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May 7, 2007

White House, Ties, and Tails.

President Bush will hold his first ever White Tie affair at the White House to welcome the Queen of England. Apparently they will not talk about policy since that would be "extraordinarily bad form," Reginald Dale, senior fellow in the Europe Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington said. With a title that long I can't for the life of me figure out what it is that this guy does, but he seems to know what the Queen wants to talk about. This article is from Bloomberg
http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601070&sid=apSdYTzItqxs&refer=home
and talks about proper etiquette when dealing with the Queen. The Queen does not have a voice in setting policy so I guess it would be improper to discuss it with her.

The challenge in this article is that President Bush is going to engage in idle chit chat with the Queen of England. I would love to be a fly on the wall for that conversation. Because it hasn't happened yet, everything up to now is speculation. They might talk about Iraq since the Queen's grandson is due to be shipped to Iraq soon.

The Associated Press covered this story and mainly gave a travel itinerary for the Queen.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/05/07/AR2007050700086.html
This article sums up the situation best, stating that the President is known for his informality and that he is going to host a white tie affair which is the highest formal reception given to visiting dignitaries.

I wonder if he is going to ask her to pull his finger.

Failure to communicate says Los Angeles Police Chief.

At a May Day celebration an elite platoon of LAPD advanced upon a crowd of immigrants and journalists. The event was an Immigrant Rights rally. The order for rally attendees to disperse was delivered in english from a helicopter.
http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/california/la-me-bratton7may07,1,6184950.story?coll=la-headlines-pe-california

My favorite quote from the story comes from a journalist, "It seems to me you don't have to be highly trained for that," commenting on a general question from the media as to why the officers were hitting reporters and camera operators. Journalists are up in arms over this, why were they attacked? I think that is the challenge here, journalists have to make sure they don't get out of line. I think they have every right to be upset, but both stories I looked at dealt with the rally go-ers only lightly. They must be just as upset over the event.

http://cbs2.com/local/local_story_126170230.html
This story also mentions the police chief's apology but gets some of the facts wrong. According to the first story 148 projectiles were fired, apparently the original number of 240 was wrong, the second story fails to mention the correction.

I think there needs to be more analysis of why the police ramped up their crowd dispersing tactics. The first article briefly mentions that some of the rally participants were hurling rocks and bottles at the police, but why? What prompted the police to even be there and disrupt the event?

Spiderman 3 recoups half of its original budget in opening weekend.

In an Associated Press article, http://www.boston.com/news/globe/living/articles/2007/05/07/spider_man_3_takes_in_record_breaking_148m/
Spiderman 3 beat out previous opening weekend record holder Pirates of the Carribbean by earning $148 million in the first weekend.

I think the challenge in reporting this article is whether it is newsworthy or not. The only newsworthy aspect is how much is being tossed around. The movie apparently cost about $285 million to make and already made much of that back in the U.S. alone, worldwide it has made about $375 million.

The digital spy ran a similar but much abbreviated story which outlines much of the same material. Dealing with the lukewarm critical reviews and what other sequel movies are coming out soon.
http://www.digitalspy.co.uk/movies/a46225/spider-man-3-makes-movie-history.html

I think the Spiderman franchise is another movie in a growing list of safe movies. Hollywood would rather spend money on a proven winner than take a risk and face potential losses. It makes sense from a business stand point but leads to these kinds of movies.

Tornadoes ravage Midwest

Four Fort Riley soldiers and a reserve police officer were arrested outside of a supermarket for looting cigarettes and alcohol. Despite a curfew in the town, the soldiers and officer were allowed to move freely because they were in full uniform. Apparently said they were in the town to help out.
http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,270380,00.html

I think the challenge in reporting this story is asking yourself as a reporter if it is worth it. Greensburg, Kansas was completely destroyed. The community doesn't need to know that people are taking advantage of their disastrous situation.

Another story from USA Today goes on about the upcoming tornado season. Apparently if the season was over right now it would be the worst season since 1999.
http://www.usatoday.com/weather/storms/tornadoes/2007-05-06-tornado-year_N.htm
Apparently 69 people have died this year from tornadoes.

If I put on my cynical cap and compare this story with the previous one, it might mean a lot more looting to come this summer.

May 6, 2007

Paris goes to jail.

http://www.news24.com/News24/Entertainment/Celebrities/0,,2-1225-2108_2108293,00.html
Yes finally, lady justice speaks. Paris HIlton is going to jail because she violated her probation and was pulled over for alcohol related reckless driving. Which sounds like she was either just under the legal limit or somehow got away without getting a D.U.I.

I found this story challenging because well I don't believe that stars should get preferential treatment from the law. I think that they get to spend time in separate jail cells, and according to one story actually rent separate facilities to serve their time. One story said that Sean Penn was able to choose the jail he went to. Regular citizens don't get to choose anything. So basically its hard not to whoop with joy.

The Philadelphia Inquirer ran a similar story with more facts.
http://www.philly.com/inquirer/magazine/20070505_Sideshow___Partys_over__Paris_Hilton_sentenced_to_45_days_in_jail.html
The article appeared in the Sideshow section where celebrity news is reported. I like this story because it reports that Hilton was ten minutes late for her court hearing. It also says that she didn't know she was driving on a suspended license, despite the fact that she signed a document that stated she wasn't allowed to drive. UMMM???

These two article are basically the same, there isn't a whole lot of nuance to this story, its pretty cut and dry, Paris goes to jail for 45 days. Yay.

Senators aim to strip President Bush of congressional authorization for war.

Senator Hilary Clinton is joining an effor to strip President Bush of his congressional authorization to go to war in Iraq. The move comes as the recent Iraq bill was vetoed by the President. Just like he said he would all along.
Basically according to Senators Byrd and Clinton the facts have changed and the original authorization to go to war is no longer valid. There are no weapons of mass destruction, so Iraq is not a security threat. I found this story in the Turkish Press, but is off the wires.

I had to click on this story because they chose a picture of HIlary Clinton that looks like she is committing an exorcism. It is not the most flattering picture. She looks angry and begs questions of bias and objectivity.
http://www.turkishpress.com/news.asp?id=174435. The challenge for this story is to provide both sides of the story, basically the White House versus Congress. The article fails I think because the White House is not quoted til the very end. Also the picture that was chosen is hard to look at really. I 'm not saying HIlary Clinton is ugly, by no means, she is a handsome woman, but this picture shows her being very angry and confrontational. Madly pointing her finger at someone unknown, probably President Bush. The article also mentions her initial vote to go to war and that this new measure might be a response to that. Perhaps she is covering her bases in preparation for her run for President.

McCain criticizes Clinton's new plan, is what I found to compare this story with.
http://www.azcentral.com/w2/news/articles.php?from=news.xml&articleid=272134
"the worst possible idea that anybody could have," McCain said at a press conference in Reno. McCain stated that tying up the Senate with another measure that has no chance for success is futile and that we might be sending the wrong messages to our troops in Iraq.

I can't help but agree with McCain on this one, it seems like Clinton is just trying to make sure when debate time comes that she can answer resolutely that yes she did vote for the war but has since made moves to stop it.

May 2, 2007

Murdoch is greedy

Rupert Murdoch, owner of News Corp. a global media conglomerate. Fox News in the United States and a slew of newspapers across Australia. Is trying to purchase the Wall Street Journal from Dow Jones company. His initial bid was for $5 billion. The Bancroft family which owns more than 50% of shares in Dow Jones Company rejected Murdoch's bid.

I pulled this story from Voice of America news.
http://www.voanews.com/english/2007-05-02-voa34.cfm
Voice of America is funded by the Government and controlled by the Broadcast Board of Governors.

The challenge in this story is trying to figure out why the Bancroft family rejected Murdoch's bid.

In comparing this story I ran across a story from the Herald Sun which is an Australian newspaper owned by Murdoch. Towards the end of the article speculation about the rejection of the bid comes out. The union representing the employees of Dow Jones Company says that Murdoch, "has shown a willingness to crush quality and independence, and there is no reason to think he would handle Dow Jones or the Journal any differently."
http://www.news.com.au/heraldsun/story/0,21985,21662946-661,00.html

I think that the Wall Street Journal would turn into something similar to Fox News Channel. Both articles point to Murdoch's desire to create a new business channel to compete with CNBC. Acquiring the Wall Street Journal would give Murdoch firm control over financial news.

April 23, 2007

Serving at the pleasure of the president.

Maybe it is just me but this phrase really creeps me out. I remember watching some clip on the Daily Show where they had compiled a video log of an assortment of Government officials who have used this phrase verbatim. Was there a meeting where they determined this phrase to be verbally powerful? I picture a bunch of public relations people and Karl Rove sitting around a table trying to brainstorm "action phrases."

I pulled this article from the New York Times, it was not written by the AP.
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/23/washington/23cnd-gonz.html?hp
The story is about President Bush reiterating his support of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales after his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee concerning the firing of 8 U.S. Attorneys. The rumor mill is crystallized in thinking that the firings were of a political nature. Controversy and cynicism has emerged over the Justice Department acting as the political tool for the White House.

The challenge for this story is staying objective and unbiased. It would have been very hard for me to write this story and not let my opinions slip in. I listened to sections of Gonzales' testimony on NPR and he really didn't have a lot to say. The article mentions that Gonzales cited his faulty memory at least 50 times throughout his testimony. He seemed like a mobster pleading the fifth. The story accomplishes a shade of objectivity by letting both sides have their say. I think a surface sense of objectivity is achieved, but reading between the lines on this story there seems to be a very skeptical and critical assessment of Gonzales.

I compared this story with a article from the Jurist. Which is a web-based legal news service run by a professor from Pittsburgh.
http://jurist.law.pitt.edu/paperchase/2007/04/bush-defends-gonzales-amid-more.php
This story is just the facts, I thought I was reading an AP story. There are no shades of meanings, just a run-down of the facts and a more comprehensive reporting on President Bush's quote concerning Gonzales. The article frequently points to the AP for more information, even providing hyperlinks. I kind of like the story because it provides paranthetical citations within the text, so you know where to go to find all the source information.

I think it was obvious that President Bush would have supported Gonzales, no matter what he said. I read a book by Bob Woodward about the planning for the Iraq war. It started almost as soon as Bush was sworn in. There is a brief section of pictures within the middle of the book. Gonzales is present at planning meetings as far back as 2000. So its obvious that they are friends. Gonzales serves at the pleasure of the president.

April 5, 2007

If Sen. Hillary Clinton has $26 million and Barack Obama has $25 million, does that mean she wins?

I'm having trouble figuring out why this is news and not what the candidates actually have to say. The campaign right now seems like a church fundraiser, with a construction paper thermometer, slowly filling up. If a candidate reaches $50 million do they automatically get the presidency?

It is hard to find a story not written by the AP, here is another one published in the Kansas City Star.
http://www.kansascity.com/449/story/60250.html
The entire article is focused on campaign contributions. Clinton has the most, then its Obama, then Edwards, and blah blah blah. Where do they stand? I am not naive enough to believe that a candidate with a good message and a poor pocketbook is going to win. No that would be way too idealistic. But seriously, the AP journalist chose to write this instead of something more policy based. The rationale for this story was that since Obama was able to accrue $25 million that means he is a viable candidate.


I don't think there was anything challenging about this article, it required little research and probably took about ten minutes to write.

I compared the AP story with this one: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/05/us/politics/05assess.html.
From the New York Times and not written by the AP. I much prefer this story, granted it says some of the same things but the context is much deeper and the quotes are much more telling. For instance, “I don’t think the Republicans are going to lose the presidential election next year because of a lack of money,? David Plouffe Manager of Mr. Obama's Campaign said. He is right on, this is an excellent quote because while contributions are important it shouldn't sideline the issues. Also the author ends the story by saying this, "it was clear that the disparity between the two parties this spring was about more than money," Adam Nagourney said. I like this line because it highlights what the article was about, that the surface issue is the campaign contributions but underneath that is the growing excitement from democratic supporters, who are willing to contribute so much money.

I realize that my second article is in the "news analysis" section but I'm willing to overlook that because while there is opinion, Nagourney does a much better job at sifting through the basic issue of campaign money and gets to the ground floor of the issue. Democrats are hyped up and willing to throw money at their candidates. Republicans on the other hand are lagging behind, but that doesn't mean they are out by a long shot. It is way too early to tell what will happen in 2008. I think the news media is desperate to start reporting on the campaign so they are grasping at any little kernel of information that gets disseminated.

February 12, 2007

Why do we care about Anna?

Anna Nicole Smith is dead, I am writing this 3 days after the first wire stories appeared, but I am only going to deal with the information that was available then. I chose a wire story from the AP that appeared in the Star Tribune: http://www.startribune.com/484/story/990220.html

Apparently Smith, 39, was found unconscious in her Seminole Hard Rock Hotel room at about 2 p.m. by her nurse, her bodyguard was alerted he tried to do cardiopulmonary resuscitation, paramedics arrived shortly thereafter and rushed her to the hospital where she was pronounced dead.

There is an obvious challenge in reporting on Smith's death, there is little to report other than the glaring fact that she is dead. LIttle is known, much more is being speculated. These stories would be about three graphs long, so the writers thrown in her biography to provide a background to her life leading up to her death.

I chose to compare this story with a much longer and more in-depth biography story from the New York Times.
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/09/us/09smith.html?_r=1&oref=slogin
It starts out much the same, what little facts are known are provided and then it launches into Smith's "hardscrabble" life. Besides the longer biography, I noticed that the AP story included a longer quote from Smith's attorney Ron Rale. The NYT story omits words like underdog and besieged, focusing on a tighter quote that simply captures that she tried her hardest and he is grieving. I think the AP does a better job in providing a little more flavor to a story that is lacking in facts at this early stage in the game.

The AP quote from Ron Rale, "Poor Anna Nicole," he said. "She's been the underdog. She's been besieged ... and she's been trying her best and nobody should have to endure what she's endured."

And the NYT quote, “She was trying her hardest,? Mr. Rale said in a packed news conference at his law office in Los Angeles. “I grieve for Anna Nicole that she had to endure what she had to endure. I just pray that that’s not what precipitated this.?

While my lead may be callous I am wondering now why this is so consistently newsworthy. Soldiers die daily in Iraq. Who knows what is going on in Darfur right now. CNN especially is not putting this story down. I believe the tabloid nature of her life lends itself to sensationalist news and high ratings.

January 25, 2007

Want to quit smoking, bang your brain on the wall.

I chose this article
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/25/science/25cnd-brain.html?hp&ex=1169787600&en=4e508e8daffaae23&ei=5094&partner=homepage
From the New York Times on line edition for my national post. Apparently brain injury sufferers to a specific region of the brain called the insula "forgot the urge to smoke" said an anonymous man.

I think a challenge in writing this article would be wading through the minutiae of neuroscience. The writer in this story has to be the interpreter, he has to bridge the gap between the scientists and the every day reader. Keeping it simple is the challenge.

For comparison I chose an Associated Press story that appeared at Salon,
http://www.salon.com/wire/ap/archive.html?wire=D8MSFSQO2.html
This article is much more straightforward than the NY Times article. The facts are parceled in such a way that is short but sweet and ultimately more illuminating. The NY Times article is too long and the relevant information is spread around too much. I think the AP writer does a better job of keeping it simple. For example the NY Times writer commenting on the insula said, "The insula, for years a wallflower of brain anatomy," and the AP writer says , "targeting this little-known brain region called the insula." I know what a wallflower is, but I felt it was a bit too much in terms of word choice. I think the writer was trying to flex his creative muscle a bit.

As for my opinion I liked the AP story, because it offered more information in a concise manner. I thought the NY Times article was too muddled.