by Shannon Lee
Reporters of a Washington Post article about frequent power outages in the Washington, D.C. area used computer-assisted reporting to help tell the story.
The reporters would have had to review monthly reports from Pepco, the districts utility provider. They needed to examine how often Pepco customers experienced power outages and when, where and for how long the outages occured. They also would have needed to compare those records with past reports from the company and with reports from other service providers in nearby cities.
The article includes an interactive map to illustrate where and for how long the district residents experienced power outages in 2010. It also shows a line graph that compares the average number of power outages in the area to other big cities.
To create the map and the graph, reporters would have needed to know how to use mapping software and spreadsheet programs.
Recently in Analysis Category
by Shannon Lee
by Shannon Lee
A CNN article about a gay rights protest Monday moved beyond stereotypes and presented the issue as one that affects all people.
"I didn't notice any gay stereotypes as I was reading," said Graham, a gay master's student at San Francisco State University. "I'm most impressed by the picture and how different everyone in the group is -- two black women, an Asian man and a Caucasian priest. It shows that this is an issue that affects everyone -- all ages, races, religious beliefs, etc."
The reporter included neutral observations that described the nature of the protest held outside the White House. The article also presented some of the protesters' opinions by including quotes from them.
Even thought the article appropriately addressed gay rights issues without using stereotypes, Graham said that he thought it made a subtle jab at Obama.
"The journalist writes that other than this protest it was a 'relatively quiet day' for the President. It makes Obama look even worse for not taking the time to meet with these people on a slow political day. Also, in the last paragraph, it mentions that this is not the first time these people have attempted to reach Obama without him acknowledging them."
by Shannon Lee
A journalist from the St. Cloud Times used numbers from an experiment to report on witnesses' reactions to staged bike thefts on the St. Cloud State University campus.
The numbers were used to support the finding that people most often did not report the bike thefts they witnessed.
The writer often expressed the numbers in terms of a relationship to make them clearer. In the fourth paragraph, he wrote that out of 25 staged thefts, only one was reported. By expressing the numbers in this way, he not only let the reader know that most witnesses did not respond, but also told them the number of times the experiment was conducted.
In the sixth paragraph the reporter used numbers to give context to his story. He wrote that 24 percent of 149 "significant" university thefts reported in 2009 were of stolen bicycles. Using a percentage to frame the numbers was a stronger choice than if he had just written, "Out of 149 significant thefts, 36 bicycles were stolen."
Near the end of the article, the reporter used numbers again to highlight some of the more surprising details of the experiment. He wrote that experimenters counted the number of people within about 20 feet of each theft. In one case, he wrote there were 105 people within 20 feet of the theft who either did not see or did not report it.
Using basic math, the reporter effectively used numbers in his story. The only problem I found with the article was that it did not provide a report for those numbers. The writer just stated that the experiment was done by a psychology class. He included the name and quotes from the class instructor, but there was no way to view the experiment in detail.
by Shannon Lee
I chose a Star Tribune news obituary about North Minneapolis community activist Major Topps. The lead was pretty standard, but age was not included until the second paragraph along with cause of death.
Instead of jumping into the claim to fame section, the writer addressed issues surrounding Topps' death. This was probably done because it was current newsworthy information relevant to his death.
The claim to fame section made up the majority of the obituary. This section included a quote from Topps' son and a quote from state Rep. Keith Ellison. It also referenced material used from a previous interview with Topps. It provided readers with information about his most notable accomplishments without giving every detail.
The chronology section was very short and just let readers know that he moved to Minneapolis from Detroit in the 1970s. There was no date of birth or information about his family, other than an earlier quote from his son. There was not even a "survived by" section at the end.
I thought it was kind of strange that there was no information about Topps' personal education since he was best known for being an education activist. This, and the absence of many dates, made his obituary different from a resume because it focused on his personal impact on the community rather than his work and education history.
by Shannon Lee
The first thing that jumped out at me when reading Toyota's press release regarding a safety recall of certain types of vehicles was the use of the phrase "voluntary recall." The news report does not use the word "voluntary." It is a minor difference, but the word can insinuate that Toyota is doing the consumer a favor.
The press release focuses on the mechanics of how the brake fluid may possibly leak a small amount and cause the brake warning lamp to light up. It is not until nearly the end that the release mentions the leak could cause brake performance to decline.
In the Washington Post news article, the reporter announces in the first sentence that some Toyota cars in the U.S. might not be able to quickly stop. The first sentence also reminds readers that Toyota had bad publicity earlier in the year when some of their cars involuntarily sped "out of control," prompting and earlier recall. Toyota's press release, wanting to showcase the company in the best light possible, obviously did not mention that this was their second recall of the year.
The Washington Post reporter also picked out the sentence from the press release that mentioned the brake decline. In the press release, the sentence was located at the end. In the news article, it was quoted in the second sentence.
The reporter included background information on the recalls and used other, more favorable, quotes later in the article. After comparing it to the press release though, it is clear that the reporter wrote the most newsworthy, attention-grabbing content first, while the Toyota press release was worded in a way to make the recall sound less serious.
The CNN and Pioneer Press websites both contain a lot of condensed information. They each feature a bar going across the top of their pages for easy access to subcategories, and both websites allow user comments on news stories, which provides an interactive component not available to paper readers.
The CNN site is organized a bit clearer. It is quicker to scroll from the top to the bottom, and story headlines are neatly organized into evenly spaced and sized boxes, allowing for better scanability.
The Pioneer Press story headlines are concise, but the website seems more cluttered with a mix of rows and columns. The ads take up more space and are more prominent and distracting than the ads on the CNN site, which keeps all but one ad at the bottom of the page. This might be because the Pioneer Press news organization has less money than CNN, so it needs to place a greater emphasis on ads.
The most obvious difference between the two is the news content. The Pioneer Press' top story is about the Vikings, complete with a Brett Favre photo. As you scroll down the page, the most prominent stories are about local sports and other topic concerning the local community. CNN's top stories were about national politics and agriculture, appealing to a broader audience.
The first-day story of a New York Times article about violent antigay attacks opens with a hard news lead. It states that seven men were arrested in the Bronx in connection with the torture of two teenagers and a 30-year-old man they suspected were gay.
The second paragraph gives detail about when the arrests were made, the suspects ages, and the name that the group of friends called themselves. Starting at the third paragraph, the story unfolds chronologically, and includes quotes from the police chief.
The second-day story includes many of the same paragraphs as the first, but the length is roughly twice as long and doesn't use the hard news format that the first one does.
The lead begins with a description of the 30-year-old victim, and the first four paragraphs describe the torture he endured.
The article includes additional comments from neighbors, and mentions the incident in relation to other gay hate crimes that have been in the news recently.
The biggest difference in the second article is the style of reporting. It reads much more like a narrative story than the first article.
It also offers many more facts than the first, concluding with additional arrest information and reporting that one suspect has confessed and another was taken to the hospital for unknown reasons.
The Star Tribunes article about how Shot Spotter technology helped police locate suspects in a recent fatal shooting was structured a little differently compared to the hard news structure we've been learning in class.
The reader doesn't learn who was killed until the third paragraph, or who was arrested until the fifth paragraph.
The writers chose to focus on the Shot Spotter technology, and the first two paragraphs give brief information about what the technology is.
The introduction works, though, because the article is not so much about the homicide, but about how police were able to locate suspects.
Paragraphs four through eight contain police quotes, explaining how Shot Spotter was instrumental in their investigation, and details about who was arrested. These paragraphs serve as linking information to tie the crime into the story and illustrate why the technology is news. The paragraphs are somewhat interchangeable.
All of the following paragraphs, except for the last, don't mention the crime at all. The topic is broadened to give general information about Shot Spotter in Minneapolis: When it was installed, how many there are and where they are located. It is interesting information, but not essential to the story. The story could have ended after the eighth paragraph.
The last paragraph, however, is the kicker and jumps back to the homicide. I would consider this story as one written in the martini style, and it works well for the topic.
The attributions in a Minnesota Daily story about FBI raids in six Minneapolis homes were carefully done.
The authors only used the word "said" when they attributed quotes or paraphrased, and they always placed the name of the speaker before the word "said."
The writers were also careful to use quotes only from the witnesses directly involved in the incident, and from an official- the FBI spokesperson.
All paragraphs that began with direct quotes had paragraphs preceding them which introduced the speaker, and complete, direct quotes almost always began new paragraphs, with one exception in paragraph 16.
I think that paragraph 16 could have possibly been summarized instead of quoted because the quote doesn't give life to the story, it is just background information. The authors may have chosen to use the quote, though, to break up several paragraphs in a row containing only background information and summaries.
The lead was very clear and concise in a story by the New York Daily News about suspects arrested in a terrorist plot. From the lead, the reader knows who (six terrorism suspects), what (arrested over an alleged terror plot against the pope), where (London) and when (Friday) the news took place. It summarizes the action by providing the most important features of the story in one sentence.
The lead doesn't give specific information about the suspects, but names the pope because he is a newsworthy individual.
The writer is careful not to make unintentional accusations in the lead by using the word "alleged" to refer to the terror plot.
She doesn't put extra detail in the lead, and includes the specifics about how the suspects were caught and why the pope was in London in the following paragraphs.