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May 2, 2008

Analysis on records/CAR

Find a story where the reporter used computer-assisted reporting. If this isn't obvious, or you can't find one, pick a story from www.nicar.org's Extra! Extra! link. Write about the records and analysis used to produce the story. What computer skills did the reporter need to do this reporting?

I found a story about con-artist Cindy McKay at The Baltimore Sun's Web site. The 52-year-old woman was recently indicted on charges of first-degree murder. Throughout her life she committed many more crimes, including stealing thousands of dollars all over the Northeast region of the United States. The story uses CAR in detailing the places that McKay took advantage of. The site has an interactive map of McKay's trail of crimes. In order to create this map, the reporter would need to have map detailing experience, as well as knowledge of a spreadsheet program to create a layout of McKay's crimes. There is also a type of slideshow to go along with the map, which you can get to by clicking on certain locations of crimes committed. This would call for some type of slideshow program, such as SoundSlides.

April 10, 2008

Analysis on diversity

Find a news story about a culturally or racially diverse group or about an issue involving cultural, ethnic or racial diversity. Does the report move beyond stereotype into something more substantive? How? Does the story tell you something you didn't know? What? And how does the story do that - through quotes, data, and observation?

I found a news story entitled "Obama inspires black Minnesotans," at MPR . The report talks about the implications having a potential black president are, and what black Minnesotans have to say on the matter. I think that the story does move beyond stereotypes, because it gathers opinions from many people , all who have something new to say about Obama and black people in Minnesota. It digs deeper than the obvious, for example it includes a quote about how Obama makes a great role model for black children, "representing a path to success through education and working within in the system, instead of fighting against it." I learned that some people do not consider Barack Obama to be a black man, because of where he is from. The story informs readers of new information through using a wide range of people surveyed and interviewed. Thorough reporting was done on gathering information about the attitudes of black Minnesotans and the 2008 presidential race.

April 1, 2008

Analysis on number use

Find a news story that uses numbers in at least three ways. How has the reporter used numbers to tell the story? Are the numbers overwhelming? If so, how could the reporter have made it easier to grasp? Did the reporter use math to crunch numbers and tell the story more effectively? What are the sources of those numbers? Are they listed completely?

I found a news story from April 1, 2008, that uses numbers in three ways at The Journal News, a news company in New York. The article is about Major League Baseball salaries. The reporter uses the percentages of baseball salaries to illuminate how much players are making currently, how much these salaries compare to last year, and how the salaries compare between teams and players. The numbers are a little overwhelming when the author uses percentages to compare the players' salaries. Three different percentage numbers are brought up in the same sentence. This could be cleared up by statements such as, "Overall, the average player’s salary rose 22 percent in Major League Baseball in the past four years," or "The overall salary of the New York Mets has risen 5 percent faster than the overall salary of the New York Yankees." Math was used to crunch the numbers, because percentage and percentage points are given rather than straight numerals or a list of salaries, which does help to tell the story more effectively. The sources are USA Today and the Major League Baseball Players Association. They are listed completely.

March 25, 2008

Analysis on obits

Look at a news obituary -- not a paid death notice, but an obituary written by a reporter about the death of someone notable in the community. What sources are used? Does it have a standard obituary lead or an alternative? Does that lead work? How does the obit differ from a resume?

The news obituary for a former Ohio state Sen. Howard Metzenbaum was found at the Washington Post. The only source mentioned is the senator's former chief of staff, Joel Johnson. It has a mostly standard obituary lead because it starts with the title and name of the person, a notable characteristic, when he died (but the where is stated in the next paragraph), and the next sentence is his age. "Former senator Howard Metzenbaum, an Ohio Democrat who was a feisty self-made millionaire before he began a long career fighting big business in the Senate, died late yesterday. He was 90," the article says. The lead works because the notable characteristic is interesting and is more than just "he was a senator that died." It differs from a resume because this notable characteristic is not something to put on a resume. His background information is not dry or list-like, rather its points out notable facts in his lifetime and what he came to be known for as a member of the Senate and as a person.

February 28, 2008

Event Coverage

Find a news report that advances some event - an exhibit, a movie opening, a festival. What are the sources used in the story? What is the angle of the story? How has the reporter crafted something more than a listing?

The advance I found is for a movie premiere, found at Variety. It promoting the release of the new Indian Jones film, "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" at the Cannes Film Festival on May 18. The authors seem to be fans of Steven Spielberg, as they talk about him with an air of praise. This is the main angle of their story - that Spielberg will "grace" the Cannes Film Festival with his presence. The source used is Baseline Studio Systems, which provides background information on Spielberg, actors in the film, and the Cannes Film Festival. This is more than a listing for the movie premiere, because it takes a position and stays with it. It adds detail about Spielberg's genius as a film maker and how honored the authors are that he will be at the Festival. This is more than a cut-and-dry listing, as it adds flavor in about the movie director's high status in the filmmaking community.

Meeting/press conference

Find a news report about a public meeting or a press conference by a governmental organization. If it was a meeting, get the agenda. If it was a press conference, get the press release. Compare the news report with either the agenda or the press release. What choices did the reporter make in crafting that news story?

A press release from the Office of Management and Budget about their citizen's guide to the financial report in the U.S. government was made on February 14, 2008, found at the OMB website, White House.gov TAHOCO, an online site, found at TAHOCO, which writes news stories focusing on government action, wrote a story about the citizen's guide. The press release calls the guide a " user-friendly reference tool," and also calls problems within the government "challenges." The reporter that wrote the news release uses a matter-of-fact tone, and neither praises nor condemns the government's actions. They use facts from the press release, such as when the guide was released and what it will entail, but does not use the language or tone of the release.

February 24, 2008

Spot and follows

Look at a news event that has a first-day story and then a follow story the next day. How od the leads in the two stories differ? How is the main news summarized? How does the second story advance the news? Is the second-day story a response to a report from a competing news organization? How has that shaped the follow?

The news stories about who is to replace Fidel Castro as the Cuban leader slowly developed. One story is about an "expected" leader, and the next is from the following day, announcing that Raul Castro will take over. The first is at KXMC , a news station, and it was written on February 23rd. The next is at CNN , and was written about a day later. The leads in the story differ in that the first one says that it is "expected" that Raul Castro will lead Cuban, and the second states definitively that Castro's brother will now reign. The exact wording for the first is, "Raul Castro is expected to be appointed the new leader of Cuba by the country's parliament today." KXMC The second's exact words are, "Fidel Castro's nearly five decades of rule ended Sunday when Cuba's National Assembly chose his younger brother Raul to be the country's new president." CNN The first story does not include random facts other than that Raul will most likely be the new leader, while the second added in more facts pertinent to the story. It thus has more room to advance the story and include more facts, being that it is certain Raul will take over. CNN is a competitor for many news stations, and it is usually very timely, so it could be considered competition for any news station, or at least a standard to live up to. This shapes their follows so that they have more facts and attention grabbing information for the reader.


February 14, 2008

Structure

Analyze the progression of information in a news story. How has the reporter summarized the important elements? How has the reporter ordered the information? Why? Is it effective? Could it have been done differently How?


The news story "Fossils of new meat-eating dinos found," at News Times, has an interesting structure. There is a lot of detailed information on the subject, a discovery of fossils in Africa, and therefore a lot of the facts had to be sorted through and chosen for greatest importance. The lead says that archaeologists found two carnivorous dinosaurs in Africa. This is the most important information, and it is therefore effectively structured. Next the reporter identifies the source, a journal of a fossil-hunter that made the discovery, and says what the dinosaurs are named and what they looked like while alive. This is important information as well, because it is one of the biggest questions that the reader would have after hearing the lead. The next information is about the what the dinosaurs mean to the scientific community and to understanding life 100 million years ago. These are also effectively structured because they are relevant addresses to questions readers would have.

Although the structure is quite effective, as a reader I thought it could have included more information on the paleontologists who discovered the dinosaurs. I knew nothing about the dig site in Africa, and that could have been useful information to know.

February 9, 2008

Attribution

In the story, "2 more Bhutto assassination suspects arrested," found on MSNBC, at least 6 sources are mentioned. These include Pakistani police, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry of Pakistan, U.S. officials, militant representatives from Pakistan, a spokesman for the British High Commission, and an assignment editor for a private TV news station.

The sources are mentioned paragraph by paragraph, clustered together. The information comes from people, such as Pakistani officials who were involved in the arrest of the suspects. Police reports or other documents are not mentioned. The attribution is set up in a clear and informative manner. The sources are given one by one, and most often are mentioned after the important information is given to the reader. This happens especially at the beginning of the article. Sources are mentioned before the information at the end of the article, because the "who" of the story becomes more important than the "what." This is effective in showing what the most important information is in the article, and it shows the reader how the reporter knows what they know.

February 4, 2008

Lead in the Clinton Story

The lead, "Hillary Rodham Clinton challenged her opponent for the Democratic presidential nomination on the environment, health care and foreign policy during a stop Sunday at Augsburg College in Minneapolis, where she appealed to young people to share her vision of an America with "limitless possibility," was written by Pat Doyle in the Star Tribune, in his report on the Clinton rally at Augsburg College on Sunday.

The news elements are the "who": Hillary Rodham Clinton, the "what": "challenged her opponent," the "when": Sunday, the "where": Augsburg College, the "why": "appealed to young people to share her vision...", and the "how": "(on the environment, health care and foreign policy) during a stop." Detailed are the issues that the candidate mentioned in her speech: "the environment, health care and foreign policy." These are emphasized in order to draw the reader into the article, using issues that many people care about. It is also detailed that she "appealed to young people," to show Clinton's purpose in choosing Augsburg College as a place to deliver her speech. What is generalized, however, is how Clinton challenged her opponent. It is not said why, or how, it simply states that she challenged Obama. This may be to keep the focus on Clinton and her striving to appeal to the youth vote, rather than on Obama's stance on the issues or his appeal to young voters.

The lead is not a standard and straightforward hard-news lead, for it begins with the "who" element, but proceeds to give many other elements, and goes into special detail on the "how" when it states the issues that Clinton mentioned in her speech. The reporter may have chosen this approach in order to bring the article's focus to the election's most pressing issues, and subsequently the reader's greatest interests. The lead also details the "why" of the story: Clinton spoke at Augsburg College in order to appeal to young voters. This may have been done in order to show one of the challenges that faces Clinton in the upcoming election - securing the youth vote.