May 2, 2007

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

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 14, 2007

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 7, 2007

U Football Players Jailed in Rape Case reported Saturday that three University of Minnesota were jailed Friday on suspicion of raping an 18-year-old woman, University police said. This brings up an interesting question of journalistic ethics, because on KARE-11's newscast Friday night, the reporters declined to name the players, because they had not yet been charged with a crime.

The Star Tribune's Web site had much of the same information, with a significantly different lead. The Gophers are scheduled for a spring game Saturday, which has been "marred" by the incident. It seems the Pioneer Press handled the incident better, with the news of possible rape and arrest leading the article. Today's game is a secondary concern.

March 27, 2007

Homemade Car Fuel

The Wisconsin State Department of Revenue informed two men that they will be taxed for homemade fuel, following a newspaper story detailing their method. The men make biodeisel out of modified vegetable oil.

The story is by the Associated Press, and appears on It is rather short, and actually not very informative, in my opinion. In addition, the headline reads "State will tax men's homemade car fuel," which seemed a bit confusing to me.

The Portage Daily Register elaborates on the story. The men have to pay $0.31 per gallon in Wisconsin fuel tax. There is also a great quote by one of the men. ''It's getting to the point in our culture that almost everything that we do is going to be illegal, or you need a fee or a license.''

State Smoking Ban Vote

The Star Tribune has an article today on how the Minnesota Senate is poised to vote Tuesday on a statewide smoking ban which will eliminate nearly all smoking in public places. If passed, Minnesota will join 17 other states that have banned the practice in many areas.

The challenge of this article is to keep opinions out of the content of the article, which the reporter, Mark Brunswick, clearly does. He situates potential passage of the law in a national and local context. However, one sentence doesn't make sense. He states that amendments have been added that would allow "for workers to qualify state funding if their jobs were affected by the ban." To qualify for state funding, perhaps.

Interestingly, the Web site of the Pioneer Press did not cover this story.

March 25, 2007

St. Paul Home Invasion

The Star Tribune published an insightful followup story to the home invasion that occurred in a St. Paul neighborhood on Thursday. The challenge of the story is to give the techniques of the investigation, the sentiments of the neighborhood, and what might come in the next few days.

The tragedy is palpable, which the article captures. It also gives the impression that random acts of violence are something that we all have to deal with, but hopefully not personally.

The Pioneer Press seems stuck on the fact that it was a home invasion, which seemed clear by Saturday. The Star Tribune article is far superior, in my opinion.

Gophers lose hockey game

The Minnesota Gophers lost a critical hockey match to the University of North Dakota Souix, ending the possibility of winning the national championship for our school. The article was written within the past hour, so it's bound to be thrown together, but the coverage of the game still pushes through, albiet in a convoluted way (in my opinion).

The goal that won the game came during an overtime period dominated by UND, and the article claims they are the better team. However, sentences like the following convolute the message that the article is trying to clarify. "There were plays to be made on the ice that we didn't make," he said. "You can say all you want about giving 100 percent out there, but if you're not making the plays it takes away from the effort you gave." Sounds about as cliche as it gets.

The better article was written by the Associated Press. They start out with the proper lead, concerning the goal that won the game for UND, give context about the teams historical performances, and lack inane quotes.

March 18, 2007

St. Paul Officer Sentenced

WCCO's Web site contained a brief story on a 23-year veteran of the St. Paul Police Dept. who was sentenced to five years in federal prison on a methamphetamine charge. Prosecutors say Clemmie Tucker tried to 12 pounds of methamphetamine and 22 pounds of cocaine from the Greyhound bus depot in downtown Minneapolis last year, with a combined street value of about $4 million.

The article's high point, Tucker's claim that he planned to use the money for the defense of his son, who pleaded guilty to unintentional second-degree murder last year, is actually buried in the last sentence, which is probably more a result of the case being highly reported upon.

KARE 11 also reported on the story, but relied upon the incidents that led to Tucker's arrest last year, making no mention of the amounts of drugs or Tucker's claim that the money was for his son's defense. Since, in my opinion, those are the most newsworthy aspects of the story, apart from the length of Tucker's sentence, the WCCO story is far superior.

March 3, 2007

Cottage Grove Sex Crime Arrests

An FBI chat-room probe led to the arrests of two Cottage Grove residents due to suspected molestation of four children, the Pioneer Press reported Saturday. The couple was also charged with distribution of photographs of the children over the internet.

Like many news articles, informing readers of the charges, as well as putting the story in context is necessary, yet the challenge here is definitely to be very careful in handling explicit information involving sex with minors. In my opinion, the article goes into too much detail about specific sexual acts, yet remains extremely vague on other details that are alluded to. I get the impression that the reporter may have been searching only for the most titillating information among court documents, including a quote by the female suspect, "that was stupid," in response to investigators confronting her with an internet-distributed photo of her and one of the children. The quote itself comes off as sounding rather stupid in the story, frankly.

has a shorter version of the article on their Web site which leaves out much of the inflammatory information, but also leaves the story without the context, in my opinion.

Veterans Home Problems

The Star Tribune reported Saturday on their Web site that Gov. Tim Pawlenty ordered the State Health Department to monitor patient care at the Minneapolis veterans home after rule violations in the deaths of three veterans.

The article is following up the announcement last week, and attempts to put a more personal spin on the article, using the testimony of Veterans Hospital relatives. It succeeds in this, largely due to the first two paragraphs, in which the experiences of Bob Thomas are described by his daughter. Thomas was given the wrong type of eydrops for months by nurses, and incorrectly told he was blind by a doctor at the hospital.

February 24, 2007

Michele Bachmann Makes "Claims"

Frederic J. Frommer of the Associated Press reported on the Pioneer Press website that Rep. Michele Bachmann (Rep. Minn.) "claimed in a recent interview" that she was aware of an Iranian plot to partition Iraq, turning half of it into a "terrorist haven." The article backs up her claims with direct quotes, gives background on the Times picking up the story and broadcasting a podcast of the interview, and an icy quote from DFL Party spokesman Jess McIntosh. "Perhaps Minnesota is just lucky to have such a junior member of Congress who is valued enough to receive exclusive information about our enemy's foreign affairs," McIntosh told the AP. In a statement Friday, Bachmann "did nothing to clarify the situation," said McIntosh.

The challenge of the story is to juxtapose Bachmann's earlier statements with her partial recanting of them on Friday, as well as giving opposition forces the chance to respond to her claims, which she says were "misconstrued." The article does this well, and its construction effectively propels the story forward, all the while building to her claim that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad "a crazed, delusioned president of Iran."

The Star Tribune also ran with the story, written by Eric Black. The approach is different here, with a summary lead, followed by contextual information, and, notably, quotes from political science professors, whose views are not admittedly biased (as in the case of the AP story's multiple quotes of a DFL spokesperson. Bachmann's claims were labeled "extremely irresponsible." by University of Minnesota political scientist Kathryn Pearson. In my opinion both stories are well-done, though the AP story is more interesting and the Star Tribune article has more effective quotes.

Area Snowfall

The Star Tribune reported the coming storm, which was "announced by all the trumpets of the media" was going to get worse. "Don't plan any picnics for Sunday," was the analysis written by Pamela Miller of the Tribune.

Because, as the article admits, this story has been heavily covered by every news media outlet, the challenge of the article is to entertain, which it does to some degree. The language is a bit more fanciful than would be expected for a straight-news story, but apparently more leeway is sometimes given for a followup story. A National Weather Service representative said that sleet turning to snow was a welcome development, due to the fact that snowflakes and both safer and prettier than sleet. This is the second reference to the beauty of and danger of the snow, which pretty much sums the article up, yet it does offer some useful safety advice.

The Pioneer Press also made an attempt at a humorous approach on the front page of their website, though the humor is a bit flat, in my opinion. "People waking up this morning went, ‘Uh-oh, weathermen wrong,’ but the meteorologists are probably going to come out correct in the end of this,? said Rich Naistat, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Chanhassen, late this morning. This simply seems casually cliche, and the article continues with a flatly casual phrase quickly after, stating that "Salt and other chemicals are doing their thing." The Tribune article is by no means hilarious, but much more professional and readable.

February 18, 2007

Snow angels

According to a story in the Fargo Forum about 9,000 participants created snow angels in Bismark, N.D. over the weekend. The article focuses on a 99-year-old woman who made the first snow angel of her life in the event. “I wore everything, including my teeth and hearing aid,? she told the Forum.

The challenge is to make the event newsworthy, but Bismark's proximity to Fargo helps that out, and the article was certainly cute enough for a weekend edition.

The event was covered in Bismark, as well, by The focus of this article was the traffic, which makes the event completely unreadable to someone living hundreds of miles away, in my opinion.

Prescott Woman Dies in Explosion

The Star Tribune reported a story from the Associated Press about a woman's death following an explosion. The woman, about 40 years old, was driving the truck when it crashed into a house. A police officer was injured in the blaze.
The challenge of the story, to summarize the event and add chronological order to describe what is known of the events, is clearly met. There are also eyewitness accounts of the explosion to give the audience more of an impression of the events. The only problem that I have with the story is an attribution to the owner of the house that exploded is vague. He is referred to only as "the homeowner," which was confusing in the midst of the chronology.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press web site has a version of the AP story that's nearly identical, with slightly more information included from witnesses of the event.

February 11, 2007

PFBA in Local Water Supplies

TwinCities.com, the website of the Pioneer Press did a follow up story today (Sunday) about the presence of PFBAs in the water supply of Washington and Dakota counties, linked to 3M's production of products containing PFCs, or petrofluorochemicals. PFCs are used by 3M in fire retardants, stain repellants, and other products manufactured by the company. PFBA is toxic to mice in large doses, leading to liver and thyroid problems.

The challenge in this article is to provide readers with how this information is being taken by residents of affected counties, and it does succeed on that level. The article's lead even starts out with the impact on one local woman. "Bonnie Saul doesn't trust her water anymore." It balances this with some background on the chemicals as well as the reactions of state lawmakers and the response by 3M.

However, one remark in the article seems a bit strange to me. "Most area water drinkers have not changed their habits, and state health officials are not recommending people in the affected areas avoid tap water." I had always assumed that all people are "water drinkers," though I could be wrong.

The Star Tribune covered the story on Feb. 3, with two articles on subject. One of them, written by Tom Meersman, focuses more on the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's request for information regarding how the chemical was disposed of near Woodbury's border with Cottage Grove. The focus is actually not narrower in the Star Tribune's article, yet the impact of the news is completely absent. The Star Tribune covers a lot of ground, though, and still manages to give some breadth to the topic, covering public meetings, 3M's response to the issue, and some background on the chemicals themselves.

Mauer Signed

Joe Mauer agreed with the Twins Sunday to be paid $33 million over the next four years. "We're extremely happy, because there is not a player who belongs with the Twins more than Joe Mauer," Is agent, Ron Shapiro told the Associated Press earlier today. The article is printed on the website of the Pioneer Press One sentence from the article strikes me. "Selected with the first pick in the 2001 amateur draft out of Cretin-Derham Hall High School in St. Paul, Minn., Mauer was eligible for arbitration this winter for the first time." In my opinion, it seems strange for the Pioneer Press to go with the AP's version of the story, and not even bother to omit the AP phrasing, "Minn." due to the fact that the high school, the paper, and presumably most of the readers of the Pioneer Press know which state that they're living in.

Because it's written for the AP, and not specifically the Twin Cities, the article's challenge is different. The AP story will clearly go out on the wire to other publications who's readers aren't as invested in the news of a Minnesota Twins player. Thus, the article's challenge is to give a little background on Mauer and his agent who facilitated the deal, as well as how it is likely to impact both Mauer and the Twins. It meets that task. However, as a Twin Cities resident looking for local news, the article is disappointing because it seems to be written for a different audience than I.

The Star Tribune's website has an article by Patrick Reusse, is written for an audience who has more interest in the subject. However, there is one sentence that is nearly identical to that written for the AP by Dave Campbell. "Mauer was the first pick in the 2001 draft out of Cretin-Derham Hall High School in St. Paul, and became eligible for arbitration this winter for the first time." The Star Tribune posted their story several hours earlier, however, and therefore has met the criteria of relevance and timeliness.

February 4, 2007

Waseca Home Invasion

Prompted by a 911 call Saturday in Waseca, police found Tracy Kruger, 40, and his 13-year-old son, Alec, dead. Kruger's wife, Hilary, was critically wounded, according to the Waseca County Sheriff's office. The article, by the Pioneer Press goes on to paraphrase Chief Deputy Brad Milbrath, who said that officers detained a Waseca County resident who's "considered a person of interest in the case." Milbrath "would not say if he was a suspect," according to the article by the AP. This brief story constitutes breaking news, and has no direct quotes. Nonetheless it attributes all of the information that it contains. The Star Tribune covered the story as well, albiet with more detail than the version in the Pioneer Press. There is a direct quote in this version, which deals with one of the questions raised in News Writing and Reporting. "Its hard, ya know," Mokoff said. "Its hard. Really hard." said youth coack Chad Mokoff to the Free Press of Mankato, as he "fought back tears." Mokoff doesn't speak with proper English, yet the quote isn't cleaned up. I think it works, nonetheless, and gives the story more emotion than the shorter version on the Pioneer Press's website.

February 3, 2007

FBI investigates Police Aide Pioneer Press reported that Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher said his office is cooperating with the FBI's investigation into possible criminal conduct on the part of high-level civilian aide, Mark Naylon. Naylon was the best man at Fletcher's 2004 wedding, but will now be the focus of an internal affairs investigation by the sheriff's office in addition to the FBI's investigation. The first quotation is partial: 'The allegations are ones the FBI "is obligated to investigate," Fletcher said.' followed by, 'If they prove true, Fletcher said, "I would be shocked, but I'll let the investigation run its course."' The article is interesting in that it states Naylon didn't have a background in either law enforcement or media relations when he was hired by Fletcher as public information officer for the Ramsey County Sheriff's Department. It's countered with a sort of rebuttal by Fletcher: '"He's certainly one of the hardest workers at the sheriff's office," said Fletcher, who added that information from Naylon's community contacts has led to "dozens of felony arrests."' The article, by Mara H. Gottfried, appears well-researched, and the use of quotes is especially effective. In reference to Naylon's name coming up in a gambling investigation that Gottfried links to Fletcher's election campaign, Naylon is quoted as saying, "Why is it illegal? … I don't think gambling's a crime." The quote lets Naylon speak for himself, and the feeling conveyed is that he might be in a lot of trouble.
The Star Tribune paraphrases "sources with direct knowledge of the case" that Naylon is being investigated for "allegedly stealing cash, interfering in criminal investigations and tampering with evidence." The information is much more specific in this article, including allegations that Naylon, along with a St. Paul police officer, took cash that authorities had placed in a hotel room, an action linked to drug investigations. The quotes, as well as the history of the cases involving Naylong make the Pioneer Press's version of the story more interesting to read, however.

Continue reading "FBI investigates Police Aide" »

January 27, 2007

Plea deal in deadly punch case

Shannon Prather of the Pioneer Press reported that a man's admission in court to punching Christopher Beck in August facilitated the lowering of his charge, from murder to manslaughter. The focus of the article is on Joan Abbott, the mother of the victim, and her belief that one year in jail wasn't enough.
The challenge of the article is to recap the events of the violent incident, which many readers are already familiar with, and instead focus on the news which involves the sentence and the victim's family's responses.
Paul Gustafson of the Star Tribune also covered the events, albiet in a different manner. The Pioneer Press leads with a quote from the victim's mother, "Unconscionable." and follows with a the terms of the sentence. The Star Tribune leads with " The family of a man who died in a fight last summer didn't think justice was served Friday, when the man who threw the fatal punch received a sentence for manslaughter that puts him in jail for a year." The Pioneer Press's lead is more imaginative, and better summarizes the emotional fallout of the man's death when viewed by his family. The Star Tribune's is a little bit clunky, in my opinion.


The Pioneer Press reported that the cities of Minneapolis, Eagan, and Richfield won a decision to delay a pretrial hearing about an airport noise suit against the Metropolitan Airports Commission promise to soundproof local homes. The parties will return to court next month with proposals on how to remedy the problem.
The challenge of this article is to provide a summary of complicated events and numerous players, give some background, and present the information clearly.
The Star Tribune, however, summarized the facts into a much more cohesive whole. Though the Pioneer Press article is much longer and provides more context along with quotes from mayor R.T. Rybak, the opening paragraphs do not make the situation clear, nor invite the reader to continue through the article. The lead reads, "A Hennepin County district judge wants the parties in a fight about airport noise to come back next month with proposals to address the complaints." The Star Tribune's lead is as follows, "Three cities under the flight paths to the airport may have won a round in court, but it's still unclear what homes would get soundproofing under the cities' lawsuit filed against the Metropolitan Airports Commission." I feel like it invites the reader into the conflict much more effectively, while saving some of the specificities of the events for the body of the article.