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December 7, 2008

Final Blog- Computer Assisted Reporting Analysis

The Los Angeles Times has been working on a series entitled “Mexico under Siege� since June 2004. A huge amount of reporting has gone into the stories.

The Los Angeles Times realized that the violence was increasing and declared it a drug war. They have sent half dozen reporters to cover the issue.

The Web page keeps a record of every article written on the coverage of the topic. It uses many more platforms than print to tell the story.

For example, the site has a multimedia gallery and an interactive map. The multimedia library has hundreds of pictures displayed as thumbnails that people can click on. When a picture is selected, it enlarges and shows a caption depicting a brief story of what the picture is. Each picture also has a date. This is a powerful way to tell a story using computer assisted reporting. The reporter needed to have camera skills and be able to make a visually pleasing slideshow to tell the story so effectively.

Most importantly, the feature also has an interactive map using many infographics. This section has a map of Mexico covered in different sized bubbles. The size of the bubbles shows readers visually how many people have died of a drug-related cause since Jan. 1, 2007. When the mouse scrolls across the bubbles, it tells how many people have died in that area. There are many different components needed to create something like this. First, correct data is necessary. For this particular project, the data came from the Reforma newspaper’s Justice in Mexico Project. Once the reporters had the data, they had to be able to use computer-assisted reporting skills to format the information to simplify the numbers and make them easy to understand and visually pleasing for the information seeker.

The multimedia section also has a bar graph depicting deaths by week using the same information from the Justice in Mexico Project. The reporters had to carefully analyze the information to be able to effectively make it into a graph.

Finally, the reporters used computer assisted reporting to show a list of “major players� in the Mexican “drug war.� When the mouse scrolls over a face, it enlarges and gives some information about the person and their connection to the drug war. A great deal of reporting and information gathering is involved in a project like this. A group of reporters has to be very organized and efficient to make the story interesting and visually appealing.

November 16, 2008

Cultural Analysis

The story “Fear of the Queer: Blacks in Florida vote to oppress gays,� by Bob Norman, published last week in New Times Broward-Palm Beach discussed the issue of blacks voting against gay marriage in Florida.

The story explained the phenomenon of many “civil rights-minded black voters� who voted against gay marriage, but voted for Obama.

The article used statistics to illustrate the facts. “While about 96 percent of black voters favored Obama, 70 percent of them were opposed to gay marriage, according to both pre-election and exit polls,� the article said.

This article asks many questions about why the majority of black Americans do not support gay marriage, assuming that because African Americans have experienced so much discrimination, they would want gay couples to have equal rights.

The story also uses quotes to add credibility and life to the story. "Black people have consistently been less supportive of gay and lesbian rights than any segment of the population in Florida," the article quotes S.F Mahee, an Oakland Park activist, saying.

November 9, 2008

Numbers Analysis

The Miami Herald story, “Paloma destroys hundreds of homes in Cuba,� uses numbers in a variety of ways in order to effectively tell the story.

The article used numbers to tell readers how far inland the storm send sea water (“almost a mile�), the estimated cost of damage the storm caused (“$9.4 billion�), and how much of the island’s crops were destroyed (“nearly a third�).

When describing distance, the reporter converts miles to kilometers in parentheses to make the concept easier to understand for all readers.

The reporter also used fractions to describe numerical concepts. By doing the math for readers, the story becomes easier to understand.

The story also uses numbers to describe the hurricane category (4), helping readers understand the strength of the storm.

In a story about hurricanes, numbers are vital to help readers understand the extent of destruction. The reporter did a good job of effectively using numbers to communicate well with her audience.

November 2, 2008

Obituary Analysis

The obituary of Studs Terkel run in the Star Tribune has a standard news lead. The lead begins with Studs Terkel, the man’s name, and then goes on to give an identifying fact about Terkel. The lead identified him as “the preeminent oral historian of 20th-century America who described the major events of his time through the experiences and observations of the ordinary men and women who lived them.� The lead also follows the standard by ending the paragraph with a short sentence that tells the reader the person’s age. “He was 96,� the article’s lead concluded. The lead works well, giving readers the most important facts, identifying Terkel’s major life accomplishments and age of death.

The obituary sourced Time magazine, saying that "next to Richard Nixon the person whose life has been most dramatically affected by the tape recorder is Studs Terkel."

The obituary is similar to a resume in that it highlights major life accomplishments, but is obviously different in that an obituary is written not to sell a person for a job but to celebrate a person’s life.

October 19, 2008

Advance Analysis

The CNN article, “Bush to host world summit on financial crisis,� is an advance for the conference President Bush plans to host after the November elections for world leaders to talk about how to respond globally to the financial crisis.

The article specifically cites President George W. Bush, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, White House spokesman Tony Fratto and European President Jose Manuel Barroso.

The angle of the story is taken from the perspective of why the summit will be held: haste is needed to stabilize the global economy. The story goes from why the U.S. is holding the conference to what other countries around the world, such as Germany, Switzerland, Singapore and South Korea, are doing to prevent economic collapse.

This approach keeps the story from becoming more than just a listing of the conference Bush plans to hold because it provides a lot of information and background for why such a meeting is called for and how the crisis is affecting markets worldwide. The story fits into the worldwide context of what is happening with the global economy.

October 12, 2008

Press Conference Analysis

In the Associated Press report, “Bush, Allies Seek to Calm Jittery Investors,� run by Business Week, the story used a press release by the White House to support the story.

The press release was simply the transcript of the speech given by President Bush to financial leaders from both developed and developing nations affected by the economic crisis.

The reporters used the quotes from the speech to advance and support their story that Bush is working with world leaders in an effort to “calm jittery investors.�

The article paraphrased much of his speech, saying, “Bush vowed anew that his administration was doing everything possible to halt the biggest market disruptions since the Great Depression,� and, “The president told the finance ministers that he was doing all he could to involve other countries in efforts to resolve the crisis.�

The report also used a quote from the end of his speech, “It doesn't matter if you're a rich country or a poor country, a developed country or a developing country -- we're all in this together," attributing the quote to Bush, according to Tony Fratto, the White House spokesman who released the report.

In addition to paraphrasing and quoting what the president said in his speech, the reporters also used quotes from a statement released by the IMF and World Bank to transition the story into the leaders’ response to Bush and the financial crisis.

The reporters chose not to make the story solely about Bush’s speech, but to use the speech as a launch to advance the story into the global situation and what other nations are doing to prevent “major financial institutions from falling.�

October 5, 2008

Spot and Follow Analysis

Two Associated Press stories on piracy in Somalia run by FOX News two days in a row have many differences. The lead in the first-day story, “Russia Pledges to Join Battle Against Piracy as U.S. Warships Circle Kidnapped Vessel,� the lead begins talking about how Russia, the U.S., and the European Union are planning on working together to fight off piracy. In the second-day story, “U.S. Navy Says Surrounded Somali Pirates Attempt Four Attacks in 24 Hours,� the lead is focused on the new development of four additional attempted piracy attacks in the previous 24 hours.

In the first story, the news is summarized more generally on plans between the U.S. and EU. Also, the news is focused primarily on the hijacked Russian ship loaded with weapons, and the worries that its cargo was headed for terrorists.

The second story took the previous focus on piracy, and used readers' knowledge about the recent pirate attacks to alert readers to other attempts at piracy.

September 28, 2008

Structure Analysis

In the MSNBC Associated Press report about a Ukrainian ship being seized by pirates from Somalia, the information progresses in an interesting way.

It begins with the most recent information- a pirate spokesperson telling The Associated Press that the pirates were demanding a $20 million ransom while describing the surrounding planes and ships.

Then the story goes back three days to Thursday to tell of when and where the pirates took over the ship. At this point a little more information is also given about what kind of weapons the cargo ship holds.

The next section of the story gives more details about the conversation the AP had with the pirated ship, specifically the fact that the group was prepared to fight to their death.

From there, the story takes a step further back and gives some statistics on pirating along with some information on the economy of Somalia.

Lastly, the reporter discussed the “formidable military power� of the nearby ships, including the USS Howard.
The reporter summarized the important elements of the story well, making things that could be complicated seem easy to understand.

The one thing that I might change about the structure of the story would be the placement of the fact that one of the crew members died of hypertension. The reporter first mentioned the death in the second paragraph of the story, but the reason for the death until the 10th paragraph. The placement of this information may be misleading to readers. People who do not read the entire story may rightly assume that the man died at the hand of murderous pirates instead of as a result of a medical condition.

September 21, 2008

Attribution Analysis

In a 645-word-story for ABC News, “Hot for Teaching: More Consider Ed Jobs,� seven different sources were used. The story focused on a Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation study released Wednesday.

Four of the 11 paragraphs in the story referenced the study. The article also reported information from sources such as the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, the US Department of Education, and a study done by the National Council on Teacher Quality. These organizations were very good references because they are credible sources that contributed to the story.

The article also used three individuals to add life and credibility to the story. There were quotes from Tom Carroll, president of the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, Arthur Levine, president of the Wilson Foundation, and Sandi Jacobs, the vice president of the National Council on Teacher Quality. Referring to statements made by these credible sources added greatly to the story.

The sources were scattered throughout the story, never using more than one source per paragraph. The use of direct quotes helped the article to make smooth transitions while adding important insights and information.

The attribution always came after the statement it was referencing. The author used words such as “reports,� “according to,� “says� and “estimates,� to attribute the information to its source. The information was attributed clearly and effectively to make a very interesting and readable article.

September 15, 2008

Lead Analysis

“Chicago authorities asked Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich to issue a disaster declaration after rainfall Saturday in the Windy City broke a single-day record that had stood for more than two decades.� (CNN)

This excerpt from a CNN report is an example of a straightforward, hard-news lead. In one sentence, this lead is able to cover all of the important points of the story in a clear and concise way.

The lead does not give information that is too detailed. For example, it does not list the names of the Chicago authorities or the specific amount of rainfall. Those facts can be revealed later in the story.

Instead, this lead made known only the general facts that give the reader just enough information to know what the rest of the article is about. The lead is able to accomplish this by covering the what, where, when, and who of the story in one sentence. The “who� is identified by addressing the “Chicago authorities� and “Gov. Rod Blagajevich.� The “what� is covered by telling the reader that authorities asked the governor “to issue a disaster declaration.� It also goes a little further, identifying why the declaration was made- a record breaking rainfall. The “where� is covered with “Chicago� and “Windy City�, along with the “when� of the story, “Saturday.�

This lead does a good job of finding the most important feature of the story, and then summarizing it.

Finally, what makes this sentence a good lead is that it is timely, in that the rainfall occurred only yesterday.