May 6, 2007

Reflection

The future of journalism is scary. The wholesome value of print media is something I would never want to let go of, even as I am a slave to the internet. It is unfair and unsafe to assume that the "news" you get off of the internet is real. Though I understand that there are some civilians that can get hard news information before the corporations can, I still think there is better value in letting the news people report the news. What's so bad about civilians sending in their information as tips to the higher-ups?
There are too many ways to be faced with faulty information when you let just anyone report the news. More often than not in my schooling career, when I am actually trying to look for something on the internet, it is so hard to find something that is legitimate. You have to sift through loads of junk to get to something real because people can just write whatever they want. Wikipedia. That should be enough to explain it all.

Where do I stand in the future of journalism? I want to keep it to the roots. I want to be a magazine writer for a tangible print magazine--no online work if I don't have to. I want to be a profile writer and a feature story writer. I want to be a music journalist...I want to be a music photographer. I want to be like Patrick Fugit from the movie Almost Famous, except I don't want to write for the Rolling Stone because, c'mon really, if you do not like U2, you pretty much have no place there, and safe to say I do not like U2. There would be nothing more amazing than to follow bands and tell their stories to the world. There is no one in the world more fascinating, more intelligent, more inspiring than a musician. I want to change the way the people view journalists. Just as they explain in the movie, music journalists are considered "the enemy" because they can break any artist's career. I do not want to be the enemy. I do not want to ruin anyone--they can ruin themselves, and I will gladly tell the story, but I will not be the one to end anyone's run. I will tell the truth and share the stories. I will not be a critic because who cares about my opinion. Its about the music, and that is what I want to let everyone know about.

And I guess if this does not work, I would want to be a publicist instead, just so I can obtain the same musical intimacy.

April 14, 2007

4.14.07--Public Documents

Shortly after class on Wednesday the 11th, Keith Hovis and I went down to the Minneapolis City Hall building on 5th Street, near a light rail stop that I've neglected to notice time and time again through countless trips, to look for crime reports and statistics involving trends in Uptown crime. This building has always struck me as intimidating. The bus that comes from Burnsville and takes me to the U drives past here everyday, and although I have always assumed I'd never had a reason to go in, part of me always wanted to explore anyway. The grandiose building with its gothic-like architecture looked uninviting, but my curiosity never died. Upon entering, it was cold and blank. It seemed like just another university building that had recently been renovated and actually reminded me of Nicholson Hall, which made me shudder at the thought of sitting through another restless session of a Greek and Roman mythology lecture.

We were directed to room 31 where they keep criminal records. Two Somali men who were singing followed us into the room. The counter here reminded me of something you'd see when you look through the window of a Checks Cashed like the one on Lake Street in Uptown--with steel black bars defining the barrier between you and anything you wish to obtain. The woman working the desk was salty, to say the least. When we asked her if she had access to any crime statistics for the Uptown area, she looked at us like we were speaking a whole different language, so we asked her again. Though she did not have the records on hand, she did provide us with a phone number to call, which we later found out would direct us to a website. From there, she insisted that she cannot get any information out of the computer for us, and suggested that we use "the book", at which point she gestured us to this massive binder filled with hundreds of three-hole punched documents that sat next to a computer.

Here, we were supposed to look everything up ourselves. Keith took charge of shifting through the book for the most interesting crimes that took place on Lyndale Avenue, Lake Street, and West Hennepin. I manned the computer station and poked fun at the terrible graphics and the horribly photoshopped police car that graced the main page. We entered case numbers into the computer left and right, and would only settle for the best. Car theft? Not good enough...unless it involved two street hookers stealing the car of the Floridian man with whom they just did their deed, then it'd be good, and sure enough, that's exactly what I found. Even the most simple police stops became greatly hilarious and more serious than the officers had possibly planned. Police stopped and approached one man with the intent of nabbing him for loitering, but as they got nearer, the man hastily tried to swallow what the report described as "a white substance" but unfortunately [or fortunately, however you want to see it] was unable to do so. So instead, a loitering charge quickly shifted to an arrest for soliciting a controlled substance.

Keith ended up stumbling upon a case involving an old acquaintance, oddly enough. Neither of us thought about looking for specific cases until then, when Keith joked about looking up his own case number from when he got hit by a truck to see what stupid things they had to say about it.

We printed out the reports, and I unhappily paid for the several pieces of paper. I'm a bit cheap, and dislike paying little fees for school assignments, but I dished it out regardless. I paid for Keith's too, since he took care of parking, so we came out even. We laughed at the idea of asking Dan Bernard to reimburse us for our hard work, and we had the receipt and all the paper to show that we paid a grueling $1.75 for schoolwork.

March 25, 2007

Three Dead in St. Paul Shooting

Three people were killed in their St. Paul home on Friday, and police suspect that the attack was not random. Maria Mclay, 32, was found alive upon police arrival, but died shortly after when she was taken to Regions Hospital. Mclay's fiance Otahl "T.C" Webb, 31, and daughter Brittany Mclay were found dead at the scene.

The MPR article does a great job being short and to the point. Every comment and quote is attributed so as to avoid any liability. Everything is current and the only insight they have as to where things will go from here is at the end where they note that the are searching the area for witnesses.

Star Tribune took a different approach to the story, which, to me, seemed to make the story almost completely unnecessary. Tom Ford and James Walsh of the Star Tribune talk more about the events to come in relation to the investigation, which would not be a bad idea, if it weren't for the fact that there are no events to come. They say things like "Still unsure of basic details such as how many suspects were involved in Friday's triple killing or how they fled the St. Paul home" and quote someone as saying "'It's so early, we're going in a hundred different directions trying to figure out which one looks promising'", which both seem to be statements that add little to no newsworthiness. You could expect readers to assume that if nothing has been updated on the news about the case, then nothing new has been found--why would you need a whole article that basically says "sorry folks, we still have nothing"? They even start talking about things that go into a murder investigation--"Checking any doorknob or overturned piece of furniture in the home for fingerprints. Seeing whether any nearby business or traffic cameras captured an image of the suspects. Asking their law enforcement partners to stay tuned to any rumor or tip floating about"--as if that was not standard procedure.

**Opinion**
I do not see any news value in the story that was written for the Star Tribune. I think a follow up would be suitable if new information was gathered, but since there was none, what is the point? The Star Tribune also publishes a quote summary from the police chief that says "What led to the shootings is unknown, but Harrington said he would be surprised if drugs were not part of the motive." Okay maybe Ford and Walsh thought this was a good quote, and maybe the police chief is onto something, but what if drugs had nothing to do with the murders? Someone could get in trouble for suggesting the possibility. Though they do mention that police declined any mentioning of whether or not the victims had a background involving drugs or drug money. Still, I think it was risky to even mention it without any real verifyable lead.

Though the two articles have a slightly different take on the story, I think MPR does a better job at sticking to what is known, what is current, and what makes the story newsworthy.

February 4, 2007

Week Two--Posing as a Family, Sex Offenders Stun a Town

29-year-old Neil H. Rodreick II was a convicted sex offender who, instead of registering, conned three men and an entire community into believing he was actually a 12-year-old boy.

In 2002, after spending seven years in prison on a charge of indecent proposals to two 6-year-old boys, Rodreick met up with Lonnie Stiffler, 61, and Robert J. Snow, 43, over the internet and began sexual relationships with the men after convincing the two that he was 12 years old. Jennifer Steinhauer of The New York Times added:

Another man living in the house, Brian Nellis, 34, a sex offender Mr. Rodreick had met in prison, is believed to have aided Mr. Rodreick in the ruse, the authorities said.

Rodreick talked the three men into registering him into four charter schools in Arizona under the name (or a variation of the name) “Casey Price� and was eventually caught in Surprise Ariz. after about four months of enrollment at Imagine Charter School. He had been posing as a minor for almost two years.

Steinhauer leads the reader in with a storytelling approach where she tells us about this seemingly all-American boy whose only imperfection is a poor attendance history. She gives the sense that something is not right in this puzzle, and encourages us to continue reading about a boy who is obviously not what he seems, until ultimately she reveals Price’s true identity. This story evokes anticipation. As a reader, I want to know more about this person, and how he was able to scam the whole community.

The Associated Press offers a punchy delivery of a lead and is more straight forward than the one published in the New York Times:

A convicted sex offender attended at least two Arizona middle schools, sat through seventh-grade courses and turned in homework as he moved around the state pretending to be 12 years old, officials say.

However, this quick stab approach seems to be too punchy in the sense that we are jumping from point to point without much correlation.

**Opinion**
Both stories do a great job announcing the key points to the event. The AP article depicts the “boy� as being shy and disciplinary, but does not give way into the suspicions of parents of children who attended the charter school in Surprise, Ariz. Steinhauer reports that although some community members were easily fooled, others questioned him—school director Dawn Gonzales said, “Every adult that encountered him said something here is not right. “He just looked older. They kept saying, ‘Are you sure he is 12?’�

And although it is a bit lengthier, Steinhauer’s version of the story is easier to follow with its use of chronology.

January 28, 2007

Week One--Caffeine may ease post-workout muscle pain

Caffeine may ease post-workout muscle pain

A recent study shows that caffeine consumption just before a vigorous workout can decrease the muscle pain that often occurs one-to-two days after exercise. CNN.com states:

Known as delayed-onset muscle soreness, or DOMS, the pain is common in the day or two after a workout that was more intense than normal. Exercise that involves eccentric contraction of the muscles is particularly likely to cause delayed muscle pain.

The study tested nine females who, according to CBS News, "were not regular caffeine users and did not regularly engage in resistance training."
The women were tested with placebo pills and caffeine pills that were measured to contain the same amounts of caffeine as approximately two cups of coffee, which they took an hour before resistance training. The women who took the caffeine pills reported nearly half of the muscle pain as the placebo group.

CBS News reports the study quickly and briefly, making their points clear and strong. Their lead serves as sort of an FYI with a creative and informal approach, and, although they mention some of the findings in the beginning of the piece, it takes them all the way until the seventh paragraph to finally get to talking about the study and its results.

CNN's article is formatted much differently. It very quickly brings us into a lead, which simply explains the premises of the article:

In a small study of female college students, researchers found that a caffeine supplement seemed to lessen the familiar muscle pain that crops up the day after a particularly challenging workout.

From there we are given definitions of what these muscle pains are, which is followed up by step-by-step coverage of how the study was conducted, and we end with a gatherating of what these findings mean as well as how we can learn to use caffeine as a post-workout muscle reliever.

**Opinion**
I think that CBS tries a little too hard to bring the reader in with an anecdote, and spends less time explaining what exactly is going on with these findings. CNN does a much better job giving a sort of play-by-play analysis of how the information in the study can be useful to us as readers.

January 21, 2007

Week One--25 U.S. troops die on one of deadliest days in Iraq

25 U.S. troops die on one of deadliest days in Iraq

A helicopter crash in Iraq on Saturday, which killed twelve American troops, brought the day's death toll to twenty-five, one of the highest death tolls in a single day since the war began, bringing the total number of Americans killed to 3,055. Many of the remaining deaths were the outcome of working with Iraqi security forces, and as a result, Bush's plan to deploy more troops to Iraq will start with 3,200 soldiers heading to Baghdad to assist Iraqi security.

Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr also announced the end of his boycott against Iraqi Government and his protest of Prime Minister Nouri Maliki's meetings with President Bush. The BBC states that Maliki will improve security in Baghdad by working to stop Sadr's army, despite the prime minister's dependancy on Sadr--CNN further states that Sadr helped Maliki get into office.

CNN attempts to reassure its readers that the situation is expected to improve with the deployment of more troops while BBC makes no promises of hope and simply states the facts of the event. CNN explains the end of the boycott with much more information and explanation some of which could be cut from the article without losing the point of the piece--BBC proves to be more precise and is a shorter and easier read.

**Opinion**
The CNN article offers a more "every thing will be alright" message, and presents an idea that even though death tolls are still rising, the situation overseas is still moving forward positively. They almost brush past the number of casualties and try and nurse the enthusiasm tied to the continuing "efforts to stop the war". BBC does not sugar-coat the story, and more effectively just states the big news in a basic way.

Week One--3M chemicals found in drinking water of east metro cities

3M chemicals found in drinking water of east metro cities

Lorna Benson of Minnesota Public Radio reports the recent discovery of chemicals once produced by 3M in the wells of six east St.Paul suburbs. According to state Health Department, the low levels of the chemicals are not known to be detrimental to heath and it is not necessary for residents to abandon well water for a substitute source.

Benson avoids clutter while making her report simple; however, it is lengthy and often redundant. She includes many quotes to get several perspectives on the problem and verifications on the idea that this is not something worth worrying about extensively.

She has one upper hand on Kare 11's story (Health Department finds PFCs in six city's wells) when she opens with the quote "Out of the 59 public wells sampled, the health Department says 41 tested positive for the compound perfluorobutanoic acid", which is specific and reads as being more of an issue than just saying the compound was found in suburban water wells. The Kare 11 coverage is to the point and avoids the repitition that inhibits the MPR article, while reporting the much of the same information, and ulitimately has the same effect but without the risk of losing the reader.

**Opinion**
Both of the articles share information about several past instances of negligence on the part of 3M, but the Kare 11 article does so in half the space. The overuse of quotes in the MPR article makes it dry and difficult to want to continue to the end, as many of the quotes say the same thing: there is no need to be wary. Benson writes this as a sort of FYI, whereas the other article is more accusatory of 3M and its history with chemical contamination issues.