May 2, 2007

Texas Officials Criticize Fence

Rio Grande Valley officials say that the proposed border fence reneges on assurances that the river would be accessible to wildlife, recreation, and farmers, according to the Pioneer Press. The challenge of the article, in my opinion, would be to interview officials, farmers, and environmental groups on the subject. Also the response, if any, from the Bush administration. This article does this clearly and effectively. Interviews were conducted with both of Texas' senators, environmental groups, Homeland Security officials, local judges and politicians, and others.

Hastings Man in Custody After Chase

The Star Tribune reported Wednesday on a Hastings man who faces several felony charges after allegedly leading authorities on a car chase through Dakota County. During the chase, he allegedly injured a sheriff's deputy who was drug under his vehicle. The challenge of this article is to summarize the events using information from multiple sources, if possible. The article instead uses a chronological approach, which also works quite well. It ends with an interesting bit of information: there was another man in the car during the entire incident who was not arrested.

Legal Ticket Scalping

The Pioneer Press included a story today about the Minnesota House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly in favor of repealing current ticket-scalping laws on Wednesday, taking a similar to the Senate's stance in February. The bill now goes to the desk of Governor Tim Pawlenty. The challenge of the brief article is to summarize the vote, while putting it into a national context. Only 13 states criminalize selling tickets above face value, and the Internet makes such laws unenforceable.

The Star Tribune had a lengthier article that stated only nine states still have similar laws on the books, as well as better quotes than the PiPress, in my opinion.
"After all, we don't talk about scalping real estate or artwork or stocks or bonds,'' Chris DeLaForest was quoted as sying.

April 22, 2007

73 Killed in Somali Clashes

The Boston Globe reported on the deaths of 73 more people in Mogadishu Saturday in clashes between Ethiopian and Somali troops. The strife also sent more than 300,000 residents fleeing, the biggest refugee movement since 1991. The challenge of the article is to give both history, contex, and detail, while also emphasizing the human element of the story, and it does this extremely well. It ends with these sentences: "I've had enough. I'm abandoning the house. I am caught between two groups -- Ethiopians trying to kill me because I am Somali, and insurgents not happy because I am not picking up a gun and fighting with them. I have lost all hope." I think that this quote captures the feeling of desperation and it's prescence emotionally charges the writing.

The Associated Press covered the events as well, though stated the death toll as 47. The article focuses on the background of the conflict, which is seen by some as a proxy battle between Ethiopia and Eritrea. The governments have an unresolved border dispute that has led to violence in the past.

Spring "Flood Run"

The Pioneer Press reported Sunday on a yearly motorcycle ride along the Mississippi that has attracted up to 25,000 motorcyclists. The article's lead is quirky, stating that, "Barely halfway through the day, Janell Hagan runs out of pickles." Hagan is a bar owner in Diamond Bluff, Wis., a small town that gets flooded with barhopping bikers every year. The challenge of the article is to give a slice of life of these people while covering an event notable because of it's size. It does this well, giving a history of the "Flood Run," which was started in the 1960s to help fill sandbags to hold back the rising waters of the Mississippi.

The Pierce County Herald covered the event, and provides a more thorough history. The tradition started when thankful townspeople invited those who had helped them back for food and drinks.

St. Paul Teenager Killed

The Star Tribune reported Sunday that a 16-year-old boy was shot and killed on a Metro Transit bus in St. Paul early Sunday Morning. The shooting followed a dispute between two groups of boys. The goal here is to explain what is known about the incident, while also giving a (vague) description of the suspect, who is still at large. I would expect this article to put the incident into context by relating it to the string of other violent incidents on Metro buses recently, but the article does not do that.

The Pioneer Press had a similar story, which actually contained even less information. Interestingly, the suspect's race was not given in the Pioneer Press' version, which some readers commented on.

April 21, 2007

Blue Angel Jet Crash

The Star Tribune had an article Saturday about the fatal crash of a Blue Angel jet at an air show in South Carolina. The jet apparently hit a pine tree, which led to the crash, killing the pilot. Remnants of the plane apparently hit nearby houses, causing at least one fire. The challenge of the article is to make sense of what happened for the reader despite an absence of official word on the event. To do this, two eyewitness reports are used to help explain the events. More than 100,000 people were expected to attend the air show, so there will be no shortage of eyewitness accounts.

The Pioneer Press covered the story, but had much more detail, as well as more interesting quotes, in my opinion. A man who lives in the neighborhood where the plane went down described a fireball descending upon him, which doused his truck in flames and debris.

Twins Minor Leaguer Suspended

Anthony Swarzak, who plays for the Minnesota Twins' Class AA team in New Britain, Missouri, was suspended fof 50 for violating the leagues' drug-abuse policy. It was his second drug offense since he joined the team. The Pioneer Press did not say what drug Swarzak had taken, but it was in the "abuse" category of drugs which includes marijuana, cocaine, amphetamises and other narcotics not considered performance-enhancing. Lacking that information, the goal of the story is to briefly explain the league's drug policy and move the story forward with some quotes by Twins officials, which was done fairly well, in my opinion.

The Star Tribune covered the story in much the same manner, while quoting Twins General Manager Terry Ryan more frequently.

April 15, 2007

Ethiopia May Have Violated UN Sanctions

The Pioneer Press ran an article from the New York Times about the possible shipment of North Korean weapons to Ethiopia. Ethiopia denies the allegations, stating that the shipment consisted of machine parts and small weapons manufacturing items, which are not prohibited by UN sanctions.

One of the challenges of the article is to deal with the information without going to far to vilify Ethiopia, because there is technically no hard evidence of wrongdoing. The story is carefully composed, stating that the Bush administration decided not to pressure Ethiopia to reject the shipment, even though it was "likely a Security Council violation."

The San Francisco Chronicle also covered the denial, though they use stronger language in the headline, which reads, "U.S. OKd questionable arms deal-Ethiopia purchased weapons from North Korea soon after U.N. leveled sanctions on Pyongyang." This states explicitly that the United States, rather than deciding not to prevent the exchange, actually "OKd" it.

Vikings Player Faces Disorderly Conduct Charges

Minneapolis' athletics teams have been riddled with scandals over the past several years, and the Pioneer Press reported Sunday on their Web site that Cedric Griffin of the Minnesota Vikings was arrested early that day on a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct. He was able to post his $50 bail.

With the limited amount of knowledge on the incident, the article does a good job of summarizing what witnesses at the Spin nightclub had to say on the incident, while placing Griffin's history with the Vikings.

The Star Tribune's also covered the incident, albiet in a more terse tone that doesn't really read like a story, in my opinion. Instead it sounds like a summary, with the promise of more information to come. The Star Tribune does a good job of putting the story into context, adding that Griffin is the sixth member of the Vikings to be arrested in the past year.

April 14, 2007

Former SLA Member Has Sentence Restored

Sarah Jane Olson, the former Symbionese Liberation Army fugitive had one year added on to her sentence of trying to bomb police cars, reported the Associated Press, as published on the Boston Herald's Web site. Olson posed as "an ordinary housewife."

The language of this quote appears insensitive, as well as unclear, in my opinion. The challenge of this article is to give a quick recap of the relevant information, while mentioning the most high-profile incident that the SLA was involved in, the kidnapping of Patty Hearst. In general it meets both of these challenges well.

The Star Tribune's story is nearly identical, with the words "in Minnesota" added to the lead. There is also some information about how Olson was discovered when a St. Paul police officer pulled her over, which led to the discovery that she had changed her name and was now married with three children.

Oakdale Teenager on Trial for Baby Slaying

On Saturday Star Tribune's Web site has an article about 17-year-old Nicole Beecroft, who is on trial for the first-degree murder of her newborn daughter. Beecroft allegedly stabbed her baby repeatedly.

Since this is a follow-up article on an incident that has been widely reported on, the spin is the rarity of the alleged murder. Jim Adams reported that there were only three "similar baby slayings" reported this year in the United States. Since the article also reports on some of the details from the trial, the article both reports on the new aspects of the story while putting into a nation-wide context, which makes the article work, in my opinion. also covered the story on Saturday, though the lead was about the $1 million bail and the severity of the attack. "A Washington County district judge set bail at $1 million Friday for a teenage mother accused of delivering her baby, stabbing her 135 times and dumping the child's body in a garbage can." The Star Tribune's article, since it includes more contextual information, stands as the better article of the two, in my opinion.

Wandering Boy In Saint Paul

The Pioneer Press reported Saturday that a the man who reported a shoeless, wandering child to police may be the childs step-father, St. Paul police said. The man denies the allegations.

The challenge of this article is to present a fairly complicated story in a manner that facilitates understanding, so sentences don't need to be re-read. In my opinion, this article makes sense out of what happened. It is suspected that the man was put in charge of the child after his step-daughter went to jail. Growing sick of the child because it was crying, police said that Chue Xiong falsely claimed to have never seen the child before. Police said that he later admitted to the hoax.

The Star Tribune covered the story on Saturday, as well, though their information is much older. The story's lead states that St. Paul police "continued to look Friday for the parents or guardians of a toddler who was found Thursday. The Pioneer Press' coverage is definitely more up-to-date, and therefore the article is better.

April 8, 2007

Hunger Strike at Guantanamo

The New York Times also had a story on their Web site about 13 detainees at Guantanamo Bay detention center have gone on a hunger strike, which is the most since early 2006, when the prison instituted force-feeding techniques. Prisoners are strapped into "restraint chairs," while fed by plastic tubes inserted into their nostrils.

One of the challenges of this article is in the terminology. Prisoners are called inmates, the prison is called a detention center. In my opinion, this language is imprecise and clouds the meaning. The information in the article, however, is easily understood, highly organized, and succeeds in placing the article in the context of the past several years, when prison officials have been widely accused of performing torture.

In two related stories, Amnesty International released a report on "deteriorating" conditions at Guantanamo Bay's prison. Also, David Hicks will not be able to sell his story to the press, or otherwise profit from the sale of the story of his illegal activity. Thirty-one-year-old Hicks is a former kangaroo skinner.

They Shine So Brightly While Alive . . .

New York road signs come with a seven-year warranty, though may perhaps have a life-span of more than seven years. Residents of Monmouth and Ocean Counties might be interested to know that the replacement of faded signs will be completed by Memorial Day.

Sunday's New York Times Corrections Web page also had some other errors, which would have caused confusion in readers. A 10-kilowatt solar system would cost $77,500 to install, rather than $7,750. The difference may have prompted many to consider installing a system, only to find out that it cost almost $70 thousand more than they had learned from reading the Times. Credibility would certainly start to fall if these mistakes were frequent enough.

A New Jersey Assembly person didn't recieve a subpeona from the United States attorney for New Jersey, the rounds of the annual Golden Gloves amateur boxing competition is always two minutes, and actress-director Penny Marshall is not Jewish.