February 2010 Archives

JOUR 3102 Content Analysis #5

1. Compare a Web site for a national news organization with that of a local news organization.  How does the content differ?  How much national material is on the "local" Web site?  How much local content is on the "national" Web site?  If you could only view one, which one of the two would you go to for the news you'd want to know, and why?

2.  Analyze a Web site for a local television station or newspaper, looking at aesthetic and ethical issue.  For each, make a list of what each does well and what YOU would do differently based upon what you learned from your chapter 9 reading.

            The Web sites of National and Minnesota Public radios are an interesting comparison, because MPR gets most of its national content from NPR. I've found that while MPR is mostly local content, it makes the effort to cover important national stories--the same ones that make headlines on NPR--from a Minnesota point of view wherever possible. For example, the Toyota recall is one of the big stories on both pages, but MPR's story focuses on a local man who will be cleared of murder charges if he can prove that his deadly car accident was the fault of his Toyota vehicle. The health care summit is big news on both pages, but MPR put a Minnesota-related General Assistance Medical Care story side-by-side, in order to report the close-to-home Minnesota angle of the health care happenings.
Since nothing of national note has happened in Minnesota today, it's not surprising that there is no local material on NPR's Web site. In a graceful balance, MPR does a good job of reporting both the national news and what it means for its own audience by putting a Minnesota focus on many national events or nearby to subsidize it. If I could view only one of these sites, I would look at MPR because it reports the local, the national and sometimes the local component of the national stories.
            MinnPost seems to have its aesthetics down pat. The color scheme--Minnesota maroon and gold--is consistent throughout. With the news site's adherence to colors, ads stick out enough that the viewer can instantly identify them as ads and ignore them at will--which is nice. It doesn't seem like the site is enslaved by its ads, like some of the local newspaper sites, (I've often had trouble locating the search bar under a mountain of ads on the Pioneer Press site). The font is big enough and spaced enough that each headline and the summary of the story is easily accessed by the viewer's eyes. One thing I find interesting about the setup of site is that they went with the blog format--the viewer does a lot of scrolling to see the front page. When MinnPost was created, I feel like this was something of a gamble, but now that so many people get their news from blogs and the Internet, it has probably become a non-issue. Consistent with its blog layout, the site relies more on blogs--the news cloaked in opinion--to deliver its wares. As long as readers understand this, I don't feel like it's an ethical concern, but if people think there aren't biases, they have a problem.  
            If I were in charge of MinnPost, I would keep the aesthetics. I would make it clearer when news items were written through the lens of opinion, however.

JOUR 3102 Content Analysis #4

1.  Stress the visual: (provide and discuss example of how reporter used weaved sight and sound together; did it work? why or why not?)
2.  Stress the moment: (provide and discuss example of how  the reporter uses broadcast writing style to achieve this principle; could it have been done better? if so, how?)
3.  Stress the simple: (provide and discuss example of what the reporter did to use this principle to help the viewer process the information in the story) 

February 17, 2010--5 p.m. newscast
John Croman
Union Depot Renovation

1. The package was centered on a press conference given by St. Paul city officials, because funding has been approved for the renovation of the historic Union Depot to be used as a hub for light rail transit. Therefore, much of the audio came from talking heads. A few outdoor shots of Union Depot were complemented by natural car sounds that made it clear that the depot is in the heart of the city. Given the tighter shot the station used, the depot's locale may not have been otherwise apparent to unfamiliar viewers. The camera's pan of the city's on-paper renovation diagrams was an effective way to show viewers exactly what would happen to the depot. Later, Cronon appears with toy train cars from "Thomas the Tank Engine" imitating various political arguments about the financing of the renovation. Quite frankly, this looks both sloppy and unprofessional. His child's play detracts from the apparent news value of the story and makes WCCO look less credible.

2. Though the plans to renovate the depot and the press conference had happened that day, the nature of this story didn't lend itself to "live and breaking news," because the Union Depot renovations won't be complete for years to come. The impact of the story lies more in the fact that a historic building will function as a hub for 21st century transit. I don't think this could have been made to look much more urgent, but I think a tighter story (see response to part three) would have made it look like a much more important news for the city of St. Paul.

3. An inverted pyramid style summary of the important facts of the renovation and a short history of Union Depot that followed a simple chronology were understandable on the whole. But Croman took the reins, and his breakdown of political arguments using toy train cars went too far to simplify the story for the viewer--making the fact that the renovation's funding look like a joke. Though the fact that there was debate was important, the story could have been more effective with a reporter that told the facts without getting into the politics--or the toy trains.

A simple assessment of the history of Union Depot, the renovations' funding, the subsequent press conference, and the outcome would have been less of an embarrassment. Furthermore, it was detrimental to the viewers' processing of the story--a viewer might think they know all about this project, when in fact, they have seen an oversimplification. If it had stuck with "just the facts," this package would have also taken less time (it ran at two minutes long), and made WCCO look more credible as a news organization.

JOUR 3102 Content Analysis #3

1. Watch a TV newscast and then find the same story in the day's
national newspaper (New York TImes, USA Today). What differences do you
find in the use of names, attribution and other details? How does the
lead differ? Can you find a nut graf in either one?  Be sure to tell me which newscast and provide a text link to the national newspaper article.
1. Watch a TV newscast and then find the same story in the day's
national newspaper (New York TImes, USA Today). What differences do you
find in the use of names, attribution and other details? How does the
lead differ? Can you find a nut graf in either one?  Be sure to tell me which newscast and provide a text link to the national newspaper article.

            Michelle Obama is spearheading a campaign to end childhood obesity that includes an executive order committed to the campaign, signed on Tuesday.  The New York Times and  the 5 p.m. WCCO News both covered the story.

            The bulk of both stories' quotes came from from a "Let's Move" campaign press conference held by Michelle Obama.  While the New York Times did not explicitly say this, the quotes that appeared in their stories were the same ones run on WCCO.  As attribution goes, The New York Times had more of it because it had some history on the issue as well as policy details.  For WCCO, the main news event was the signage of the act itself, and not the background information that appeared in the New York Times.

            The lead in the WCCO broadcast could be considered a bare-bones version of the one in the New York Times.  Where WCCO announced the who/what/where/when quickly, the New York Times added some of the specifics--what would happen as a result of the executive order.

            The second graf in the print story is clearly the nut graf--it ties together the Michelle Obama star power aspect and the childhood obesity issue as it relates to the act.  In doing so, it tells the reader exactly what happened and why it's important.  The second thing WCCO anchor said had the same effect.  A shot of the signing of the act played over the anchor's voice, showing the viewer what happened.  I'm not surprised that their nut graf techniques were similar because it was highly effective.

JOUR 3102 Content Analysis #2

1. Take a story from the Star Tribune, Pioneer Press or a local TV report
within the last week about a government or civic issue. Now, put
yourself in the position of a multimedia reporter. What parts of the
story would like to actually see? Hear? Read more about?

2. Outline those multimedia elements you believe increase your desire to see, hear, or read more about something. For instance, do you need a map to be able to tell where something is? Do you want to see or
hear those angry neighbors protesting a tax increase? Do you want
to actually read the parking law the city now says it will vigorously

3. Identify a concept in Chapter 2 the author says that you agree or disagree with and then explain why you do or don't agree with it.


            The Star Tribune's Wednesday cover story was emphasized the personal loss of General Assistance Medical Care (GAMC) in profiles of low-income Minnesotans who will be switched to MinnesotaCare, a plan with caps on coverage and insurance premiums, on March 31.

            The story worked well in print. It put the reader in the place of the retired concrete worker and low-income cancer victim that it profiled with pictures and quotes, supplementing these personal aspects with the policy information that the reader needed to know to get a better understanding of the story.  In my opinion, however, the story could have packed more punches in broadcast.

            A major disadvantage of print is that, while the stories of these people are very compelling and well-told in the paper, it would effect me more to be able to step into the context of their situation by seeing their conditions first hand--the shelters and the subsidized housing, rather than reading about it.  I want to hear them tell their story to me--reading about is more like learning it through a mediator.  That's why I think this story would lend itself well to broadcast.

            I think that an unfortunate aspect about seeing this in broadcast would be the loss of some of the policy aspects.  For this reason, I think the ideal multimedia package for this story is an online article with videos of the interviews.  It could retain its informative aspects while giving people a personal context of the people who were profiled.

            I like it when multimedia news outlets supplement their stories with documents that increase my understanding of the issue at hand.  In the case of this story, the Star Tribune's website has a summary of notable GAMC facts in the sidebar to the right of the story.  After I read the story, this gave me a quick summary of its underpinnings.  

            I agree with the textbook authors that with the advent of online journalism, good graphics are becoming more important.  I agree that simplicity, clear attribution and the ability to stand alone are important components of story-accompanying graphics in order to boil down the important information for the readers.  Sometimes there seem to be graphics in stories that take more time to interpret than reading the story itself.  

JOUR 3102 Content Analysis #1

1. Look at how the same story is covered in your local newspaper, on a
local television newscast, and on the web site of both the newspaper
and the television station. How do these stories differ in depth? How
are visuals used in each medium? Is the Internet just repeating the
content from other media, or does it include unique content?

        The Department of Transportation banned commercial drivers from texting while driving nationally on Tuesday. As a highway user, I'm ecstatic about this development. I'm only disappointed that news outlets didn't raise awareness by making a bigger deal of it--it wouldn't hurt for texting while driving to be banned for all drivers.
            Of all the media channels that I followed the story in, the Star Tribune newspaper had the most comprehensive story. This may have to do with the fact that they didn't have to break the news, having published the story the day after it happened. The Star Tribune's six-graf story included a bit of history on the issue, noting that Obama recently banned government employees from texting while driving, as well as a briefing on Minnesota's texting and driving laws. It balanced quotations from Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood with the American Truck Association's response to the law. This story included a sidebar graphic that highlighted the important statistics, along with a picture of a person texting.
WCCO's news at 5 p.m. Tuesday gave a minute-long snapshot of the story. Because of the nature of broadcast, it is unsurprising that WCCO didn't go into the same detail that the Star Tribune did. Most of the visuals were stock footage of cars and trucks on the highway, but the story also included footage from an interview with the transportation secretary. It contained what I consider to be the most important facts from the Star Tribune's article. At the end, the anchors encouraged viewers to share their thoughts on WCCO's website.
           The Internet sites of both the Star Tribune and WCCO gave stripped-down and repetitive versions of the story. The Tuesday story on the Star Tribune's website, however, added an analogy that I thought would have been poignant in broadcast: that texting while driving at 55 mph is often the equivalent of driving a football field without looking at the road. Neither site makes impressive use of graphics. The Star Tribune's site lacks them, providing only a link to the Transportation Department and a comment box in the way of interactive Web features. WCCO's site has a photo of a cell phone and also allows comments. I'm surprised that the Star Tribune hasn't turned their more comprehensive print-version story into a Web-friendly multimedia story yet.

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