August 7, 2007


I don't have an article to link for this blog but I thought that this correction posted on the Star Tribune's website ( Monday was interesting. The correction states that a graphic that ran in Sunday's paper inaccurately listed two bridges on Highway 52 as being among Minnesota's worst bridges. Both of those bridges have been replaced since the data was collected in 2001. I think that this is a good example of how and why many errors make it into the newspaper. In the wake of a huge news even such as the I35-W bridge collapse, it is easy to cut corners to get the story out quickly. The public's demand for knowledge pushes reporters to work fast and get out all the information they can. Many times, especially in a chaotic situation like the bridge collapse, facts are not double checked. Sometimes, the reporter is not to blame for this because they were given information that was thought to be correct at the time. However, this correction is an example of the more likely scenario, when the reporter is to blame for the situation. Since the data used for the graphic was six years old, it should have been double checked to make sure that the accuracy of the information was still strong.

August 5, 2007

Mexican mother fights deportation

This story from the Chicago Tribune is about a Mexican woman who is fighting deportation by claiming sanctuary inside a Chicago church. I chose the article because it exhibits an alternative structure for a story. This article is a very long profile piece, which gives the author more room to stray from the traditional inverted pyramid format for a news article. However, the author does a great job of working a strong narrative voice into the piece. The article opens much like a book, setting up a particular scene instead of jumping to the point of the story like the inverted pyramid teaches. The author then goes into telling why this scene is important and why this woman is important enough to have a story about her. The author continues the piece by going into the controversy surrounding her tactics for resisting deportation and further into her personal history. I also like how the reporter chooses to highlight the history of some of the key figures that are helping the woman in the story. Although this is a profile, giving the reporter more liberty and time to break the traditional structure for a news article, I still think it is a good example of techniques to use to liven up a story.

July 29, 2007

Chinese sculptor causes uproar

The choice of using a Chinese sculptor to create a statue of Martin Luther King, Jr., is starting to cause an increasingly loud uproar among American critics, the Star Tribune reported Sunday. The Chinese national, Lei Yixin, was chosen over an African-American man, Ed Dwight. Dwight said he was told by the committee in charge of the sculpture that they were going to choose Lei in hopes that China would then contribute millions of dollars to the committee's fundraising efftorts. The statue will stand along Washington, D.C.'s Tidal Basin.

I chose to do this story because it is a good example of the local paper striving to diversify its content. Instead of just leaving diversity for pieces on festivals and ethnic holidays, or (worse) crime reports and immigration laws, the Star Tribune picked up this story from the LA Times that went beyond the news. This story could have stopped after the first section, which explains the current controversy and a little bit about the statue. However, this piece goes further in the next section by focusing in on the sculptor himself. The author tells about Lei's hometown, his upbringing in the communist country and his rebellion against it. The author also chooses to reflect who Lei is today (confident, serene, slightly cocky but understanding, humorous) and his current lifestyle as a "master" artist in China. The third section does a great job of connecting the first two sections in more detail. It is kind of like, this is the news, this is the background, this is how the two fit together. The author does a great job of showing Lei as a human being, with likes and dislikes, fear and confidence, weaknesses and strengths. I think the article goes so far beyond the news and into the person behind it for two reasons. One, the LA Times is in California, one of the most densely Asian-American populated states. They needed to go beyond the news because their audience insists upon it. Closely related is the second reason the author pushed beyond the headline. If the article would have cut off after the first section, it would have seemed anti-Chinese and therefore, not fair. The first section doesn't let Lei speak or the committee who chose him explain their choice, so the first part is slanted towards the critics. By letting Lei show his world and why he thinks he was the right choice, the author achieves diversity, fairness and balance in this piece.

July 22, 2007

The second life of Agent Turner

I don't have a lot to say about the breaking news in this story, because there really is not any. This piece, which ran in Sunday's Pioneer Press (, is a profile of ex-FBI agent Jane Turner. Turner, who was mostly stationed in North Dakota during her career, is most famous for her discrimination lawsuit against the FBI. Turner worked on cases involving crimes against children and, depending on who is speaking of her, she was either one of the FBI's best or worst. She filed an internal complaint on behalf of herself and other female FBI agents, complaining that their sex was affecting their careers. After filing the complaint, Turner went from getting glowing reviews to increasingly negative ones. She was eventually transferred to Minneapolis, to be under closer supervision. After she retired, she sued the FBI for sexual discrimination.

Continue reading "The second life of Agent Turner" »

July 15, 2007

The baby mystery

A 15-year-old St. Paul runaway continues to puzzle authorities and medical experts alike in the case of a missing baby that may have never existed in the first place, the Pioneer Press reported Sunday. A year ago, last July, child-protection workers contacted authorities to locate the runaway, who they thought was past her due date. When police tracked her down, she did not have the child with her and led authorities to a grassy patch next to a freeway, where she said she gave birth. She then changed her story, telling police that she had given birth in the back seat of a car and asked the car's owner to bring the baby to the hospital. When the car was tracked down and searched, and the owner questioned, no baby was found. Then the girl recanted the entire story, saying she had never been pregnant. Medical experts now say that this last story is probably the truth.

I chose to do this story for my extended blog because I really think it highlights the subject of fairness. I never heard about this story when it first came out, so I don't know if this article added any new information to the case. However, if there is new or updated information in the article, I feel as though it was not properly highlighted. Although the article is relatively sensitive in other ways, the lack of timeliness reflects poorly on the fairness of this article. It reads almost as if it was a slow news day and they remembered this story from a year ago, when it was current. Reading the article, I almost felt as if the girl was being paraded in front of the Pioneer Press's readership for entertainment. And this, obviously, is not fair to the minor being used for the article.

July 1, 2007

Officials work to save trailers

Officials in Washington County are working to save the dwindeling number of trailer parks in the upscale suburban county, according to a Sunday article in the Pioneer Press. Programs to subsidize trailer court owners and purchase struggling parks to keep them afloat have sprung up in recent months in Washington County, aimed at keeping low income families out of government subsidize housing and in Washington County. According to the article, a total of 17 parks have closed in Minnesota in the past six years, often because of the soaring land prices in the suburbs.

I chose this article because it deals with the complex numbers and economic situation of the mobile home crisis in a managable and understandable way. There are no graphics accompanying this article, which would have enhanced the trend of the article and made it more easy to digest for visual learners. However, overall, the writer did a good job breaking up the numbers into smaller chunks so they were easier to deal with. For instance, the reporter says that mobile homes are much more affordable than other housing options for low income families, saying they cost, "an average of $60,000 for a new unit, with many used ones available for about $30,000. In Minnesota, the average lot rental is $367 per month." Then, instead of moving right into how much government-subsidised housing costs, the reporter throws in some supportive quotes for the numbers. In this example, Dave Anderson, the director of one of the programs profiled in the article, explains that a mobile home is much cheaper than even a one-bedroom apartment. The reporter uses this structure throughout the article, allowing the numbers to float through and support the writing, not bog the story down.

June 22, 2007

Six Flags closes rides

Six Flags and another company shut down eight more thrill rides Friday after a teenage girl had her feet severed at the ankles on an amusement park ride, Yahoo news reported Friday. The 13-year-old was riding Superman Tower of Power in Louisville, Kentucky. The ride lifts passangers 177 feet into the air and then drops them almost as far at speeds that reach 55 mph. It is still unclear at what point during the ride the injury occured, Six Flags officials said, but state inspectors were investigating the accident. Six Flags shut down similar rides in St. Louis, Illinios and near Washington. There were no reports of injuries on the ride or similar rides before Thursday┬┤s incident. A Swiss company made all the rides that were shut down for inspection.

June 10, 2007

Six found dead in Wisconsin shooting

Six people were found dead in a shooting inside a southern Wisconsin home, the Pioneer Press reported Sunday. Two infant boys were among the dead in what appears to be a case of a domestic dispute that got out of control. A two-year-old girl was found in a nearby van with a gunshot wound to the chest and is currently in critical condition at University of Wisconsin Hospital in Madison. Neighbors in the town of Delavan shrugged off the popping noises as summer fireworks. A male family member who escaped the violence is cooperating with a police investigation. Authorities said they do not think the community is in danger and are working with the witness to figure out the details of the complicated crime scene.

This article is a good example of a hard news story structure. The lede is to-the-point, detailing the who, what, and why. The one thing missing from this article is the nut graph, which sort of exists between talking of the two survivors but is not a complete nut graph because it does not give the where or who is the suspect in the shootings. The article is vauge in whether police believe the father of the children was the shooter or the mother or another present adult. However, the article sticks pretty closely to the inverted pyramid style. The most important information is in the first three paragraphs. Then, the article dives more into speculating why the shootings occured and the status of the investigation. Then, the article rehashes the night in question in more detail, also detailing some of the victims of the shooting. Finally, the article throws in some trivia about the town the shooting occured in, which is not vital to the story and could be cut if space were limited. However, this information makes the town more relevant and gives an idea about the type of setting this crime took place in.

May 26, 2007

Second imposter exposed at Stanford

Stanford University officials are grappling with the discovery of a second imposter among their student body in less than a week, the San Fransisco Gate reported Saturday. The interloper, Elizabeth Okazaki, passed herself off as a member of the Stanford community for months, according to the article. Okazaki reportedly made herself at home in the campus' Varian Physics Laboratory, spending some nights there, using the computers and attending seminars. Students in her graduate-level classes apparently suspected that Okazaki really didn't belong in their classes after having conversations with her about physics and realizing she may not know much about the subject. While questions still abound in the case, University workers said they would not comment on whether she was once an employee at the University, one of the popular rumors among students.

The discovery comes on the heels of the expose of another imposter earlier this week, an 18-year-old Orange County woman who had passed herself off as a freshman for most of the school year. She convinced students to let her room with them for about eight months, according to the Los Angeles Times.

May 20, 2007

Phototherapy offers hope to Amish

This article, by the Associate Press, explains how blue lights are used in Mennonite and Amish communities in Pennsylvania to treat a rare genetic disease. These small and isolated religious groups are forbidden to marry outside of their religion, which severly limits their gene pool. These limitiations have caused a number of extremely rare diseases to occur more frequently than normal in the communities. One of these disease, Crigler-Najjar syndrom, occurs when the body fails to produce an enzyme that breaks down bilirubin, a naturally occuring waste product produced by worn-out red blood cells. The waste builds up in the body and can lead to brain damage and death. There are 110 known cases of this disease in the world and about 35 of them are in the United States. Over 20 are within the Amish and Mennonite communities in Pennsylvania. The article highlights the struggle for these traditional families to chose between traditional, simple living and saving their children's lives. It also discusses the dillema families face to pay for medical treatment because their beliefs forbid them from accepting government assisstance. The article explains the disease in an informative but easy-to-understand, relatable manner.

I chose to highlight this article for my extended blog for two reasons: first, I liked the way the author used the lede to set up the rest of the story; second, the lede is written is such as way that it draws the reader into the piece. The author uses the lede not only to set up the rest of the story factually, laying out what the article will discuss and who the article involves, but it also sets up the tone of the article. The lede is longer than a traditional lede would be, but this is because the author picked a narrative voice to draw the reader into the story. Through description and using a real life example to humanize what could be a rather dry story, the author shows in the lede that this article will be informative but interesting at the same time. The lede also draws the reader into the story by setting up the scene for the article and identifying some of the basic people involved in the story. However, the best device used to draw the reader into the story in the lede is the author's choice to leave the source and purpose of the blue lights a mystery for the reader. The reader does not find out where the blue light is coming from and why these people are using a blue light until they read further into the story.

April 29, 2007

Scotty is beamed up

Kind of a fluff piece, but possibly a growing trend of burial, so to speak. ABC News reported Saturday that James Doohan, famous for his role as Scotty on the "Star Trek" series, was launched into space as part of a private company's endevour to dispose of human remains in space. To clarify, only cremated remains are accepted for the flights. This was the fourth flight for Space Services, Inc. Previous "riders" include "Star Trek" creator Gene Roddenberry, controversial 60's icon Timothy Leary and multiple astronauts, along with hundereds of average joes. According to the Toronto Star, Doohan died in 2005 and his remains have patiently waited almost two years to enter space for the first time.

February 18, 2007

New Mexico uses urinals to stop drunks

New Mexico has purchased about 500 talking urinal cakes in an effort to prevent drunk men from driving, the Pioneer Press reports in an AP piece.

The plastic, motion-sensitive urinal-deoderizer cakes cost $21 each and will be placed in men's restrooms in bars and restaurants around the state.

The cake says, in a female's voice that is fun and flirty at first but grows increasingly stern, "Hey, big guy. Having a few drinks? Think you had one too many? Then it's time to call a cab or call a sober friend for a ride home. Remember, your future is in your hands."

New Mexico authorities hope the unusual tactic will grab the attention of bar and restaurant patrons who may have had one too many drinks. Authorities said the men's restroom was a good place for the message because, unlike women, men don't tend to chat while taking care of business. So they are a captive audience for the 10 to 30 seconds it takes to relieve themselves.

New Mexico has the eighth highest DUI conviction rate in the nation, with men making up 78 percent of those convictions.

January 27, 2007

Winter Carnival gets warm reception

The St. Paul Winter Carnival started this weekend and the Pioneer Press chose to make it a big story. This event is covered in more of a feature or soft news manner because 1) it is on-going and 2) it is annual. The P. Press lede follows suit by focusing on the individual story of a team of snow sculptors and thier Winter Carnival experience. The lede does not reveal much about the story. It makes no mention of the what, the why or the how. The lede does give a who and a when but both of these are very personal and specific references, since it is a feature piece.