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.

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.

January 21, 2007

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.

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.