April 24, 2007

Georgian school holds its first integrated prom

A Georgian high school broke tradition, holding its first racially integrated prom Saturday, according to an AP story (
Students at Turner County High School in Ashburn, Ga., had traditionally held separate, unofficial proms, one raised by white students for themselves and one raised by blacks for themselves.
However, at the start of this year, four senior class officers decided they wanted one unified prom. School prinicpal Chad Stone helped the students fund the party with $5,000 in discretionary funds.
Turner County is small, with only 4,000 people and mainly focused on the peanut industry. The high school is one thing that gives the area a sense of community. The school had also recently named a single homecoming queen, removing an old tradition of having a black and white queen.
Despite efforts at unification, many upper-class white students did not buy tickets to the prom and some white students held a small party a week before prom.
According to the Christian Science Monitor, Mandy Albertson and James Hall, a white female and black male who have been longtime friends, had been planning this prom since middle school ( James Hall, the senior class president, came to Stone with the idea. Hall said that in previous years the administration had said the students didn't support a unified prom and they even rejected a referendum on the idea a few years ago.
Another woman, Tameka Jones, a black women who graduated from Turner HS in 1995 said the event is only a short-step to help race relations. There is railroad track in towns separating white and black neighborhoods, often referred to as "the line."
Principal Stone said that one, integrated prom will now be the tradition, as long as he is principal.

I really liked both these stories. The AP story takes a more hard news approach, with limited quotes and an emphasis on the hard facts. The story balances the perspective of the school administration with that of the students. There is also some good description of the events. I thought the history of the situation was left a little vague. On the other hand, the Monitor piece was very detailed, taking more of a "feature" approach. The lead is a catchy, although slightly cliched, statement about the connectivity of the student body. The Monitor piece utilized lots of quotes and surprisingly long ones. To balance this, there was a lot of detailed description of the ceremony and the people in the story. Each person interviewed jumps off the page. The story does a great job expressing humanity. The story also establishes a sense of history better than the AP story, although I still think more information should've been brought in. I also think both stories missed the perspective of the parents. But I thought overall the reporting was thorough.

April 17, 2007

Gunman kills 32 in deadliest shooting in U.S. history

An unidentified gunman shot and killed 32 people in a classroom building at Virginia Tech Monday, in what is the deadliest mass shooting in the history of the United States, according to CNN (
Two shootings occured on campus, one around 7:15 in the morning at a dormitory on campus where two people were killed, and one about two hours later at a classroom building where at least 30 people were killed, including the gunman who appears to have taken his own life. Police are still investigating whether the incidents are related. About 30 more students were wounded in the classroom shooting at Norris Hall.
Witnesses in the building described the shooter as a young man, dressed like a boyscout, with a black ammunition vest, and of Asian descent.
The shooter apparently attacked more than one classroom. A .22 caliber handgun and a 9mm handgun were recovered at the scene.
Students in the classroom building pretended to be dead to hide from the shooter. The shooter just opened the door and fired into the rooms, being very quiet and calm. Some students tried to hide behind locked doors. Others even jumped out of windows.
By the time police arrived on the scene, after breaking through doors that were chained, the shooting had stopped.
The dormitory shooting, at West Ambler Johnston Hall, left Courtney Dalton dead, according to a friend of hers.
Virginia Tech President Charles Steger said that the first shooting was viewed as an isolated incident and it was decided not to shut down the whole school.
According to the Washington Post, the incidents were related (
The shooter shot a young woman and a resident advisor at the dormitory, killing them both. A professor was among the dead in the classroom shooting, although he has not been identified.
Some investigators have began to think that the dorm incident was a domestic dispute, but that has not been determined, nor has the girl who was killed been identified as the shooter's intended target.
President Bush offered his condolscenes to all the victims and their families. Governor Tim Kaine declared a state of emergency and is on his way back from Tokyo. He is expected to attend a vigil that will be held Tuesday.

I found it interesting how different these stories were. First of all, the CNN story still claimed the incidents may not have been related while the Washington seems to indicate they are. This is a huge detail and I was very suprised to find different accounts. Also, I question CNN's release of one of the victim's names. The girl's family may not have been notified and their source was not police, but a friend. I think they should've waited out of sensitivity until the police officially released the name. I was also surprised to find out that the fact that this is the deadliest shooting in U.S. history was not mentioned in CNN's lead. It was bold move, but I thought it was original, as every other lead I read including that information. I found it interesting that the CNN story begins with witness accounts of the killings, sometimes in vivid detail, which does work to draw in the viewer. However, I did like the Washington Post's story more because it felt more thorough. It summarized the first story in about half a page, and then broke the story up into a few different chronologies, then closing with several eyewitness accounts. The attention to detail was very impressive. I do think both stories slightly neglect the police's role in investigating the incident and the appropriateness of their response. I think that the police were probably hesitant to speak, so the media went to interview students. This is dangerous territory, because a journalist could get lost in contrasting perspectives and personal accounts, while missing the big picture. However, both stories were incredibly affective at detailing the horror and terror taking place in the shooting.

April 11, 2007

2 students wounded in accidental shooting at Chicago high school

Two students were accidentally shot Tuesday in a Chicago area high school when one student was showing the gun to another student, according to the Chicago Tribune (,1,2189363.story?coll=chi-news-hed).
The shooting occured inside a classroom at Chicago Vocational Career Academy on the city's Southeast Side.
The gun was a 9mm Ruger handgun brought by a 15-year-old boy. The boy was showing the gun to another student in political science class when it went off accidentally.
The bullet went through the thigh of one student and struck the knee of the other, a 14-year-old boy. According to the police, the boy panicked, ran outside and threw the gun into the bushes. When the boy came inside he was apprehended by security and showed them the weapon.
Both boys were taken to hospitals, but they are in stable condition.
The school does have metal detectors, which questions how the boy got the gun into the school. The police said that only some students pass through, as it takes too long to scan all students. However, the Chicago Public School spokesman said all students are scanned.
Charges are expected to be brought against the teen who brought the gun to school, officials said.
According to police, all students must scan ID cards when they enter the school. The boy who brought the gun must've went through an unauthorized entrance because there is no record of him scanning his card.
According to an AP report, this is the second shooting at the school in less than a month (
In that incident two students were injured when in a school parking lot when someone drove by and opened fire. Those students eventually recovered.

I found it interesting how much more thorough the Tribune story was. The stories contain very similar information, but the Tribune article went to much further lengths to add extra detail and to show-not-tell. I also found it interesting how information was added because the story was local in one case and national in the other. For example, the exact address of the school was given in the Tribune article but not the AP story. The Tribune article also had a better ending, ending with quotes from both parents and students, especially considering the time constraints. However, in terms of story organization the stories were almost identical.

April 3, 2007

Supreme Court ruling says EPA can set emissions limits

The Supreme Court decided Monday that the Environmental Protection Agency has the authority to set greenhouse gas limits, according to the Los Angeles Times (
It also decided that carbon dioxide is an air pollutant subject to regulation under EPA law. The decision was 5-4, and was seen as a rebuke to the Bush administration, who said federal authorities don't have the power to regulate emissions.
This helped knock down a barrier on several states that were trying to set emission standards.
According to the Clean Air Act of 1970, the EPA shall regulate the emission of "any air pollutant" that is likely "to endanger public health or welfare." According to Justice Stevens, who wrote the majority opinion, "welfare" can be seen broadly in terms of negative of effects on climate and weather.
According to the decision, the EPA is not forced to set emissions, but must provide clear evidence that carbon dioxide doesn't cause climate change. Lawsuits can be brought against the EPA if it fails to do so.
Chief Justice Roberts, who wrote the dissenting opinion, said that Congress and the president have the power to resolve this issue, not the Court.
According to the New York Times, a representative of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the main industry trade group, said that he is looking forward to working with Congress and the administration in adressing the issue. The EPA will now be part of this process.

I really liked the L.A. Times article. It was very thorough and provided a lot of context for the decision. It looked at several opinions from lawmakers in different sections of government and also industry leaders. I did think the lead was to much conjecture and had no action in it. The second graph was probably a better lead, getting right into the decision. The lead would be repeated and insinuated throughout the article. I liked that the article provided the background of the Clean Air Act. I also thought it provided a good deal of quotes from people on both sides. I liked how most of the opinions were pushed off until the end though, leaving the beginning of the story for the most factual information. I also liked the fact they described the basis of the court case and the parties involved, something the NY Times dodged. The NY Times article also left out a lot of the dissenting opinion, which I did not think was even-handed.

March 29, 2007

Arrest of Webb aide highlights conflict between Captiol and District gun laws

It is lawful to carry a gun into the United States Capitol, and it is even lawful to load it, but District of Colombia gun laws strictly ban the transport of hand guns on city streets, according to the Washington Post (
Phillip Thompson, aide to Virginia Senator Jim Webb, was arrested Monday for carrying a loaded pistol into the Capitol building. Thompson was arrested after police spotted the loaded pistol he was carrying in his briefcase. Thompson said he was carrying the weapon for Webb. He has been charged on an account of carrying a firearm without a license.
According to police, it is only lawful for congressmen to ask police officials to escort weapons into the building. Staff members are also only allowed to carry unloaded guns. Congress members can have loaded guns, but only in their offices.
Webb denies ever having carried a gun into the Capitol building. Congress members do not have to pass through metal detectors.
District law says that citizens can only keep rifles and shotguns within the confines of their home. It is also illegal to transport weapons from Virginia to Maryland by way of the District of Colombia.
Webb also denied a claim that he gave the gun to Thompson for safe-keeping before entering an airport.
According to an AP report, Thompson plead not guilty to gun charges on Tuesday (,,-6513207,00.html).
Thompson and his attorney had no comment.

I thought the Washington Post article was expertly handled. The writer took a legalistic approach, emphasizing the conflict between District and Capitol law. This set up many interesting facts and disparities that were both entertaining and enlightening. I also like how the writer added the context of Virginia gun law to show allude to why Webb and Thompson think this way about gun control. The lead works brilliantly by dodging the main story everyone has already heard, and providing the fact that congressmen can load guns in their offices. I was also amazed that congressmen don't need to pass through metal detectors. If there was one thing the article missed, it was the specific details about Thompson's court procedings. The AP article took a straight-forward news approach. It dealt with the facts very concisely and focused on the legal actions. I thought it could've developed the descrepancy between Thompson and Webb's claims in a more thorough way.

March 20, 2007

House committee testimony shows weakening of climate reports

Documents released by a House Committee Monday showed alterations of climate reports to downplay the human role in global warming by a former White House official, according to the New York Times (
Phillip A. Cooney, the former chief of staff of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, who was a oil industry lobbyist, testified in front of the committee. Cooney claimed the changes he made were part of the normal White House review process and reflected changes made to earlier climate reports.
Cooney had no scientific background.
Dr. James E. Hansen, a NASA climate official who had attempted to be silenced by former Bush aide George C. Deutsch III, said at the committee that editing reports and silencing scientists muddied the public debate.
Representative Henry A. Waxman of California said the documents revealed a systematic White House effort to minimize the significance of global climate change.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the documents showed more than 181 changes made to a strategic plan on global climate change (
Cooney has denied the changes were directly cooridinated with the White House but he was in contact with an unnamed, senior White House aide. Dr. Hansen did admit that editing like this occurred in previous administrations but to a much lesser extent.

The New York Times article focuses more on the political aspects and less on the scientific. I found it interesting that Cooney came off much more defensive and less cooperative in the Times than in the Herald. I thought the Times article did a much better job of providing background for each of the major players. However the Herald did a better job explaining the actual changes made to the reports. I also found it interesting that Cooney was the central character in the Times article while Hansen was in the Herald article. I thought the Herald article had a much better flow. The Times article begins to bog down near the end, getting wrapped too much in partisanship.

March 7, 2007

Man crashes plane in ex-in-law's house, killing himself and daughter

An Indiana pilot and his 8-year-old daughter both died in a plane crash Monday, after crashing a small aircraft into the home of the pilot's ex-mother-in-law in what police are calling a murder suicide, according to a Reuters report (
Police said that shortly after the crash, the girl's mother reported her daughter missing when she didn't arrive at school after spending the weekend with her father, Eric Johnson, 47. Police speculate that Eric Johnson abducted his daughter after the two spent the weekend together on vacation.
Eric Johnson had recently divorced his wife, Beth Johnson, and they shared joint custody over their daughter Emily.
According to an AP report, Beth Johnson recieved a phone call from her ex-husband saying she'd never get Emily back ( This call was made shortly before the crash, but it is unknown whether it was made in the air or not.
The police are searching for notes and clues explaining Eric Johnson intentions. Investigators are also looking into whether or not the plane was functioning properly.
Beth Johnson and her husband divorced in November, a few months after she filed a restraining order against him for threatening him with a gun.
Toxicology tests on Eric Johnson have not been completed. No one in the home was injured during the crash.

The Reuters report is a straight news story that just scratches the surface, but it does do a nice job to cover the main points of the story. It supports most of its information with the police report. The AP article, uses many more quotes, and gathers outside information, to put the story into a little more context. The lede here is a quote, and in this case I think it's a fairly effective one. It quotes Vivian Pace, the mother-in-law who's house was crashed into, several times. Beth's story is told through her, most likely because reporters didn't wanted to overwhelm Beth. This article does a great job near the end, compiling details of the Johnson's marriage and divorce to offer insight into the incident without making any accusations. I thoroughly enjoyed the AP article.

February 28, 2007

Ex-aide to former Congressman Ney pleads guilty to conspiracy charges

A former chief of staff to former Ohio Rep. Bob Ney pleaded guilty Monday to federal conspiracy charges, accusing him of accepting bribes from Jack Abramoff and his associates, according to an AP report (
William Heaton, 28, was the Ohio republican's chief of staff from 2002 to 2006, when Ney resigned. Ney was sentenced to 30 months in prison in January after confessing to recieving bribes from Abramoff.
Heaton helped accompanied Ney on trips funded by Abramoff and other lobbyists in return for favors. Heaton was also charged with concealing gifts given to Ney by lobbyists.
According to the Columbus Dispatch, Heaton faces five years in prison and a $250,000 fine (
Neil Volz, Ney's previous chief of staff with ties to Abramoff also plead guilty last year to federal charges.
Heaton, along with Ney, had also been involved in illegal business deals with Syrian businessman, Fouad al-Zayat. Zayat had given Ney $50,000 in gambling chips at a British casino, after Ney promised to help lift the U.S. trade ban with Iran, where Zayat wanted to sell airplanes.
Heaton, along with a third, unnamed aide, was involved in concealing this money.

The AP article takes a standard hard news lead and story structure. It begins with Monday's plea and then gives some background into the details of the case. There is an integral quote in the middle of the story to support the article's main points, showing the connections between Heaton and Abramoff. The Columbus dispatch article, in my opinion, was much more interesting because it was very detailed and unique. Instead of bringing up Abramoff, it chronologically tells the story of Ney and Heaton's business deal with Zayat. I also liked how the lead was just a description of the safe in Ney's office. It worked well to illuminate the entire theme of the rest of the article. The only problem with the article was that it was difficult to tell where all this information had come from. Some of it seemed unattributed.

February 24, 2007

FBI agents pose as mobsters, sting Florida cops

Four veteran police officers were accused Friday in court of taking bribes from people they thought were mobsters, but were actually FBI agents, according to an AP report (
The FBI agents were undercover, posing as New York-based criminal organization, as part of a two-year sting to catch a ring of corrupt police officers.
On Friday, the four officers were charged with conspiracy. The case will go before a grand jury.
The four officers are Detective Kevin Companion, 41; Sgt. Jeffrey Courtney, 51; Officer Stephen Harrison, 46; and Detective Thomas Simcox, 50, who all serve out of Hollywood, Fla.
According to the Miami Herald, Courtney, Harrison and Companion appeared in federal court Friday morning and pleaded not guilty. An arraignment is scheduled for March 15 (
The FBI had to shut down the sting operation after Courtney and Companion had discovered they were being investigated. Courtney and Companion had called in sick and put in their letters of resignation. After the FBI realized their cover had been blown, they immediately arrested Courtney, Harrison, and Companion.
According to agents, Companion was the leader of the group of crooked cops and recruited the others for illegal capers. "In exchange for cash, Companion and others protected the collection of illegal gambling debts and the fencing of stolen watches; they personally delivered $400,000 in bearer bonds and a tractor-trailer full of cigarettes; and they protected a rigged, high-stakes poker game on a yacht."
The FBI will continue their investigation, but it will be difficult now that the case has gone public.

The AP article focuses more heavily on the court procedings and the legalities of the case. The Herald article focuses more heavily on the investigation, its findings and the criminal activity. I thought it was interesting that the AP article stated that the suspects hadn't made any pleas while the Herald article said that three of them had plead not guilty. The AP article scratches the surface and unfortunately doesn't give any quotes to back up its claims. Because of this, there is very little information about the investigation and the illegal activity. I thought it was interesting that the Herald article thought the fact that the FBI investigation was blown was more important than the fact that four cops were arrested on corruption charges. This article used several quotes, mostly by Hollywood Police Chief James Scarberry, to support the claims about the charges and the investigation. I personally enjoyed the Herald article much more.

February 13, 2007

FBI loses laptops with important information

The FBI lost 10 laptops containing classified information during a period of nearly four years, ending in 2005, according to a report done by the Justice Department's inspector general, CNN reports (
Overall, 160 laptops were stolen during the 44-month period ending on September 30, 2005. Inspector General Glenn Fine also reported that 160 weapons were also missing from the FBI.
The report also stated that one of the 10 missing laptops had information identifying FBI personnel. Several of the stolen laptops also contained important counterterrorism and counterintelligence information.
This report did show improvement on the 2002 audit, which found more than 300 laptops and 300 weapons had been stolen in a 28-month period.
Assistant FBI Director John Miller stressed the improvement that had been made, but also acknowledged the more had to be done to secure information.
According to a Washington Post article, the report said in a few cases FBI officials didn't try to assess the potential damage to national security when a laptop holding secret information was lost or stolen (
According to the 2002 audit, several of the stolen weapons were used in robberies and one was found on a murder victim.
Overall, the FBI maintains more than 52,000 weapons and 26,000 laptops, according to the 2005 audit.

The CNN article takes a hard news approach. It brings up the 10 classified info laptops in the lead and then goes into the more broad detail in the nut graph. This article had strong quotes, from politicians, FBI officials and the Inspector General. I wish the article would have delved further into explanations on how these laptops were stolen. The Post article was very similar. The only key difference was that it described the 2002 audit in further detail.

February 6, 2007

Bush Sends Congress $2.9 Trillion Budget Plan

President Bush sent a $2.9 trillion budget plan to Congress Monday, according to the Washington Post.(
The proposed budget plan will dramatically increase military spending, but will divert money away from domestic programs like Medicare and Medicaid. Bush's goal is to eliminate the federal deficit by 2012.
The budget calls for an $245 billion increase in spending for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The budget will cut $96 billion dollars away from Medicare and Medicaid, while also making cuts at eight other federal level agencies such as education and environment. The budget proposal also calls for permanent tax cuts.
Many Democratics rejected Bush's proposal. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said that the tax cuts were aimed at multi-millionaires and ingored the middle class. He also said the budget proposal would erode health coverage for children and seniors.
Bush's defense spending proposal would give less and less money to Iraq each year, leading some to say that he is setting an economic timetable. The President denied these statements.
Bush also said that to eliminate the deficit by 2012 would require economic growth, tight domestic spending, and reduced funding for the war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Democrats said the tax cuts will not decrease the federal deficit, instead saying that tax breaks for corporations will have to be eliminated. The Congressional Budget Office also said that it will be difficult to balance the budget if the tax cuts continue.
The temporary tax cuts established in 2002 and 2003 led lawmakers to be wary of raising taxes, for fear of retaliation by taxpayers. Instead the Democrats are trying to find ways to raise revenue without raising taxes on the middle class, according to the New York Times (
The Post article has an interesting structure. It starts out with the most important information, then it breaks down the bill into sections and more deeply analyzes the budget proposal. It puts a lot of the controversy early on in the story, then gets into specifics about military spending and social service spending. I liked the article but I thought it should have compared this budget proposal to previous ones in a clearer manner. The only comparisons made were quotes from politicians. The Times article went less in depth and focused on the debate throughout the entire article. Almost the entire article was quotes from politicians either in favor of or opposed to the plan. This made the article tiresome and boring. I also thought the Times article had a terrible lead.

January 30, 2007

Miami to hold party after Castro's death

The city of Miami is making plans to throw a celebration in the Orange Bowl whenever Cuban President Fidel Castro dies, according to (
The city commission recently appointed a committee to coordinate the event.
The planning has become more specific since last summer when Castro became ill.
Miami's large ex-patriot population is very hostile toward Castro and the Cuban government. The Orange Bowl is significant because it was the site of President Kennedy's 1961 "Free Cuba" speech and a refugee camp for Cubans during the 1981 Mariel boatlift.
According to a CNN report, a leader of the Miami-based Democracy Movement organization worried how the party might be percieved outside of Miami's ex-Cuban population (
The MSNBC article quotes the Miami city commissioner involved in planning the party and balances the article by quoting the Democracy Movement leader who was opposed to the party. I personally would've liked to hear the opinions of local Cubans immigrants and non-Cubans living in Miami. The CNN article also attributed a former state representative offering some interesting insight about the implications of the party. I found it interesting that the articles shared some of the same quotes. In my opinion, this showed a lack of in-depth reporting.

January 26, 2007

An Interstate Pileup in Pennsylvania

CNN is reporting (
a 50-vehicle, chain-reaction accident occured near Erie, Penn. Thursday.
Officials said that one person was killed, and several people were slightly injured.
Several tractors-trailers and tanker trucks, and also an ambulance that was carrying patients, were involved in the pile up.
The accident occured during a snow storm on Interstate 90.
The Interstate was blocked off in both directions for several hours.
CNN says that authorities have not released any information on the death.
According to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, (
a hazardous materials crew was dispatched to the scene, but none of the tanker trucks were damaged or turned over.
The CNN articles addresses the essential facts and puts them into a crisp, concise article. The lead emphasizes the "what" and begins with "About 50 vehicles", which is an attention grabber. It saves the "where" for later. In contrast, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review article puts the "where" into the lead and also delves into more specifics, especially the "when", in the later paragraphs. The Tribune article also goes further into detail, quoting a hospital spokeswoman.