May 6, 2007

Coon Rapids abductor

Some of the unecessary one-liners made in the Pioneer Press article on the Coon Rapids abductor sounded cliche: "The stranger may have been no stranger at all", and editorialized: "Cops closed in fast."
I did find a way to attribute and describe charges, when reporting on crime cases. This reminds me of some of the labs we had to do and many of us didn't know how to attribute or report charges/arrests. This is how this story handled it:"He is being held in the Anoka County Jail pending a court hearing Monday or Tuesday to determine bail. He has not been charged, although charges could come as early as today from Anoka County prosecutors.
"We're very confident we have the correct guy, and we're confident the charges will hold," said Coon Rapids Police Sgt. Tom Hawley." The author also found and used tax records to show who lived in the house with the accused.
The Star Tribune's lead was much stronger and was attributed:"Once reports came in that a stranger had abducted and assaulted a 12-year-old girl Friday on her way to her school bus stop, just about every Coon Rapids police staffer, along with several Anoka County sheriff's officials and a State Patrol helicopter crew, began trying to track down the suspect, said Sgt. Tom Hawley." Throughout the story they also were more concise and got more to the point with the facts.

France's New President

The New York Times' use of numbers did a good job of showing what a close win France's new president Nicolas Sarkozy made over his competitor Segolene Royal. They also effectively gave background details, like how long the French presidential term is, what his responsibilities are, and when he will take over, without ruining the flow of the story. The author of the piece did a good job of predicting future outcomes of Sarkozy's presidency by talking about all the riots that took place by different groups after he was voted in. It seems France is being divided between the rich and the old, and the poor and the young because of this newly-elected conservative. To make this story more applicable to the U.S, they mentioned how Sarkozy is more pro-American than other French presidents have been.
The Star Tribune had a little blurb about the election and it seemed to favor Sarkozy, saying he was polite and didn't rise to Socialist Segolene Royal's baiting.

FIRE

The Star Tribune's piece on the wildfire in N.E Minnesota that required a mandatory evacuation, had a great lead that included the what, when, and where all included. However, the only quotes in the story were made by a Grand Rapids Interagency Fire Center Spokesman. I would have liked to hear the more human side of the story by the residents who were actually evacuated. The Pioneer Press' lead included attribution, the what, where and why. The Pioneer Press blurb reported a firefighter injury but the Star Tribune claimed that no injuries had been reported--the stories were reported on the same day.

Poisoned Medicine

The New York Times' story "From China to Panama, a trail of poison medicine" was about counterfeiters who profit by substituting a poisonous solvent for a safe, more expensive syrup. The lead was superb: "The kidneys fail first. Then the central nervous system begins to misfire. Paralysis spreads, making breathing difficult, then often impossible without assistance. In the end, most victims die. Many of them are children, poisoned at the hands of their unsuspecting parents." This lead really drew me in and made me want to read more. By running this story the Times exposed a deadly coverup and shipping negligence. They discovered that the manufacturer of certain pharmaceuticals were not even authorized to be doing so. They also outted China's poor safety regulations. The bigger picture of global trade was captured very well in this piece. It had a lot of background info. and was well-researched.

Spelling bee whiz in U.S. motel room, parents in Bihar Village

The New York Times and the Indian Express published articles about a 13-year-old spelling whiz who lives in Utah, and whose parents were sent back to India after being denied political asylum. The Times' lead was a bit misleading though:"Great spellers come in all types, from egotistical showoffs to loners who find sanctuary in the forest of words." The fact that the kid was using his national spelling fame in efforts to draw attention to his parents' case was present in the story, but it wasn't important enough to start out with this in the lead. They went into detail about the legal situation and background of the parents. They also talked about the racial and anti-immigrant descrimination the family faced in the small Utah town. This was a very well-rounded and touching story and hopefully it will help bring the family back together. This is what journalism is all about. It's too bad no other paper decided to take up this or a similar story.

May 4, 2007

Journalism

The mission of journalism is to get the news out to the people. It's goal is to be accurate, fair, and unbiased. I realized how much I dislike news writing. I think people's opinions and views, whether I agree with them or not, is what makes people human, and that's what I want to see in someone's writing. Maybe this is why I'm more drawn to editorials and features than typical news stories. Another thing I don't like is that journalists dumb things down for the masses. I think part of a journalist's job is to raise the bar and expect more from the general public. Translating things into "common man" terms seems condescending. I think if journalism continues to dumb down "for the sake of" its audience, we'll have a country of idiots. I want to also hear the writers voice. I don't just want facts thrown at me. It seems cold and distant. I am educated enough to have my own views about issues and a reporter's two cents will not sway me. I just want to know there's someone behind the scenes of the story I'm reading. Journalism needs to dig deeper--especially local papers. So much of local news is crime and soft news. I look to the media to take me out of the local area. I was drawn to journalism because I thought I would be able to make a change regarding certain issues and have my voice heard. Newswriting stifled my voice. I don't want to be balanced; I want my opinions to be made known. I think a lot of people feel this way and that's why blogs have become so popular and, I believe, will continue to grow.

April 29, 2007

Material Girls

The New York Times published a disturbing article entitled, "Tweens R Shoppers," which explored the buying power of young girls. The pictures were enough to make me gag: 9-11-yr.-old girls dressed like 20-somethings with pouty lips, clutching Abercrombie bags, admiring jewelry at the Juicy Couture counter. The only brand name I knew at that age was Chuck E. Cheese! The story followed the shopping trip of a fashionista mother, her spoiled daughter and rich friends. They mentioned a completely irrelevant poll about the materialistic tendencies of 18-25 yr. olds and included a quote from some marketing specialist saying how mothers bond with their daughters through shopping and by doing so are helping to mold sophisticated and informed buyers. Are you kidding me?! Whatever happened to mothers teaching their kids values like, oh I don't know, kindness/compassion/it's what's on the inside that counts? Apparently it's more important that young girls be popular and wear the latest brand names. This story's light-hearted tone offended me and they didn't even go into to how inappropriate and sad this phenomenon is. Do these people realize that it's not tween buying power at all but the parents' buying power? This trend is sadly supported by parents who think it's ok to buy their kids' love and marketers who feed off of that. I didn't find another story like this in any other paper--thank god.

Democracy in Nigeria

Both the Washington Post and the New York Times did stories on Nigeria's troubled presidential elections. The Post focused more on the fraud aspect while the Times had much more well-rounded coverage. Not only did they talk about the fraudulent elections, but they talked about democracy in Africa in general. They mentioned the outcomes of polls rating Nigerian's satisfaction with their democracy. They also compared Nigeria to other African countries. The Post said the elections did not meet international standards, but I think it was more important to keep the story relative to Africa. So what if they don't meet Western standards; that's beside the point. The Times successfully examined the underlying problems that are being caused by faulty democracy. They had better use of quotes, polls, and research studies.

April 15, 2007

Suicide Car Bombers

The Observer (U.K) and The N.Y Times did pieces on a suicide car bombing in Baghdad. The Times was much more accurate with numbers in the lead and throughout the story. Also, they included attribution in the lead, unlike the Observer. The Times also made good use of witness testimony. The Observer chose an angle that focused on a U.N perspective, while The Times showed a strong focus on al-Qaeda. The pictures in the Times were also more effective because they showed the wreckage and wounded, crying people. The Observer just showed a car ablaze.

Don Imus' Potty Mouth

Both the Pioneer Press and The Observer (U.K) included pieces on the firing of shock jock Don Imus after his "nappy headed hos" comment. The Observer provided much better context to what happened. They mentioned that Imus was equally offensive/racist/ethnocentric against all groups but by directing that ignorance towards some innocent college girls was the last straw. The Observer's lead, although showing the opinion of the author, was funny and very effective: "Don Imus is so unpleasant that he is one of the few people in New York who is
licensed to carry a handgun for his own protection." Pioneer Press ended their story with a crack from Imus which I didn't find amusing--hasn't he said enough already? The Observer ended with a quote from Rudy Giuliani saying that Imus made a big mistake--much better ending.
The U.S is so big on free speech, but look at what that can lead to. By allowing ignorant shock jocks to stay on the air making their racist comments for the sake of ratings, it is as if we're stuck in the past--people need to educate themselves and stop buying into what some 60-yr.-old bitter white man spews out on the radio.

Agenda for Minneapolis City Council

I went to the Minnesota government website to get the agenda for a City Council meeting on April 17th. It was difficult to find a published full-length agenda packet. I mostly found agendas that were published from past meetings or minutes. Very few elaborated on what would be discussed in the actual meeting. After doing general searches I just went straight to the Minnesota government website and found the Community Development Committee Agenda. This agenda packet was the most organized one that I found. The categories it listed were: Public Hearings, Joint Public Hearing With Mpls. Community Development Agency Operating Committee, Conset Items, Discussion Items, and Recieve and File Items. Under each category was a detailed description of what would be discussed. This meeting will mostly concern neighborhood revitalization and housing initiatives. There were also staff report links which provided further information on the topics.

April 7, 2007

Displacement of a cultural asset

The Strib did a piece similar to our last diversity lab. It talked about how the Somali Cultural Center/Mosque is going to be bulldozed in order to make space for a parking lot. There was good color but wasn't as rich in detail. It did a good job of showing what a loss this will be to the community. A proposed apartment complex is going in the space but the article didn't mention what group of people these apartments will be geared to--Somalis?
The article did go off on a tangent about past land disputes in the same spot. This part didn't fit because the main newsworthy and interesting part about this piece was not the bulldozing of a building but of a cultural asset.

March 29, 2007

Muslims in Minnesota

Minnesota is home to an estimated 150,000 Muslims. Minnesota elected a Muslim congressman this past year. The number of Muslims filing federal complaints about being targeted at work because of their faith has climbed in the past year. The U.S is engaged in war with a Muslim country. Muslims and the issues concerning them are central to our society and in the media recently but not a lot is mentioned in a local perspective. I would like to see a profile-type story done on the Muslim experience in Minnesota. But it should not only be from the Somali perspective. There are Pakistani, Bosnian, and converted Muslims for example as well who would all have a different story to tell. Since this is a Christian nation, I would like to address the issues of discrimination in workplaces, housing, and lack of accomodation--time to pray five times a day, for example. But I do vaguely remember hearing something about a housing project that had prayer rooms in the layout of the houses...Also something should be mentioned of the difficulty it is in retaining religious values when not in a Muslim society.
Islamic Cultural Community Center (Dr. Farok Assamarai): 612-782-3883
Muslim American Society of Minnesota (Khalid Elmesry): 651-494-7134
Sami Khawaja (president of Muslim Student Association at U of M): khawa0006@umn.edu

Asbestos in the Iron Range

The Strib did a story on asbesto-linked cancer cases in miners in the Iron Range. The same number (35 cases of cancer) was used twice throughout the story which I thought was repetetive and a bad use of numbers. Also, the numbers used did not make the piece seem very newsworthy: " In a study nearly four years ago, state researchers identified 17 diagnosed cases of mesothelioma in a group of 72,000 people who worked in Minnesota's iron mining industry between the 1930s and 1982." To me this is not very much, especially considering that two studies totaling in over $1 million will be federally funded in order to assess the health risks associated with airborne mineral fragments. A different angle should have been taken in order to make the topic more newsworthy.

March 24, 2007

3 Killings in St. Paul

The Star Tribune did a piece on the recent shooting of two adults and one teen in St. Paul. The use of irony in the lead was very attention-grabbing. It mentioned a quote made by the teen who had written a piece for her highschool paper recently saying that "Nobody is safe" in regards to rapists at large in St. Paul. In the next paragraph it said she was shot dead in her home. The use of quotes, however, was weak. The surviving 10-year-old daughter was quoted too many times and I wouldn't think of a child's account as very credible. They also quoted a friend of the family who said that the surviving children "are traumatized." No kidding. A quote by a City Councilmember also did not sound very reassuring: "We’re just scratching our heads about how this could have happened." Two journalists worked on this piece, you would think two heads would be better than one. Apparently not in this case.