Recently in Analysis Category

Analysis: Computer-assisted reporting

by Greta Kaul           

            Computer-assisted reporting gave legitimacy to claims made by a NICAR report conducted by USA Today that found the Army hiring retired generals and admirals with ties to defense contractors.

            Rather than making claims without concrete support, the investigation accessed Army records that found financial records of ties to defense contractors by 80 percent of 158 retired senior mentor generals and admirals.  Where computer skills are concerned, this reporting would require considerable knowledge of the organization of databases, as well as an understanding of how to find connections between things like senior mentors and their financial ties.  The ability to interpret these facts to come to the conclusion is what the credibility of this story depends on, at which the investigation excels.

Analysis: Diversity

            USA Today did a story about a trend in rising Asian-American employment at a time when unemployment has been going up for every other racial group.
             I talked to Steven, an economics student at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, who wants his last name to remain anonymous.  I asked him to read the article.  His impression was that the article didn't make any attempts to go beyond the stereotype.  It stereotyped Asians as better able to cope with the recession because they are "more educated" and retain cultural norms from their home countries that shun unemployment.  By centering the story around Asian stereotypes, and using quotes and anecdotes that support them, it is doing nothing but perpetuating the stereotype, Steven said.  He said he would have liked to have seen another side to the story.

Analysis: Numbers in a story about Medicare cuts

by Greta Kaul

            In a Washinton Post story about cutting Medicare, the reporter writes about a $1.05 trillion reform package and $500 billion in cuts.  These numbers are so large that they're difficult to comprehend, but the reporter had few options.  The numbers given are things people need to know, even if they don't understand the impact that they cause by virtue of the sheer mass of them.
            The reporter makes an increase in national health care spending more understandable by giving the number in the form of a percent: an increase of 1 percent over a decade.  This is easier to understand than a dollar amount would have been in the context for the reader.  The reporter uses different time frames, "$200 billion by 2019," and "Medicare spending per beneficiary would have to grow at roughly half the rate it has over the past two decades...", which makes it hard for the reader to put together, perhaps, as a timeline in their head.
            Most of the numbers come from a government evaluation report, and are cited as such.  Some come from speculation by either the Republicans or Democrats, but are also cited as such.


Analysis: Obituary of Claude Lévi-Strauss

by Greta Kaul

            I looked at the obituary of Claude Lévi-Strauss in the New York Times.  Disregarding a few minor punctuation differences, the lead follows the New York Times obituary formula.  The sources that the writer used were Lévi-Strauss's son, who talked about more personal aspects, anthropology experts, who talked about the importance of Lévi-Strauss's work, and the work of the man himself, which gave the reader an idea of what he did with his life.

            The obituary differs from a resume of Lévi-Strauss because it only talked about important things, for example, if he worked as a bag boy when he was fourteen, the article didn't mention it.  It also backed up the credentials of the deceased with quotes from other people and his own works.  The effect is to tell the reader why he mattered.

Analysis: Speeches

by Greta Kaul

            On October 13th, Governor Pawlenty held a press conference in which he proposed changes to Minnesota's health care system  The reporter who about the press conference for the Star Tribune used the facts, parts of the proposal that Pawlenty outlined from the press release, and quotes.  After establishing what the tenants of Pawlenty's plan were by (presumably) using the facts from the release, the writer of the article used quotes from supporters and opponents in order to give a better-rounded picture of how the proposal would be received by other Minnesota lawmakers.   The facts from the release, however, seemed to be the groundwork for the story.

Multimedia Analysis: The New York Times vs. Salon

by Greta Kaul

            It is immediately clear on the New York Times' website that they put an emphasis on using multimedia to complement their news stories.  Many of the stories on the main page are complemented by either audio or video.  There is also many slideshows that accompany stories, and a tab for video at the top of the main page.  These features show readers (watchers, listeners), what's happening as well as telling them in the traditional text/visual way of a newspaper.   The kind of writing you see on the slideshows and with the videos are shorter, more summarizing captions.

            Salon, on the other hand, emphasizes the textual aspect of stories.  The only prominent multimedia feature is a podcast section, apart from the pictures that accompany news stories.  I find this interesting because I think that the New York Times and Salon have a lot of reader overlap.  Both tend to have longer, more in-depth stories, however, the New York Times' stories are often complemented by multimedia feature that tells or adds to the story in visual or audio terms.

Analysis: Spot and Follows

            The Associated Press ran a breaking news story about a crash between a school bus carrying the Ely High School football team and a car at 6:38 p.m. Friday, about three hours after the crash took place.  The story was very bare-bones, lacking identification of the girl who died in the crash, as well as those of other passengers.  At the end, the AP notes, "Details on how the accident happened weren't immediately available."
             At 11:55 p.m., the AP ran the story again, updated with how the crash happened and identification and conditions of the girls in the car, including the one who died.  This advances the story by giving the community the details that they were probably clamoring for after reading the first issue of the story, especially because Ely is a small town, and the accident is likely to have a big effect on the community.  The only changes to the lead were the addition of the word "fatal" to crash, and a fairly insignificant change from the world "led" to "forced" in regard to officials canceling Ely High School's  homecoming.  The story was not a response to a report from a competing news organization.

Analysis: Structure in a National Parks piece

by Greta Kaul

            The USA Today's story about climate change in the National Parks began with the frank statement, "Human disruption of the climate is the greatest threat ever to the USA's national parks."  From there, it continued to pummel the reader, martini glass-style, with shocking facts about the severity of the climate change situation in the parks.  The most compelling facts sit near the top, and once they ran out, the reporter bolstered them with quotes, examples, and lesser facts.

            The martini glass approach was effective for this article because it gave the reader reason for concern, then brought in examples and quotes from experts and people in close contact with the situation to make more of an emotional appeal for the parks.  The USA Today article had a very different approach than the feature story in the Christian Science Monitor on the same topic, which had most of the same information but used more storytelling.  The USA today article could have done it this way if it had more space or was looking for more of a feature story.  As a news piece, I think it was well-written as it was.

Analysis: Attribution in a story about bin Laden tape

A CNN report about Thursday's message from Osama bin Laden to Germany featured two sources.  The first was the recorded message itself, where most of the information in the story came from.  The second was Stefan Paris, a spokesman for the German Interior Ministry.

Each source dominated a specific part of the article in a logical manner.  When the author was giving an overview of bin Laden's message, he used bin Laden's tape recording as a source of information.  When the author shifted focus from the specifics of the message to Germany's response, the spokesman for the German Interior Ministry became the main source.  The attribution of each source is clearly stated because both sources are well-introduced.  Quotes are frequently used, so it is clear where the information is coming from.

Analysis: Lead in a health care rally story

by Greta Kaul

Could Minnesota be the next Saskatchewan in the single-payer health care movement?

The possibility was raised Wednesday during the two-hour Mad As Hell Doctors rally in the state Capitol rotunda.  (MinnPost 17 Sept. 2009)

    The lead in this story about a Mad As Hell Doctors rally in St. Paul answered the who, what, where, and when of a hard news lead without going into detail.  It identified Mad As Hell Doctors as the rally holders (who), as well as the date and duration (when), and location (where) of the event (what).  Despite not being advisable, the use of a question in the lead for this story was effective.  American health care reform is a contentious issue now.  By suggesting the possibility of United States health care reform based on Canada's, which is  highly stigmatized in the United States, the reader is probably shocked enough to read on and use the information in the story to answer the question for themselves.

    The story lent itself to allowing the reader to answer the question "Could Minnesota be the next Saskatchewan?" for themselves.  It gave information about the legislation Mad As Hell Doctors wanted to pass, and provided quotes that told supporters what they could do to help.  Altogether, the article gave the reader a well-rounded background from which to form their own opinion.