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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.

April 25, 2007

Teenager Charged In Bus Shooting

A 17-year-old St. Paul boy was charged Wednesday in connection with a shooting that took place Sunday on a Metro Transit bus.

The story that ran in the Star Tribune was written by Curt Brown and Howie Padilla. This story reported that there was significant controversy surrounding the charges being filed against the 17-year-old boy, Jerome P. Cross.

With about 40 people yelling outside for his freedom, 17-year-old Jerome P. Cross was charged this morning with two counts of murder in connection with an early Sunday shooting on a city bus in downtown St. Paul.

The story reported that two groups of teenagers were on the bus when a fight broke out between the two groups. The bus stopped to force the teenagers off and that is when things escalated.

Cross then got back on the bus, brandished a gun and fired a single fatal shot which struck Freeman in the chest, according to the petition.

The story reported that the police were performing tests to determine if there is a link between Cross and the shooting.

Cross did, however, give investigators a DNA sample and took a gun residue test. Results from those tests aren't yet available. Police found two handguns near the scene of the shooting.

The story reported that there was video surveillance evidence that places Cross on the bus but that was all that the story reported on that piece of evidence. The story did report that Cross’ family, especially his father, were crying to see the surveillance footage because they believed it would prove Cross’ innocence.

The story made specific note of the situation and emotions that are growing between the victim’s family, the Freeman family, and Cross.

Inside the courtroom this morning, authorities expressed concern about retaliation and threats to Freeman's family and friends. In part for his own safety, Jerome Cross was ordered held until his next court appearance on May 16.

I feel like the biggest issue with a story like this, that is very emotionally charged, is that the writer has to report the facts without seeming biased towards one side of the story or the other. The reporter can not express sympathies for either the victim or the person charged with the murder and this can often times be difficult. I felt like this story could have been more transparent but that it stayed in the area of acceptability.

A second version of the story ran in the Pioneer Press and was written by Shannon Prather and Mara H. Gottfried. This version had a very similar lead but the second graph or the nut graph was much more descriptive and interesting. This graph contained much more detailed facts.

Jerome Pablo Cross, 17, is charged in Ramsey County juvenile court with second-degree murder for the death of Earl Freeman, 16, on a Route 74 bus in downtown St. Paul. Prosecutors are seeking to have Cross certified as an adult.

The story reported much of the same information as the Star Tribune version because of the nature of the protests that were happening outside the courthouse. This version took much the same angle as the star Tribune version therefore the stories turned out very similar.

By reading the Star Tribune version first I felt like that version was better. I felt that it was more focused and was more concise. I felt that the Pioneer Press version was slightly bottom heavy and that the bottom half of the story just got a bit long winded. Therefore I much preferred the Star Tribune version.

April 24, 2007

Twin-Cities Get New Archbishop

The question of who would be the new archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis got its answer on Tuesday with the appointment of a new archbishop.

The story that ran in the Star Tribune was written by Pamela Miller. The story reported that John Nienstedt was named coadjutor archbishop meaning that he will share the duties of archbishop with current archbishop, Harry Flynn until Flynn retires. The story reported that Flynn’s retirement was expected.

Last year, Flynn, who will turn 74 on May 2, asked the Vatican to choose an eventual successor. Bishops generally retire at age 75.

The story reported that Nienstedt wants to continue Flynn’s work with the poor and disenfranchised especially immigrants. The story reported the history of Nienstedt’s work with the clergy.

Nienstedt was named bishop of the Diocese of New Ulm in the summer of 2001. Before that, he served as auxiliary bishop of Detroit. He was ordained a bishop in July 1996 and served as bishop for several Michigan communities.

I felt that the biggest issue with this story is making the story interesting to readers who may not be catholic. I think that this story did a somewhat acceptable job at making me feel like this story was important. It was interesting to see how many registered Catholics there are in Twin-Cities area.

A second story ran in the Pioneer Press and was written by Nancy Yang. This story reported much of the same information as the Miller version. This version used a different method to explain the situation regarding Flynn’s retirement.

Flynn turned 73 last year. When a bishop nears retirement age, which is 75 under canon law, the Vatican often appoints a coadjutor bishop to work with the present leader before taking over.

This story reported that there were only 750,000 Catholics in the Twin-Cities area whereas the Miller version reported that there were 830,000 Catholics in the area. I thought that this was an interesting contradiction between the two stories and really have no idea why the numbers are so different. The story did report the history of Nienstedt’s actions and activism.

Last December, he was one of seven prominent Minnesota bishops who signed a statement of protest against the federal immigration raids on Swift Co. plants. The statement said the raids divided families, disrupted communities and did nothing to advance needed immigration reform.

After reading both versions I felt that the Miller version was slightly more enjoyable and interesting but overall both versions were pretty boring. I found these stories rather boring because I am not strongly tied to the Catholic Church. I understand why it was written because there are between 750,000 and 830,000 Catholics in the Twin-Cities area and they would read a story like this. Overall, I didn’t think that either of them were that good but they did have newsworthy value in their impact on readership.

April 22, 2007

Bullet Leads to School Lockdown

Students and faculty at an Eagan middle school received a scare Friday when a bullet found in one of the school’s hallway prompted a lock down of the school and a police search.

The story that ran in the Star Tribune was written by Curt Brown. This story reported that the bullet found in Metcalf Junior High School prompted a complete lockdown and a thorough police investigation of the building. The story reported that the incident carried some significant weight and importance based on the day on which it occurred.

On the eighth anniversary of the Columbine school shooting and four days after the massacre at Virginia Tech, an unspent cartridge found on the floor of the Eagan school's second-floor hall was enough to prompt a two-hour lockdown.

The story reported that the students were kept in the school while the lockdown was in place.

The roughly 750 students in grades seven through nine were locked in their classrooms with teachers and no one was allowed to move around the building as police searched every locker, nook and cranny.

The story reported that things got back to normal at the school around noon and that classes finished like normal.

I think that the biggest issue with this story is making the story interesting without looking like you’re trying to stir up a story or trying to get the readers concerned about something that they may not need to be worried about. I felt like the Brown version did a good job of finding a balance in this respect.

A second story ran in the Pioneer Press and was written by Frederick Melo. This story was much briefer and reported a lot of the same information. This story however did report where the bullet was found, a second-floor hallway of the Metcalf Junior High School. As stated previously much of the information remained the same but this story also mentioned the history associated with April 20th.

April 20 marks the eighth anniversary of the shooting rampage at Columbine High School in Jefferson County, Colo., in which student gunmen killed 12 students and a teacher and wounded 24 others.

I felt like, for the most part, these stories both accomplished their goals and did a good job of relaying the information about the incident. I felt that the Brown version was slightly more informative and interesting in addition to being more appropriate with regards to length. I felt like the Brown version was slightly more extensive with regards to the amount of reporting that was done. Therefore, I preferred reading the Brown version more than the Melo version.

Teen Killed On Metro Transit Ride

A 16-year-old St. Paul boy was shot and killed on a Metro Transit bus early Sunday morning after an altercation with other passengers.

The story that ran in the Star Tribune was written as a staff report. The report claimed that the boy was involved in an altercation with another group of young people at about 12:20 a.m. today. According to the report the boy was shot in the chest.

A young man then reached through a rear access in the bus and fired a pistol, hitting the victim in the chest and killing him, police said.

The report did give information about the description of the suspect.

The suspect is described as an African American male, 16 to 18 years old, 5-feet-6 to 5-feet-8 inches tall, with a slender build. He was wearing a white tee shirt and dark baggy pants, police said.

The report gave information about how to contact police who are in the middle of an on-going investigation.

I think that the biggest issue with this story is finding enough information to make the story relevant without sounding too boring and sounding like you're just repeating the police report. I think that this version had some difficulty with this issue because there just wasn't much information available at the time of the article.

A second story ran in the Pioneer Press by The Associated Press. This story lacked any really relevant information. The time of the shooting was not given. The only information about the shooting was that it happened through the rear access door of the bus and that it happened at the corner of Fifth and Sibley streets.

I was extremely disappointed with the Pioneer Press for letting a foreign news service get the jump on a story that should have been theirs. There is no way that the Pioneer Press should have run such a vague and useless article from the Associated Press. Anyone could have written that story. It looked as if the only thing that the writer did was to read the police report. The Star Tribune article looked as if someone might have actually thought about. For the most part I felt that the Star Tribune article was better and that despite the fact that it lacked many key pieces of information, which may have not been released yet, was rather informative. I appreciated that the Star Tribune didn’t outsource their coverage of the story to the Associated Press.

April 10, 2007

Capella University Official Under Investigation

The financial aid director of Minneapolis-based Capella University, an on-line university, came under investigation on Tuesday after the New York Office of the Attorney General discovered an apparent conflict of interest with his position as a college loan official.

The story reported in the Star Tribune was written by Norman Draper. The story reported that the director of financial aid, Timothy C. Lehmann, at Capella University was involved in a possible conflict of interest involving his work at Cappella and for the college loan agency Student Loan Xpress, Inc. The story reported that Lehmann was placed on administrative leave pending the investigation of his actions.

According to a letter sent to Capella by the New York Office of the Attorney General, financial aid director Timothy C. Lehmann is being investigated for doing consulting work for a student lending agency, Student Loan Xpress, Inc. at the same time he was working for Capella.

The story reported that this issue is extremely important when considering the sky-rocketing prices of tuition across the country and the rising number of students across the country going into debt. The story also reported the extent of Lehmann’s involvement with Student Loan Xpress.

According to the letter from the New York Attorney General's office and Capella officials, Lehmann also works on the advisory board of Student Loan Xpress. That, Capella officials say, is an unpaid position.

I think that the biggest issue with this story is getting quotes and making the news seem interesting. In some cases the Capella University officals would not like to comment on an issue such as this. In another case the writer has to get the reader to read the story despite the fact that no court documents have been filed.

A second story ran in the Pioneer Press and was written by Paul Tosto. This story relied on much of the same information as the Draper version. The story reported a much more national view of the event and decided not to spend much time addressing the issue of Lehmann’s involvement.

Nationally, the student loan industry has criticized New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo's investigation into lending companies for smearing all schools and lenders because of the problems of a few "bad apples."
On Monday, the company that owns Student Loan Xpress, announced that three top Student Loan Xpress executives had been placed on administrative leave in response to Cuomo's investigation.

Both of these stories were interesting, in a way. They both seemed a little odd but were informative enough to make me feel like I learned something from the article. I thought that the way that Tosto addressed the national concern for the financial difficulty students face was interesting but out of place. The story was supposed to be about what happened at Capella and by focusing so broadly on the national aspect I felt like the story seemed very weird. The Draper version was interesting but really lacked major substance. It felt like Draper was trying to get the story out so quickly that he neglected to do any additional reporting. In consideration of these feelings about these articles I would have to say that I preferred reading the Draper version even though it was a little weird.

Twins Reach Deal For Stadium Land

The Minnesota Twins and Hennepin County reached a settlement with, Land Partners II, Tuesday ending the holdout that has been preventing the team from breaking ground on their new stadium.

The story that ran in the Star Tribune was written by Mike Kaszuba. The story reported that the two sides, the Twins and Hennepin County and Land Partners II, reached the agreement to sell the land to the Twins for an undisclosed amount of money. The story reported that the sum was not disclosed but that the Twins had capped the amount of money that they were willing to spend on the land.

Team and county officials, however, declined today to release details of the Twins financial contributions, but a lead negotiator for the county said the amount had been capped by the team. “That’s not something we’re going to talk about,? said Commissioner Mike Opat.

The story went on to report that there are still some legal proceedings that need to happen before ground can be broken for the new stadium. The story reported that the presentation of the stadium’s design would happen Thursday after being delayed since February.

Twins and county officials, meanwhile, said a public unveiling of the stadium’s design, which had been postponed since February, would occur Thursday at the Hennepin County Government Center.

I feel like the biggest issue in this story is getting meaningful quotes to make the story interesting to the average reader. In some cases the average reader might not be interested in the dealings of the Twins so the reporter really needs to get the reader a lot of access into the issue in order to keep them interested.

A second story ran in the Pioneer Press and was written by Emily Gurnon. This story reported much of the same information as the Kaszuba story only that this story was able to give figures for how much Hennepin County would be paying for the land.

The Hennepin County Board of Commissioners voted today to put up more than $13 million to gain control of land needed for the stadium.

The story said that pretty much this action cleared the biggest logjam opposing the stadium’s development. In essence this story reported the same information only in a different style and manner.

Both of these versions looked very similar, so similar that they both look like they could have been written from a press release. It did look as though the Gurnon version might have done some additional outside reporting but the Kaszuba version looked less like a press release. I felt that both stories were informative and interesting enough, but that the Kaszuba version was slightly easier to read. The Kaszuba version also seemed slightly longer which made it look more appropriate as far as length was concerned. Overall, I like the Kaszuba version better but thought that both version managed to be informative despite looking like press releases.

April 7, 2007

Gopher Football Players Arrested; Suspected of Rape

Three University of Minnesota football players were arrested Friday in association with an assault case that University Police officials become aware of on Friday morning.

The story ran in the Star Tribune and was written by Chip Scoggins and Tom Ford. This story reported that the students arrest comes just prior to the Gopher Football spring game.

The Gophers football spring game scheduled for today has been marred by news late Friday night that three players were taken into custody by university police investigating a complaint of criminal sexual conduct.

The story reported that the three student-athletes involved were E.J. Jones, Keith Massey, and Alex Daniels. The story said that both head Coach Tim Brewster and athletic director Joel Maturi were disappointed with the situation and were suspending the players pending the results of the investigation. The story also detailed the circumstances that brought about the investigations.

The nature of the incident and where it happened were unclear late Friday. An 18-year-old woman came to the university police headquarters early Friday morning to report she had been assaulted, said university spokesman Dan Wolter.
According to a police report, the woman reported the incident happened between late Tuesday night and about 9 a.m. Wednesday. She was taken to a hospital for examination, and she was provided services from victim advocates, the report said. It was unknown whether she is a university student.

I feel like the biggest issue with this story is getting as much information as possible when the police and the university are not willing or not able to divulge much about the case. I think that the writers had to work hard to get the information that they did because as the story reported Tim Brewster was not returning calls to his cell phone and I can’t imagine that AD Joel Maturi was all too cooperative either.

A second story ran in the Pioneer Press and was written by Tad Vezner, Marcus R. Fuller, and Charley Walters. This story reported much of the same information as the Scoggins and Ford version. However, this version was much less forgiving about the actions of the athletes in the lead.

Three University of Minnesota football players were arrested Friday on suspicion of raping an 18-year-old woman, University of Minnesota police said.

Much of the quotes used in this story were the same as the Scoggins and Ford version.

Both of these stories were informative and interesting. I felt like the similarities that both of these stories shared made them difficult to differentiate. Both of these stories were forced to rely on the same quotes which contributed to s sense of sameness. I felt like the Scoggins and Ford version was slightly better written and was just a little more easy to read. Now, both of these stories were successful in achieving what they intended to achieve. Both were nice to read but I thought that the Scoggins and Ford version was slightly better.

April 3, 2007

Eagan Marine Killed In Iraq

An Eagan Marine died Monday in Fallujah, Iraq after taking small arms fire in the back from insurgents while on patrol.

The story that was reported by the Star Tribune was written by Tim Harlow. This story reported that Lance Cpl. Daniel Olsen, 20, died in Fallujah on Monday just days after speaking with his family. The story reported that Olsen talked with his mother just days before his death and requested a care package of Goldfish crackers and Cap’n Crunch cereal. The story reported all of the relevant information about Olsen’s unit and his service.

Olsen, a member of the 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines Fox Company, was the 57th with strong Minnesota ties to die in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

As noted above the story did also report the relevant information about how many soldiers with Minnesota ties have died in the fighting. The story gave considerable consideration to the state of mind of mind of Olsen’s family.

“It’s very sad for us,? said Daniel Olsen’s father, Wayne. “But we are a strong faith community, and we believe that Daniel is in a much better place.?

The story gave what information it could about the circumstances surrounding Olsen’s death but not much was known.

In the coming days, Wayne Olsen said he hopes the family will learn more about his son’s death. Wayne said Daniel was wearing full armor at the time he was shot. Wayne said he read the medical report, but it provided few details.

The story continued with reports of Olsen’s life at home in the U.S. The story reported some of Olsen’s interests like music and drumline and joking around with his sisters.

I think that the biggest challenge with this story was getting at enough information from the family while respecting their wishes for privacy as I’m sure that they are still grieving. I think that Harlow had to balance the need to get a story with showing the family proper respect for their loss. Harlow also had to determine the focus of the story; was the story about Olsen’s life and accomplishments or was it about his death and the circumstances about it. I think that Harlow did a nice job creating a balance between these two ideas.

A second version of the story of Olsen’s death ran in the Pioneer Press and was written by the Associated Press. This story reported much of the same information and in most cases reported significantly less information than the Harlow version. The main difference in this version was that the Associated Press reported that Olsen was the 49th member of the military from Minnesota to die in the fighting, whereas the Harlow version reported that Olsen was the 57th soldier to die who had strong Minnesota ties. I suppose that this difference could be attributed to the different ways that the news outlets went about finding their numbers. They both referenced their numbers in different ways and that was interesting. The AP version of the story reported much of the story’s information as quoted from other news sources like WCCO-TV.

These stories varied very much in style of reporting and delivery. The AP version was very heartless and distant from the action. It was also very short in length and this made the story seem very inappropriate when considered against the Harlow version. The Harlow version appeared much better prepared and more personable. This version looked like Harlow made a good effort to get to know the family and to get the whole story which made this version much more appealing. It was also much more appropriate as far as length and covered all aspects of the story. Therefore, the Harlow version was really the only version to like because the AP version was simply too short and impersonal.

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 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 20, 2007

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

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 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.

February 28, 2007

Coon Rapids Soldier Dies In Iraq

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nickelodeon to Sponsor MOA's Park

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 20, 2007

Life Time Fitness CEO Pleads Guilty to Misdemeanor Assault

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Life Time Fitness CEO guilty, but not sorry

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

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

February 19, 2007

Ponson Brings Questions to Twins' Camp

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 16, 2007

Skier Dies After Crashing Into Tree At Lutsen

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

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

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

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

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

February 15, 2007

Father and Son Found Dead in Richfield

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 8, 2007

Alfonso Rodriguez Recieves Death Sentence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 7, 2007

Mercury Spill Closes New Brighton School

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 31, 2007

Skin Virus Pins Wrestlers

An outbreak of skin herpes forced the Minnesota State High School League suspended all wrestling programs in the state on Tuesday.

This story presents an interesting conundrum. The story as printed in The Pioneer Press, by Tim Leighton, brings to the forefront the issue of telling a story without causing mass panic. For the most part this required Leighton to make extensive efforts to interview and quote coaches and players that had different viewpoints. By doing so Leighton would be able to report the story with enough credible information from coaches and players that wouldn’t stir the readership in to a mass panic.

"With so many people not knowing, it's important to let the shutdown period take its course," Anderson said. "Provided everybody does what's required with the treatment and medication, there should be no further problems."

Leighton makes sure to quote Dr. B.J. Anderson (above), a national skin condition expert, as early in the story as possible to make sure that the readership knows that the reason for the shutdown is valid and that the best interest of the people involved was addressed.

An article in The Star Tribune, by John Millea, took a different approach to the wrestling ban story. Millea elected to begin his story with a preface of how the skin virus is transmitted, how it can be treated, and where it is most likely to occur. After this section Millea proceeds to talk about how the MSHSL wants to stop any outbreaks before the state competition in February. Finally in the third section, Millea addresses the coach and player reactions to the measure. Millea elects to delay the relief part of the story until the very end. Without knowing about the virus the reader would gauge that this is a very serious event that should shutdown the sport for an indefinite period. It’s the coaches’ and players’ assurances that make the reader feel that this measure will be appropriate.

There are very different styles between the two stories; however, the Leighton story did the best job of gaining insightful and meaningful quotes that gave the reader assurances that this shutdown would be enough to ensure the wrestlers’ safety. The Leighton story was also much easier and nicer to read because of his appropriate use of quotes.

Whenever possible both writers used quotes to begin a paragraph. There were very rarely any quotes that were prefaced with a description of the person giving the quote. Both writers also made use of paraphrasing to make longer quotes more digestible. In the Millea story there is one very lengthy quote from a representative of the MSHSL that is a little difficult to dissect so some paraphrasing could have been useful to the reader. Overall, quote usage made these stories easy and interesting to read.

January 29, 2007

Timberwolves Eclipse Suns and End Win Streak

The Minnesota Timberwolves defeated the Phoenix Suns in Minneapolis on Monday ending the NBA’s longest winning streak this season at 17.

The story posted by The Star Tribune, by Kent Youngblood, had a very interesting challenge to it. In a story of this type it may become difficult to gain insightful quotes from players and coaches of a .500 team after beating the best team in the NBA. Well, the apparent solution for Youngblood was to simply not quote anyone directly. This story was simply a narrative of the game and its ramifications. This fact was made all the more interesting in the fact that The Star Tribune wasn’t the only news media outlet to pick up the story by Youngblood. The San Jose Mercury News also posted the story by The Star Tribune writer, Youngblood. For a story with no attribution to anyone other than the author to be picked up by a newspaper half way across the country is extremely odd.

ESPN.com posted an article from the Associated Press to cover the event. The Dallas Morning News also picked up a very similar article from the Associated Press; however, there were no quotes or attributions in The Dallas Morning News article. It didn’t take long for the ESPN.com article to get to a quote with direct attribution.

"People who say he can't carry the load, take a look at this game film," new Timberwolves coach Randy Wittman said.

The ESPN.com article made quotation a very high priority and made sure that attribution went after the quote whenever possible. However, in some cases of first reference the attribution was put in the middle of the quote.

"It's just about being a presence," Garnett said. "It's about making them have to deal with me. I will continue to take that approach."

It only took four paragraphs to get a quote out of the ESPN.com article where as the other two articles didn’t ever quote a source. Would it have been that much to ask for the writer to ask the coach or any of the players simply what they thought of the win or loss (depending on who you ask)?

It was simply unbelievable to think that two different versions of a story could go the entire length of the story without one quote or anything resembling a quote. On that basis I must say that the ESPN.com article was my preference by default. Quotes should be used to liven up a story and in this case the Youngblood story and The Dallas Morning News story were extremely lifeless. Quotes can also be used to elaborate on opinions or reactions and neither of these stories did that. Therefore, the ESPN.com article from the Associated Press was the most successful of all of the articles.

January 24, 2007

Twins Sign Veteran Ortiz

The Minnesota Twins made the biggest roster move of this off-season by finalizing a $3.1 million deal the veteran pitcher Ramon Ortiz on Monday.

The biggest challenge with a story like this is how can you get the reader to continue reading if they aren’t a big sports fan or Twins fan. This article from the Star Tribune, by La Velle E. Neal III, does only what is necessary for the article to get the point across in the lead. It is a very simple and to the point lead. There is very little wasted space or room for excess fluff.

The Twins finalized a one-year deal with righthander Ramon Ortiz worth $3.1 million on Monday.

Neal takes the stance that the lead should be simply as informative as possible and doesn’t need to be full of flowery language in order to get the reader to continue reading. Neal shows that he believes a straight news lead can work in a sports story.

In the article published by the Pioneer Press, written by Gordon Wittenmyer, the lead is much more flowery and fluffy. The reader doesn’t really gain any insight about the purpose of the story until the third paragraph and even then the topic is very convoluted.

On the same day ESPN.com ran a story on its baseball home page making a case for the Twins' Terry Ryan as the best general manager in baseball, Ryan's office announced the completion of the kind of yeah-whatever deal that evokes criticism in other markets.
If it registers a blip at all on the public attention meter.
But the $3.1 million, one-year deal for Ramon Ortiz, a once-bright pitching prospect whose best pitch in recent years has been the gopher ball, represents an impact free-agent signing for the Twins this winter.

This story talks about the success of Terry Ryan, Twins general manager, as written in an ESPN.com article. It also goes on to detail the signing of Ortiz, while still yet discussing the current and future state of the Twins pitching rotation. Wittenmyer’s article is far broader and this scope does not help the article progress to any sort of conclusion because the reader never gets a sense of how the lead is important to the overall story.

As an avid Twins fan, I find an informative lead, like the one used in Neal’s story, quite sufficient to gain my attention and convince me to read more. While I will read the Wittenmyer story I found myself questioning what I actually got out of the story at the end. I felt like the lead in both stories made the story. I felt like Neal’s lead was more forthcoming and his lead was rewarded by my desire to read the rest of the story. Neal’s choice of lead shows that even for a sports story a straight news lead can still be used effectively. By informing me of what happened, who was involved, when it happened, and where it happened I was intrigued enough to read on. That is the most important function of the lead, even in a story that might otherwise appear rather bland, even to an avid baseball fan.

January 23, 2007

Casey Out As Wolves Head Man

After only a year and a half the Dwane Casey era is over in Minnesota. Casey was fired Tuesday as the Timberwolves head coach. Assistant coach Randy Wittman will step in as he did in 2005 following the mid-season departure of Flip Saunders.

The Associated Press reported, as posted on StarTribune.com, that Casey was fired due to mediocre performance by the team. The Associated Press also reported that Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor wasn't happy with the team's performance and wants to see the Timberwolves return to the form that made the Western Conference finalists in 2004. With Casey's departure, Saunders will remain the only coach in the 18 year history of the franchise to last more than two years as head coach, reported the Associated Press.

I feel that the biggest challenge of this article was balancing all of the different viewpoints while maintaining appropriate length. This story has many different pieces to it but the reporter, Jon Krawczynski of the Associated Press, limits the quotes to those made by Kevin McHale. Krawczynski uses a lot of information obtained from other people but only ever quotes McHale. The apparent solution to the number of viewpoints displayed in a story of this nature is to use one point of view to gain insight on all the rest, at least in Krawczynski's eyes.

While StarTribune.com picked up the story from the Associated Press they were not the only media outlet to do so. The story was also picked up by ESPN.com on Tuesday. However, ESPN.com had an interesting spin on the story. Rather than simply printing the entirety of the Associated Press story they added their own interpretation in the lead and opening paragraghs.

Casey lasted less than 1½ seasons in Minnesota in his first head coaching job, unable to solve the Timberwolves' inconsistencies and put them back into the thick of the competitive Western Conference.
"I've been in basketball 29 years, and this is going to be my first time out of basketball," Casey told ESPN.com's Chris Sheridan. "But you understand what you're getting into when you enter this business."
ESPN's Ric Bucher first reported the firing earlier Tuesday.
"I'm not bitter," Casey told Sheridan. "It's a situation where today we're in the playoffs. I'm proud that I've given them a lot of hard days' work and never shortchanged them."

The ESPN.com version of the story covered reactions by Casey himself rather than allowing McHale to speak to the reactions of Casey. The unique spin and introduction done by the ESPN.com article give much more significant background from Casey himself and gives a fuller interpretation of the story. The full Associated Press version as was posted on StarTribune.com gives only limited quotes from McHale while neglecting the personal interest in the story, Casey. While I understand the reservations that a news organization would have with interviewing a recently fired employee I feel that it would answer the majority of the questions that were raised as I read this story.

There was also an entirely different approach taken by the report that was posted on twincities.com the website for the Pioneer Press. The report detailed that Casey had been fired, elaborated slightly, and then began to detail Randy Wittman, interim coach, and the future of the team. This story focused much more on the future of the team not the reactions to Casey's firing.

In my opinion, while I understand that it is important to look at the future of the team, the Pioneer Press rendition of the story failed to capture the importance of relevance of the event. I feel that when a coach gets fired or retires that the story should be about why he/she did so, not where is the team going now. The Star Tribune rendition, or the direct Associated Press version, I felt lacked significant quotes from other members of the organization. I felt that McHale was too heavily quoted in this version and I preferred the version as posted on ESPN.com where the writer, who I must assume as anonymous, reports quotes by Casey himself. I would have really appreciated a story where Randy Wittman was quoted because he will be the coach of this team for the rest of the season. His opinions and ideas regarding his new situation should be expressed. However, I realize now that this story was leaked as the first notice and that many local media outlets were not able to get the story out by the early evening, yet, the ideal story for me would have analyzed the past while considering the future of the Timberwolves.

I felt like the lead of this story was very straight and to the point in the model of an AP style lead. Now, agreed, the question of why Casey was fired was not addressed in the lead but the major areas were all addressed. After reading the lead the reader would know, who was involved, what happened, and when it happened, and where it happened. From these answers the read would be drawn to read on in the story. This lead functions to provide the most key information and get the interest of the reader.