April 21, 2007

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

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.

April 8, 2007


Sunday's New York Times Corrections Web page contains an erronious reference to a A380 superjumbo jet's weight, which was reported as 1.3 million tons, when it actually weighed 1.2 million pounds. Of course, some level of error is bound to occur, but this one seems pretty flagrant. That would have been one enormous jet. In an article about United States attorneys, source Steven J. Gillers's middle initial was changed to M. One of the two senators who sponsored an anti-war amendment during the Vietnam War was incorrect. George McGovern of South Dakota, not Matt Hatfield of Oregon sponsored the unsuccessful amendment.

A review of book about sex-change operations incorrectly referred to a 1938 operation on Michael Dillon as the first of its kind, while sexual alterations have a storied history going "back to ancient times,' according to the Times.

April 1, 2007

Protesters Mob British Embassy in Iran

National Public Radio reported Sunday that Iranian protestors mobbed the British Embassy, in an effort to pressure their government to try the 15 members of the British military accused of straying into Iranian waters.

The challenge of the story, which is a radio transcript, is to give the relevant information, while putting it into context with the ongoing nuclear talks with the UN, which started last week. The quotes are what strike me most in the story. I realize that there is a language barrier involved, but many of the quotes consist of single words. The British Foreign Secretary "regrets" the impasse, and the Iranian President has called the British response "arrogant."

The did a better job. "About 200 students throwing rocks and shouting "Death to Britain" and "Death to America" demonstrated outside the British embassy in Tehran Sunday, but caused no damage or injuries. In London, about a dozen British protestors demonstrated outside the Iranian embassy,demanding that the captives, taken March 23, be freed." That brings the reader to the heart of the issue. Iranians are very upset, Britons, though in far fewer numbers, are also upset. The story went on to describe a survey that found seven percent of Britons surveyed thought that the country should go to war over the issue. The news is first, detailed in several ways, and then the background of the story is elucidated for the reader. Much better, in my opinion.

March 25, 2007

Car racer dies

A professional driver died Friday after a head injury sustained during a crash in Gainsville. Because Eric Medlen was driving a so-called Funny car, there are articles attempting to make light of this man's death.

The challenge, therefore, is to write it like a straight news story. The Associated Press did this, despite the headline "Funny Car Racer Dies After Crash" which, in my opinion, begs the question.
The Los Angeles Times was a bit more tactful, calling him a drag racer. Regardless of his dangerous lifestyle, a man has died, and his family and friends don't deserve to read puns about his professional death.

March 18, 2007

Muslim Cashiers Follow-Up

Joe Soucheray of the Pioneer Press made a call for reader response to a story about Muslim cashiers refusing to handle pork, as well as Muslim cab drivers' refusal to drive drunk passengers. Both alcohol and pork are considered forbidden by many Muslims. Some reader response is vaguely alluded to in Soucheray's article, including an e-mail featuring the word "savages," which suggested to Soucheray "that the newspaper not only doesn't understand the depth of the controversy but presumes it to be just another "talk radio" conversation held by the Greek chorus of the great unwashed."

The article's goal, or at least what it's goal should be, in my opinion, is to clarify the debate. It doesn't do this. It first seems to be sympathetic to those who's interpretation of Islamic law has prompted them to abstain from these practices, then goes on to admonish those same individuals. "Or, as ridiculous as we might wish to get, keep a pencil handy and poke or guide the bacon across the scanner. This is America. We get inventive. And we get inventive in order to keep things moving along. That's the way we do business. Please join us." He later states that "most of us are weary of being thought intolerant." Intolerant, perhaps, but clearly not helping in clarification of the debate, in my opinion.

March 4, 2007

British Tourists May Be in Eritrea

A herdsman spotted five Britons, who were kidnapped in the Ethiopian desert, across the hostile border in Eritrea. It was believed that British special forces were en route on Sunday reported the New Zealand Herald. The article describes the desert as "one of the most inhospitable places on Earth," complete with sulphur clouds from nearby volcanoes and temperatures of 104 degrees (40C).

Because the newsworthy event in this ongoing story is the tourists being spotted, the article does a fine job of elucidating the events, giving background, and giving a prediction of what to expect next, due to the fact that a British rapid response team flew out of London on Saturday after an emergency meeting of their Cabinet crisis committee.

An article from itv news reports much of the same information, but the reporting doesn't bring the events to life nearly as well as the New Zealand Herald. There is an added bit of information, however. Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett confirmed the kidnapped tourist inluded either members of the staff from the UK embassy or their relatives.

February 24, 2007

Clovis Hunters

The Star Tribune's website contains a story from the Los Angeles Times about new information stating that the Clovis people, prehistoric settlers of North and South America, arrived later than previously thought. The use of more precise radiocarbon data obtained by researchers at Texas A&M suggests that the ancient people probably didn't last long as a society, as well.

The article is quite short, so summarization is the challenge, however, the question of newsworthiness isn't met. The possibility of this finding discrediting others, some quotes from academics about what this news means, or possible theories about why the previous data were flawed would all work to explain the value of this knowledge to readers. The challenge was clearly not met, in my opinion. Furthermore, the lead is the exact same sentence as the bold-print sentence below the headline. "The wily prehistoric hunters long considered the first people of the Americas were almost certainly latecomers to the continent, researchers have concluded."

The Kansas City Star meets this challenge much more effectively. Citing two researchers who have disagreed with the "Clovis First" theory of the America's settlement, the article continues. "For decades, these two scientists have shouted from the fringes of academia that the Clovis First theory was flawed. They pointed to sites across Wisconsin - Schaefer, Hebior and Fabry Creek - that showed that people were here before Clovis." It then continues to explain why radiocarbon data is much more accurate than it used to be.

February 18, 2007

Partially Mummified Man Found in Front of TV

The Star Tribune had a story by the Associated Press about a man found in front of his television a year after his death. The television was still on, and the the man was still recognizable due to the dry conditions of the house. Neighbors hadn't thought to check on the man, whose wife had died years ago, thinking that he was probably in a nursing home.

I would think that the challenge of an article of this sort might be to comment on alienation in our busy world, but the article is not an editorial, after all. It simply offers a few paragraphs on how he was found, the approximate time of his death, and neighbor's reactions to the news.

A Philadelphia news station has an extended version of the AP's story, with further quotes from medical personnel and neighbors, but still lacking a perspective on the events.

February 11, 2007

Statewide Smoking Ban

This article, from the Star Tribue on Tuesday is about a proposed statewide smoking ban. It's primarily interesting because the Pioneer Press has this link on their website today (Sunday), but this article is actually linked to the Sun Newspapers website.

The Star Tribune article's challenge is to describe the limits of the ban, and elaborate on the failed amendment that would have allowed bar owners to install ventilation systems or pay a license fee to permit smoking on the premises. The only remaining exceptions to the ban are hotel rooms, smoking shops, and Indian casinos. Long sought by antismoking advocates, Mark Brunswick of the Tribune states that the bill is likely to pass.

The article from Sun Newspapers is much more biased, in addition to being several days after the latest development in the smoking ban. In my opinion, The Sun article starts out with the following phrase, "In Hennepin County, the results of its smoking ban can be seen all around: restaurants no longer have smoking sections, there are many fewer smoke-filled bars, and patios are all the rage." All true, perhaps, yet the smoke-filled bars reference seems to be quite subjective. I personally have no problem with a statewide smoking ban, and am quite happy with the results in Minneapolils, but would have tried to take a more balanced approach, like that of Mark Brunsick of the Tribune.

February 4, 2007

Global Climate Change

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette had an interesting article following Friday's report on global warming by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The group, sponsored by the United Nations, stated that human contributions to the warming trend are now undeniable. The article repeatedly quotes M. Granger Morgan, who heads the Department of Engineering and Public Policy at Carnegie-Mellon University.
"Global warming is a fact, but its impact on Western Pennsylvania remains a matter of scientific speculation," Morgan said, adding that the warming trend will be gradual. "If you wait five years it will be a bit warmer on average than it is now," he said, noting it will become warmer and drier with possibly more intense precipitation. "There are potential surprises, and rapid rise in sea levels could be one of them."
The article's goal is to put global warming into perspective for residents living in the Pittsburgh area, speculating that the climate will be similar to that of the Carolinas 100 years from now. It does this effectively through ample quotes attributed to experts. A related story on the Kansas City Star's webpage takes the topic in a different direction. It has more of an alarmist tone, stating that "Even if governments would act immediately to force drastic cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, the gases already in the atmosphere will continue to raise temperatures through the rest of this century and beyond, the report states." The article also quotes experts on climate change and puts the story into context with the predictions of weather in the Midwest. I think that this article is more effective, because it stresses the need for immediate change.