May 7, 2007

Guess what Minnesota has a soccer team.

Yes indeed, they are called the Minnesota Thunder. In the first home game the Thunder lost to the Vancouver Whitecaps. Apparently there was free beer at the event, had I known I would have gone. The Thunder play in the USL division one league.

This story is challenging because soccer is not the most popular sport in America. Which is evident because the game was free. The article I read was mostly for the Whitecaps because it is from a Canadian website.

The comparison article was from the Star Tribune and is very short.
Although they did get a quote from the head coach. However the recap of the game is very short compared to the first article. The Star Tribune article is boring compared to the first one. It really doesn't do much for the sport to have boring articles written.

I think that I am going to start free lancing stories to local papers about the wonder and beauty of soccer. Yes it will be biased, but biased towards a good cause, promoting soccer news. With David Beckham coming to the United States to play interest in soccer might elevate.

Muslim girls feel unsafe at my old middle school.

Westwood Middle School in Blaine is receiving national attention due to incidents involving bullying of two Muslim girls. The story ran in the Pioneer Press.
Apparently Lori Saroya chairwoman of the Minnesota chapter of the Council on AmericanIslamic Relations says that the staff at the middle school aren't doing enough. The two girls report that they have been called terrorists and have had milk and food thrown at them.

I think the challenge in this story is dealing with minors which means getting the facts right could be difficult. These incidents are serious, but I remember middle school and most of the kids went out of their way to be especially mean to one another. I think another challenge is following up on this story, the reporter in this case could provoke change and action on the part of the superintendent. He would be more likely to get something done if the press continues to hound him.

My comparison story is from the Star Tribune and kind of sucks.
The reporter chose to quote the superintendent but only put one word in parantheses, "serious" how is that word interesting or colorful enough to deserve quotation. She would have done better to quote his entire statement or simply summarize. Also some of the quotes don't match between the Pioneer Press version and the Star Tribune, this could be that they each contacted their source separately and the source tried to say approximately the same thing.

I think that middle school was probably the worst period of time in my entire life.

BWCA is being evacuated

As a wildfire rages near Gunflint Minnesota residents are being asked to evacuate the area. The fire has burned approximately 8,000 acres. This story is from the Associated Press.
Authorities say that only 5% of the fire is contained. High winds have not helped the situation. What is helping to some extent is areas that were pre burned so that fires could not get massive. A windstorm in 1999 has contributed to the fire at this point because downed trees are providing perfect fuel.

This story is challenging because of its scope. How can you communicate to readers whether 8,000 acres of burned land is important. If the fire had occurred in a more populated region one acre would be very important. But since the BWCA is not highly populated it might take a lot of damage before people get excited about it. For local residents and resort owners it is a lot bigger deal. For instance the story mentions that the fire last year in Cavity lake which burned more than 30,000 acres isn't as worse as the current fire because more property and residents are in danger. It is a story of proportional scale.

I compared this story with one written with the Associated Press. It appeared in the Star Tribune. The only real difference is that the story says that 12.5 square miles have burned instead of using the acres measurement.

I have a better sense of what a mile is compared to an acre, so using units of measure that readers are familiar with is important. I can't really say the second story is better because it used miles instead. It is kind of a minor issue and it would be very hard to determine which unit of measure the public is more familiar with.

Teacher of the year has cute name.

I mean the teacher of the year for 2007 has a fitting or apt name, it is Smart. Funny ha ha ha.
WCCO decided his name was too good to pass up and put it high in the story.

The challenge for this was probably the reporter sitting down and having an epiphany, "OH my god, his name is Smart and he's a teacher, Pulitzer here I come."

The associated press in all their regality decided not to mention the teacher's last name and how achingly cute it fits in with the teacher of the year award.

I think that local television news is mostly tabloid journalism. This story probably ran on the air as one of their before we go segments. Giving viewers something happy to smile about before they go to bed.

Galactic Pizza to the rescue.

The associated press reports on a quirky pizza joint in south Minneapolis.
For instance the delivery drivers dress as superheroes and drive electric cars. Part of the profits go to help relieve hunger in the area. Organic and locally grown ingredients are used when possible.

This story is a feature story therefore not that challenging. It is just a fun little story. Therefore my posting will be fun and little.

I couldn't compare this with any other story because I guess most reporters thought the Associated Press did a good enough job.

I think that feature story ideas are single servings. It would be a waste of time and money to send another reporter over to do another story. The public would be like yeah so what we already heard this one, we want something new.

Big surprise Twins lose to the Red Sox

So the Minnesota Twins lost to the Boston Red Sox today, Sunday May 6.

The challenge in this story is trying to not be biased about the Minnesota Twins. Which this article fails on. It doesn't explicitly say "lets go Twins" but much of the article is focused on the detractors the Twins are facing right now. Who the injured players are, how the game went, and what the Twins need to do to find success again.

This article which is much less biased, but uses so much jargon its almost unreadable is at least more biased.
There are nicknames everywhere, like Coco Crisp, I think that is Manny Ramirez, but I'm not sure. YOu have to know baseball to read this type of stuff.

If I was a Minnesota fan I would read the Star Tribune article, if I just loved baseball I would read the second article.
But its hard to get excited about a single game in baseball when there are like 160 games over the course of the season.

April 19, 2007

"They're like the Super Bowl of trapping"

I pulled this story from but it was originally an AP story.

Coyotes have adapated to life in urban areas, prompting efforts to trap and/or relocate the animals to a more rural setting. "They're like the Super Bowl of trapping," said Gary Meis of Bruno, Minn., president of the Minnesota Trappers Association. Apparently Coyotes are wily and proving difficult to trap and control. While no attacks on humans have been reported as of yet, metro citizens are getting nervous about their small children and pets. One woman reported that a coyote killed a deer in her backyard. Eagan alone reports 90 coyote sightings a year.

A challenge in this story is what is the news value. The star Tribune and Pioneer press as of yet have not filed a story dealing with the growing coyote nuisance. So are coyotes a nuisance, no one has been attacked yet. This story is kind of a cute broadcast piece. A clip of a coyote running through downtown looks interesting and is novel. I believe this story is a direct result of the coyote found in a downtown Chicago Quiznos restaurant. I don't expect this story to receive a whole lot of attention until someone is attacked.

I compared this story with an abbreviated one from the local fox affiliates web site:
This piece focuses on Chanhassen specifically. It kind of reads like an advance, simply stating there could be news here in the future. Kind of a heads-up to editors and reporters to keep an eye on coyote news. The AP story like always is much better, it is broader, has more statistics, and has really great quotes. Especially the super bowl quote and this one, "The last two things that will walk the earth are a coyote and a turkey," Gary Meis of Bruno, Minn., president of the Minnesota Trappers Association. If I were going to write a story about anything related to trapping or animals in general I would go back to this guy.

I thought this was interesting to read but not all that captivating. The only reason we're even hearing about it is because of the Chicago incident. I would wager that this will die off until something more tragic happens between coyotes and humans.

February 5, 2007

Airsoft guns are hardcore

Apparently airsoft guns or small pellet air-powered firearms are being mistaken by St. Paul police for the real thing. This growing problem was large enough to prompt Mayor Coleman to ask that the large sports goods store, Gander Mountain, to pull the replicas from their shelves. Coleman held a press conference and asked attendants to identify out of 21 firearms which were real and which were airsoft models. My article appeared in the Pioneer Press,

A challenge in this story is finding statistics for what appears to be a new trend. For example how often do the police confuse these replicas for the real thing, what are the repercussions for that confusion. The author does note that revenue from airsoft guns is only a year old, "Gander Mountain sold $3.5 million worth of airsoft products in 2005, the most recent full year for which figures are available," according to the Pioneer Press article.

I chose to compare this article with the Star Tribune verion,
This piece reads like a wire story, it is shorter and without context, for instance the author does not define an airsoft guns. The one thing I like about this story is the author's treatment of the press conference, he does a better job in describing the Mayor's real or not game. I think this is probably the most interesting part of the story, because it illuminates the difficulty for police in identifying an airsoft gun from it's lethal counterpart.

I think if the Pioneer Press article had lead with the Mayor's press conference it would have been a much better story. To me that is the most interesting, I think it is timely crux of this new issue. Also Gander Mountain is not the only chain store selling airsoft guns. Cabelas is a much larger sporting goods store and probably makes more money off these guns than Gander Mountain does, so the blow to their pocketbooks is probably more profound.

January 25, 2007

Smoking ban represents institutional hand holding.

This is an associated press article which was reprinted on the minnesota public radio website. The article mentions briefly illustrates the status of smoking in Minnesota. Two Democrats and two Republicans are touting their "Freedom to Breathe Act" which would outlaw smoking in indoor workplaces and on public transportation. Their reasons include workplace safety, nonsmokiers' rights and public health. They don't just want to ban smoking they want everyone to quit statewide, "I want to change the environment in this state to discourage smoking in the first place," said GOP Sen. Steve Dille.

I think getting a balanced mix of stances on this hot issue was a challenge for the reporter. The article does well in this regard stating the case of the Governor and one bar owner. This is an AP story so its brevity is its strength. It is a sort of down and dirty synopsis of smoking debate.

For comparison purposes I used a very similar article that appeared in the St. Paul Pioneer Press. This article is much longer and goes more in depth. I believe the two writers did well in handling the challenge of a broad scope of opinions. Like the AP story the opinions of bar owners are relegated to the end of the story, but I believe these two reporters found a more eloquent source. They also note an interesting issue, that if a smoking ban can pass in Olmsted county, the home of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, then it should pass statewide.
"We are a medical community," said Kari Etrheim, a public health educator with the county, "and people do tend to look at Olmsted County in matters like this."
I pulled this quote directly from the story.

My opinion on these stories is that as a smoker I would like to see a story focusing more on the impact to bar owners, where the impact leads the story. Both of these stories leave the bar owners at the rear. I think they have salient points, especially that of Charles Senkler, owner of Fabulous Fern's in St. Paul and Oakie's Roadhouse in Oakdale. Who is mentioned in the St. Paul Pioneer Press article. I think the Pioneer Press article is packed with more information, and the AP story is a brief recap of the on-going situation. I can't fault either outlet for their stories, it is by design that they are written the way they are. The AP is often devoid of context because it is not meant for that it is meant for spot news, while local papers like the Pioneer Press usually focus more on context because they have the space and readers look to them for it.