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February 24, 2007

Students and Pot

"6 Chaska students face pot charges" (Strib) started out mentioning the junior high students and their charges and talked about how drug sales and use in this age group has declined over the past decade. Then it talked about possible consequences for the students. It mentioned some impersonal stats but it did not go into what the school is doing to raise awareness or drug programs they have at the junior high level. Then at the end the author mentioned a Washington state couple who was arrested for marijuana possession. This had no other connection to the story except that it involved weed charges. It was an awkward way to end the piece.

February 22, 2007

U.S/Mexico Border

"Tougher Tactics Deter Migrants at U.S Border" (NY Times) started out as if it was going to be a human interest-type news piece but the human qualities got lost later on while explaining changing immigration tactics. "4100, en memoria de los muertos" in La Prensa, although not going into detail about the new fence and guards at the border, kept a more human appeal by referring to the many migrants that lose their lives at the border as "undocumented" rather than "illegals," as does the Times. Using words such as "illegals" is dehumanizing and makes even women and children out to be criminals.

February 21, 2007

Mall Shooting

The New York Times article, "After a Rampage, Trying to Grasp What Led a Son to Kill," buried the most important elements that should have been in the lead: the death of the five victims and the death of the shooter. Instead they said that: "the parents of Sulejman Talovic called the police to report him missing." First of all, unless we heard about the shooting last week, we don't know who Talovic is. It's also not timely because he's not missing; he's dead. The article goes on to emphasize Talovic's life in Bosnia but the most relevant issue, that is not reported on, is what was this 18-year-old kid doing with a 12-gauge shotgun.

February 18, 2007

Children Being Tried as Adults

I didn't care for the lead in the Star Tribune' s article, "Adult prosecution at age 13?" : "Lynn Johnson says a 13-year-old boy who pleaded guilty to killing her 2-year-old daughter, Emily, at a home day care last summer never showed any remorse for his crime. And because Minnesota law doesn't allow a juvenile younger than 14 to stand trial as an adult, she believes he got away with murder." First of all, nobody knows Lynn and Emily Johnson so I don't think it's important to mention their names in the lead. Plus, the emphasis in the article is on this 13-year-old kid. Another aspect that's missing from the piece is any testimony from the parents of the kids who are tried as adults. I do think they did a good job of explaining the complexities of the laws that are in place to deal with crimes of under-age children.

Tourism in Haiti

The New York TImes' "Amid the woe, a Haitian paradise beckons" reminded me of chapter eight in Zinsser's book. He talked about how travel writers need to be able to distinguish for whom they are writing. In parts of this article I felt like I was reading a tour guide manuel. In other parts I felt it was like a news story. They also included a quote that personifies the typical "ugly tourist": "“I don’t want to see poverty,? acknowledged Helen Murphy, 66, of St. Paul, who was shopping in the tourist market one morning. “I’m on vacation. I don’t want to think that these people don’t have enough to eat.? But they don't include any quotes from the locals so that is a whole other angle and perspective of the story that goes missing.

February 12, 2007

Clinton vs. Obama

The New York Times article, "For Clinton and Obama, Different Tests on Iraq," was very pro-Obama. This is obvious from the wording in the very beginning: "Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton was challenged on Iraq from corner to corner of New Hampshire this weekend, while Senator Barack Obama drew cheers in Iowa for his opposition to the war." And at the end they end with two quotes, one that compares Clinton to "flip-flopper" John Kerry and another that says "He (Obama) has the right judgement. He made the right call on Iraq." The article focuses on how, in the beginning, Clinton voted for the war in Iraq and how this may affect her campaign. The article says she REFUSES to use certain language and phrases that she should use but is not using. I think this is irrelevant because she, as well as a lot of people in the country, supported the war at first and she does say that she would not vote that way again. The article doesn't mention past decisions Obama has made and now regrets. The article chooses to focus on this point against Clinton but does not talk about other important policies that are being debated.

February 8, 2007

Guns for Self Defense

The Star Tribune's article, "When intruder enters, what is your best move?" was about the Minnesota law allowing residents to use deadly force if confronted with the threat of death. This was the lead, which I thought was terrible: "Joanie Beise has lived in a house with guns for the nearly 34 years she's been married, but only recently has she considered arming herself." First of all, 34-year-old Joanie Beise is neither a celebrity nor central to this story. They should have started the story with a paragraph that came later about an intruder that shot a man and his son to death in Waseca. The article mentions that, "when and how residents should use that force is not always clear cut" but it doesn't attempt to clarify that for the reader. It gives one example of a person who shot an intruder and it was ruled self-defense but I think it was the journalist's job to do more research and try to break down what the law really says for the reader.

Acapulco Drug Violence

"Brazen daylight killings by presumed drug smugglers just up the hill from Acapulco Bay are stoking fears that bloody drug wars will cripple Mexico's $12 billion tourism industry." Great lead for this article! The Star Tribune's piece, "Drug violence in Acapulco may scare away tourists," talked about how drug cartel dealings are now happening closer to five-star hotels. To make the story better they should have placed the deaths and beheadings closer to the top of the story to draw in the audience more strongly. Also, the only quote was from the mayor. The story would have had more substance if prospective or recent tourists to the area were interviewed.

Abortion Restrictions

"Miss. looks to restrict abortions" (Pioneer Press) started out with a boring lead: "The Mississippi Senate passed a bill Wednesday..." They mentioned the 'who' and the 'when' before the 'what' -- which, in this case, is the most important part. Being a more conservative paper, I think it says a lot that they chose to use the following quote by Republican chairman of the Public Health Committee: "What this bill does is regulate these folks that are making money off these young women." By putting this in it's ignoring the real issue: a woman's right to choose. The importance and significance of such a bill being passed really is not about the financial exploitation of women seeking abortion, as this quote suggests.

February 4, 2007

Single Women

The Star Tribune did an article based on census and other reports showing that there is a trend in women preferring to stay single. I applaud the author of the article, "For single women, Right Now trumps Mr. Right," for addressing the fact that interpretation of census numbers may be a bit slanted (51% of women are living without spouses but they started the counting at age 15--while most girls are still living at home.) But the article didn't go into much depth as to why women aren't settling. There was a lot mentioned about unmarried womens' influence on real estate but I think it would be more appropriate to look at their educational, religious, financial backgrounds. It just briefly mentioned the numbers of specific racial groups of married women but didn't dig deeper and analyze the differences in these numbers and why these differences may exist between the races.

Outdoor Smoking Ban

Both the Star Tribune and Pioneer Press used an Associated Press article to do stories on the trends in Minnesota cities to prohibit smoking in certain outdoor areas. They both used the inverted pyramid style but the Strib had a better hook for their lead: "A bucket of cigarette butts collected by Girl Scouts helped convince the Ham Lake City Council that smoking and city parks don't go together." The Pioneer Press started its article with: "As Minnesota lawmakers..." Boring. They both used the same quotes but I liked how the Strib went back and forth between quotes and stats, unlike the Pioneer Press that just clumped all the quotes together at the end. The Strib also provided more context and included a survey conducted by the U of M that found that 70 percent of 1,500 respondents supported tobacco-free policies for outdoor park and recreation areas.

Litvinenko Murder Suspect

The Guardian (UK) article "UK wants to try Russian for Litvinenko Murder" was very confusing to read. It jumped around from one point to another with no coherent connection to the paragraph or point made before. I would best classify it as an inverted pyramid but towards the end it started on a completely different subject. By the lead I assumed the article was going to be about Andrei Lugovoi, and for a couple paragraphs it was but it didn't even try to analyze what his possible motive would have been.Then it talks about President Vladimir Putin being a suspect in the murder and then it starts on a new subject about Russia using their control of energy and gas supplies for political power. Next, the article brings up a report done by the Health Protection Agency about polonium-210. I feel it was poorly organized and difficult to follow. Scottland Yard refused to comment and so the author just gave up on trying to find any other outside sources to contribute to the speculation of Lugovoi's guilt/innocence.

Europe and U.S Dealings With Iran

Trying to convey complex political information to the masses can be difficult but in the N.Y Times article "Europe Resists U.S Push to Curb Iran Ties" did so very effectively. It talked about Europe's commercial and economic ties with Iran, including the historical relations between the two countries. At the end they also mention that the European Commission will meet later this month to discuss bank transactions for Iranian companies so that tells us that there will be follow-up on this story. The article effectively transitioned between talking about European/Iranian relations, U.S/Iranian relations, and U.S/European relations as well as financial and oil issues at stake. The article could have been better by putting in more quotes and using attributions other than "said an American/European official." But it covered a wide range of issues dealing with this topic without oversimplifying too much yet still making it readable.

Party Planned For Castro's Death

The USA Today article entitled "Miami planning party for when Castro dies" did not supply enough information and contains a lot of holes. The cost of the party, which musicians would play, and where it would be held were made to be the central elements of the article. The only two interviews included were by the City Commissioner and the leader of the Miami-based Democracy Movement Organization. There was no "man-the-street" testimony and it felt very shallow and devoid of any emotion to omit that, especially when dealing with the death of a human being, even if he was a dictaor. Even Saddam Hussein's death was covered from different view points. What about the people that will mourn Castro's loss? They should have interviewed the older generation that actually remembers living under Castro's rule in Cuba. It would be challenging to cover all the complex background history of Cuban Americans and their feelings on Castro but this article didn't even make an attempt.

Anti-gang Efforts in L.A

I read two articles done dealing with anti-gang efforts in L.A: one was by the N.Y Times entitled "In L.A Anti-gang Efforts Start on the Street" and the other was by the L.A Times entitled "Anti-gang battle needs more than just cops." Both articles addressed the race problems between blacks and Latinos in L.A but the L.A Times did a much better job at getting to the root of the problem. They talked about why people join gangs in the first place and what preventative measures can be taken. I also applaud them for not dehumanizing gang members and for talking about the new projects that are being put in placed to fix the problem. The N.Y Times article focused on the experience of one L.A cop, Officer Dan Robbins, and read more like a profile than a news feature. When talking about gangs, shootings at concerts, hatred of the police, and innocent people getting killed in drive-bys is nothing new. The L.A Times took a much fresher approach and angle on this issue.