lead to get as much information out as quickly as possible. However, I thought that the lead in the Battista story was sufficient enough to get me to read on in the story. When reading on I felt that the Battista story did a better job elaborating on the key points of the story. I found the Battista story more compelling and interesting to read as compared to the Wood story. So, with regards to leads only I preferred the way that Wood addressed the lead but much preferred the entire piece by Battista.