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May 7, 2007

How to get 18,000 people naked.

Spencer Tunick is the answer. The artist known for his nude photography visited Mexico City and set a new record for nudes. His previous record was 7,000 in Spain. The USA Today story,
http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/2007-05-06-mexico-tunick-photo_N.htm
is kind of sensational, which is hard to avoid because there were 18,000 people posing for a photograph.

The challenge in this story is digging deeper than nudity. There is a story here about progressive art and liberty.

My comparison story gets at this much better,
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/05/06/AR2007050601045.html
From the Washington Post, it reads more like a feature, because the reporter focuses at first on a single person who is kind of shy about getting naked for the picture. He then goes on about the process leading up to the shoot and provides context as to why this event is noteworthy. The shoot took place just outside of a Catholic Cathedral and the shoot was under a time constriction, they had to get done before mass started.

I liked the Washington Post story better because it was a good read. Everything I might want to know was thrown in. The USA Today story reads like a tabloid story, where the only focus is on the nudity, which I admit is hard to avoid when 18,000 people get naked.

Don't spit in Beijing.

China fined about 50 people for spitting in public. With the Olympics coming up soon China is worried that they will be disgraced. There are sweeping measures to improve Chinese citizens etiquette. Apparently one day each month has been designated to teach people how to wait in line. The Olympics for China is a chance to show how far they have come, economically and socially. The story comes from who else but the AP,
http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2007/05/07/asia/AS-GEN-China-Spitting-Fines.php

The challenge for this story is something I noticed in one of the last graphs. A quote was taken from another source. I remember this being an issue during the Tall Hat Bar story, where some juicy information was given to a Fox news reporter and the temptation was set in front of us to use it. The AP reporter uses the phrase, was quoted as saying by Xinhua, to justify the quote. Obviously getting quotes for a story like this would be hard unless you were there, but still you would have to get a translator or find someone who knew english.

My comparison article,
http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2007-05/07/content_866669.htm
mentions that clearing ones throat in public loudly is another offense China is hoping to crack down upon. I think there might be something lost in the translation here. Although when I was in China some natives told me it was illegal to spit in public, and I often saw people spitting into trash cans.

I think that some of these offenses are a bit ridiculous, but if that is their perogative then fine. I don't know who would be offended by spitting in public or clearing one's throat loudly, maybe someone is?

Manchester United secure English Premiership Title.

The team won because second place title contenders Chelsea tied Arsenal 1-1. Which means that Manchester United won. I read this in the New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/07/sports/soccer/07soccer.html?ref=soccer

This story is challenging because according to the article Manchester won without having to kick the ball. Which is kind of a cheeky way of saying that since Chelsea tied Arsenal they are no longer in the running. The article doesn't really explain how Manchester United has already won, it kind of assumes soccer fans would already know. The season isn't even over yet. Sports reporting kind of assumes that its readers have a level of knowledge on the subject. It seems to assume more of its readers than other sections of the newspaper.

This story from Voice of the Common Fan
http://www.4thegame.com/features/feature/203657/votcf_manchester_united_premiership_champions.html
deals more with the Chelsea game and how it was kind of boring.

I think ties are boring, shootouts were invented for a reason. English soccer gives points to teams that tie, so bad teams facing really good teams would rather settle for a tie, than go for the win. This produces boring games.

Journalist dies in Iraq

A roadside bomb killed 8 U.S. troops and one European journalist. This graph comes before this graph, which mentions that 35 people died earlier in the day. It is a hard question to ask. Whether one US. death is more newsworthy than 2 Iraqi deaths. What is the magic number here. How many people have to die to earn top billing over a US death in a news story.
http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200705/s1915694.htm

The challenge in this story is highlighted in my comparison. The statistics don't match up, this article posted on CNN International,
http://edition.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/meast/05/06/iraq.main/
states that 9 U.S. troops were killed. This story fails to mention the identity of the journalist, maybe because information hadn't been released yet. This article was published on May 6th, and the first article which appeared on ABC News Online was published the next day.

I think it must be very challenging to get information out of Baghdad.

Killer Syrup made in China?

Apparently a cheap substitue for glycerin called diethylene glycol, is being substituted in medicines coming from China. Diethylene glycol is used as an industrial solvent and is a major ingredient in antifreeze. According to this article thousands have died worldwide.
http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/world/4779165.html
Research done at the New York Times revealed that shipments of this syrup originated in China and were used solely because they were cheaper than glycerin. One syrup maker isn't even licensed to produce the stuff. He found that it was cheaper, swallowed some of it and after nothing happened started shipping it to major pharmaceutical companies in China.

The challenge for this article is the international game of connect the dots. The barrels of syrup were shipped from country to country before they made it here. Also the labels had been tampered with to prevent them being traced to the original manufacturer. This story highlights how a paper with a considerable budget can track down stories other papers can't. I'm sure this took a lot of time and research to uncover. I'm guessing that a Times reporter actually flew to China to track down the source of the syrup.

The Associated Press also reported on the story which was published in the Seattle Post Intelligencer.
http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/national/1110AP_Panama_Tainted_Medicine.html
Even the Associated Press quotes the initial New York Times story. This story is really a shorter rehash of the lengthy Times story.

I think the New York Times must be doing something right if the Associated Press is quoting them. Or they just have more time and resources.

Nicolas Sarkozy is the new president of France

France hasn't had a new president in 12 years, Sarkozy steps in to replace Jacques Chirac.
In a story from Al Jazeera.net the new president is profiled.
http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/D8CD6E21-3C6D-4EB9-B2B0-0448A1C927F5.htm
The story is mainly biographical fluff about the new president.

The challenge for this story is that the only new aspect is that France has a new president. Everything is all talk until something happens that we can point to. For instance the story outlines where Sarkozy stands on important issues but until he actually does something there isn't much to report.

The Al Jazeera story is mainly straight line biography. I didn't notice how honest it was til I read a similiar story in the New York Times.
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/07/world/europe/07france.html?ref=world
The New York Times story uses more loaded language and kind of skews the facts. For example Sarkozy intends to implement a minimum hourly work week, which the Al Jazeera story mentions. The New York Times story says Sarkozy intends to make people work longer. The Times story also mentions Sarkozy's opponent, Segolene Royal, who would have been the country's first female president. Royal is absent from the Al Jazeera story.

I think it is weird that the Al Jazeera story does not mention Royal at all, I don't want to read between the lines too much on this issue. I like the honesty and objectiveness of the Al Jazeera story, and I don't like how the Times article tries to skew the facts by using loaded language.

May 6, 2007

Survivors? Downed Cameroon plane is found.

An aircraft that crashed in southern Cameroon was carrying 114 passengers and was finally found today. This story appeared in the Irish Examiner.
http://www.irishexaminer.com/breaking/story.asp?j=4642005&p=464zxzx&n=4642097&x=
On board the plane was a writer for the AP and the chief financial officer for South African mobile phone company, MTN. The article mentions that "five Britons" were on board but says nothing about the other 109 passengers. This seems typical for international tragedy stories, if you can't make the tragedy seem like next door it won't get published.

The challenge for this story is the lack of details that are available. The aircaft was just found. From the story it seems like they found it by air, if they had driven there they would know about the status of survivors. The dense jungle and fog that the article mentions are probably hampering disaster teams. Also nothing is known yet about why the the plane crashed.

I compared this story with one from NDTV.com
http://www.ndtv.com/convergence/ndtv/story.aspx?id=NEWEN20070011141
This story mentions that 15 Indians were on board so I'm assuming this is an Indian publication. The article also mentions that the wreckage was spotted from the air, which is what I was assuming from the other story. This article is only three paragraphs long but manages to mention the other crew and passengers. Apparently there were 105 passengers from 23 different countries and 9 crew members from Kenya. This story is basically the same as the Irish Examiner one, the same sort of details are listed and the only difference is the length and the more detailed descriptions of the Briton passengers.

I think it is humorous that the Irish Examiner story managed to get a quote from Boeing Airlines. What did they expect him to say about the crash? It seems like they were fishing for conspiracy, like any good journalist.

May 2, 2007

Estona and Russia clash.

The Estonian Government removed a statue called the "Bronze Soldier" from the Talinn square where it had stood for 60 years, the statue is a memorial to Red Army soldiers who died. The Estonian ambassador was attacked in Moscow by a group called Nashi which is backed by the Kremlin. Estonians claim that not enough was done to prevent the attack. Estonians don't like the statue claiming it is a reminder of 50 years of Soviet occupation and Russians like the statue because it is a reminder of Nazi liberation of Northern Europe.
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/europe/article1737809.ece

The challenge for this story is the scandal surrounding how much was done to prevent the Russian youths from attacking the Estonian Ambassador. All the reporter can do is get statements from both sides, maybe the reporter knows more but wouldn't be able to offer a firm conclusion. This could be one of those incidents where everybody kind of knows what happened, but no one will admit it.

It seems the plot thickens, I compared this story with one published in the Washington Post but written by Reuters. It seems that Russia may postpone delivery of oil products to Estonia. Russia claims disruption may occur as maintenance projects get underway on rail lines. This story mentions a rumor that Russia has in the past used energy resources as a political weapon.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/05/02/AR2007050200898.html

This is a complicated issue, but I don't think there is much that Estonia can do. I can understand why Russians are angry over the relocation of the statue, but its not like Estonia destroyed the statue. It was relocated to a military cemetery on the outskirts of town. The disruption of oil products at this point seems a little too convenient. The EU is going to have to step in before this gets even uglier.

April 5, 2007

Manchester United Red Devils prove their namesake in Rome.

http://msn.foxsports.com/soccer/story/6644490

The Manchester United Red Devils, a English Premier League football team, traveled to Rome, Italy to play in the United European Football Associations (UEFA) cup. Italian football has been plagued recently with hooliganism, which I wrote about in a previous blog posting. So the propensity for violence was all too apparent. Before the match even started one fan was hospitalized due to a knife wound to the neck. Once the game started the situation never dulled. Shortly before halftime riot police were called in to quell the 4,500 Manchester supporters who reportedly were throwing "missiles" and pounding on the partition separating them from their rival fans. Three United fans were removed. I found this story on Foxsoccerchannel.com, but it was originally written by the Associated Press.


This story is tough to handle because mob scenes are hard to distill. The major question is who did what, how did it start, and were the police justified in their behavior? The writer does a decent job of avoiding blame or bias by keeping it simple, they write about what happens and what they know. The writer uses the word "apparently" to avoid saying for sure why the problems actually began.

I compared the AP story with one appearing here: http://www.soccerway.com/news/2007/April/05/united-fans-hurt-in-rome-stadium-riot/
This story is loaded with bias. The writer used the phrase "baton-charged," saying the police used batons would have been more objective, saying they baton-charged the fans sounds like the police were full of bloodlust and out to bash some skulls. The writer also says that around 300 United fans were under the influence of alcohol. How does the writer know how many fans were drunk? Did he breathalyze all 4,500 United fans.

I feel like I'm repeating myself, but again the AP story is better, I don't mind reading opinion as long as it is labeled as such. The soccerway story is more interesting to read because of the colorful language and the picture of the man with a gaping head wound. Although at this point it is too early to say that police acted brutally. The climate of football in Italy is very tense right now, Italian police don't need many reasons to get violent with unruly fans since one of their own died less than a year ago. I think they should cordon off a section of the stands for these "ultra" fans to congregate. Make them sign a waiver, placing sole responsibility for injuries upon themselves. Then give them some PCP and a bottle of sangria. This way the hooligans can fight to the death and the rest of the fans can watch the match.

February 12, 2007

Portugal to legalize abortion

In a story appearing on the BBC's website: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/6350651.stm
Portugal's Prime Minister Jose Socrates has decided that abortion will be legalized despite low turnouts at a recent referendum. Currently abortions are allowed in the predominantly Catholic country, but only in cases of rape or harm to the mother or child. The new proposal will allow abortions up until the 10th week of pregancy. Socrates wants to end clandestine abortions and he said, "The choice placed before Portugal is whether it resigns itself to staying in the group of the most conservative countries or if it embraces modernity and joins the most developed nations."

A challenge in reporting this story is to avoid bias, abortion is an issue with a hair trigger. It is a heavily divisive issue, the line between pro-life and pro-choice is stark and unyielding. The BBC story avoids bias by simply sticking to the facts and tossing in a quote from a Catholic bishop at the end.

I compared this story with a wire story appearing in The Australian: http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,21210725-1702,00.html
This story reads like a fact sheet and places the Socialist party impact much higher. In fact it is in the lead. The BBC edition places it much lower because I think it is not as important or newsworthy as the elections that occurred. The low turnout means that the vote was not legally binding, despite that the prime minister is pushing forward. I think that is more newsworthy than what the socialist party is preparing to do.

While the Reuters story has more raw facts, I think the organization is a bit chaotic, it reads more like a reporter's notes, something that should be rewritten.

February 8, 2007

Italian Football stadiums close their doors on hooliganism

This story is from the BBC's sports section. Apparently an Italian policeman, 38, was murdered by a fan at a football game, so sweeping security measures have been enacted to combat hooliganism.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/football/6340537.stm

I think an initial challenge in reporting this story is translating Italian quotes into English. Another challenge is trying to find the nut of this issue. Iis it the new security measures, the re-opening of some of stadiums, the death of the policeman, or the loss of revenue from staging matches with no fans?

I compared this story with another version that was posted to the Yahoo sports section. Found here: http://sports.yahoo.com/sow/news?slug=reu-italyviolence&prov=reuters&type=lgns. Really this story is a wire story from Reuters. The BBC piece is sprawling and loosely constructed, quotes and facts and different facets of the event are thrown at the reader left and right with no clear cohesion. The Reuters story is more organized but much more banal. Both stories mention revenue loss, but the Reuters story takes a wider view of it citing the yearly loss, 6 billion euros, as opposed to the loss per day, 15.5 million euros, that the BBC notes. This seems to be a major issue which is relegated to the last line in the BBC edition. Reuters places loss much higher in the story.

This is sports journalism, so words like hooligan can go undefined. I don't know if this is a common term in Europe, in the U.S. you don't really hear this word often. I get the idea of what they are referring to, but a much clearer definition of the events would clear things up for me. I think describing the death of a police officer as hooliganism, falls short of the mark and kind of de-emphasizes the tragedy.

January 26, 2007

China's soaring GDP

http://http://www.turkishdailynews.com.tr/article.php?enewsid=64762
The article details China's current economic status, chronicling it's double digit increases in Gross Domestic Product. The article appeared in the Turkish Daily News but is really a wire story put out by Reuters. China's economy grew by 10.7% last year which is the largest increase in a decade, but doesn't eclipse the record increase China had in 1995.

I think the challenge for this article is all the numbers, economic terms and conversion rates. The writer must put these numbers into perspective so the lay reader can understand the basic facts. Also for an international audience, converting the yuan into dollars or Euros helps with context and perspective.

I chose to compare this article with one appearing in the Korea Herald, but originally appearing in the China daily.
http://www.koreaherald.co.kr/SITE/data/html_dir/2007/01/27/200701270022.asp
This article is very similar, some of the same key Chinese economic officials are quoted. One of the main differences I noticed is that the second article written by a Chinese author ends on a positive note while the Reuters wire story ends on a more skeptical note. This is an obvious difference because nationalism trumps all.

I thought the first article read too much like a fact sheet, where the reporter just slopped all his notes down. The second article seemed a bit more polished, but I enjoyed the critical skepticism of the second piece. Having traveled in China I know that speaking ill of the government is a giant taboo, so it makes sense that the Chinese writer stayed positive. Indeed it is hard to be negative when looking at the numbers, double digit increases for a communist/capitalist government is a major issue. They are proving that it works, that capitalism is not the end-all governmental system.