December 9, 2007

Venezuela creates own time zone.

Hugo Chavez doesn't care if people think he is crazy, he is going ahead and creating his own time zone. Apparently the time change will give schoolchildren more daylight. The time change will give Venezuelans thirty more minutes. From the Voice of America News.

The same story from BBC news has more details. According to Chavez the extra daylight will improve the performance of the country. This also from the BBC story, "But critics say the move is unnecessary and the president simply wants to be in a different time zone from his arch-rival, the United States." Who are these critics, and why aren't they named? I have noticed this type of attribution before, it usually follows this same format. Information that is critical is often anonymously cited as "critics say." I just wonder if there was an actual person that said this and wanted to remain unnamed, or was this water-cooler talk around the BBC office and they decided to throw it in? We'll never know for sure.

New York man dies in scaffold failure.

Two brothers working on a scaffold in New York plummeted to the ground. One died and the other suffered critical injuries. This quote from the New York Times story is extremely graphic, "Edgar was cut in half by a fence in an alleyway below." I'm amazed they included it, wouldn't it have been enough to just say that he died?

This comes after a man died cleaning snow and ice on the IDS tower's crystal court. It is not yet known whether he was wearing his safety harness. I was listening to a local morning radio show, when a window washer called in and said that the man probably slipped when he was reconnecting his harness. I don't know how exactly it works, somehow there is a moment when the worker has to disconnect from one cable and reconnect to another.

Two dead in Colorado.

The media is buzzing with a tragic story out of Colorado. KARE 11 is reporting that Tiffany Johnson, 26, of Minnesota passed away from a gunshot wound. I found another story from a wire service that outlines the incident differently than the local angle. These type of detailed reporting usually occurrs when a national incident hits home. The KARE 11 story is mostly about Johnson, the latter portion of the article overviews the actual event. This story from TransWorldNews has a more general take on the story. I noticed that each story has a different place of residence for the other deceased person. They also spell the last name different. TransWorldNews has Philip Krouse, 24, of Hawaii, and KARE 11 has Phil Crouse of Alaska. Checking other outlets for spellings and locations might reveal a majority, and maybe the truth. But how could you know for sure without checking with local officials.

The Star Tribune has Philip Crouse, Alaska
The Cleveland Leader has a young man from Alaska, I think the story was published before authorities released the names.
The Scotsman International has Philip Crouse, 23.
The Telegraph has Philip Crouse, 23.
The New York Times has Philip Crouse, 24, of Alaska.
BBC News has Philip Crouse, 23. All of the European press outlets have the victim at 23-years-old.
CNN has Crouse from Alaska and 24-years-old.

I haven't seen anything besides the TransWorldNews that says Crouse was from Hawaii. Or that his name is spelled with a "K" I would assume that it is Crouse, that he is 23 and from Alaska.

Do Wild announcers lack objectivity?

Yes of course they do, have you ever listened to a game? It's completely one-sided, subjective. This question comes from a blog on The story is about a late game penalty, Dominik Hasek poke checked Marian Gaborik, which caused him to somersault over Hasek. The score was 5-0 in Detroit's favor. The argument is over whether Hasek was justified in making a dangerous check with a 5 goal cushion. Is a shutout worth paralyzing a player, sums up the Wild's argument. Gaborik avoided injury, which is miraculous if you see the footage of the check. Hasek is boastful about the check saying it is the best poke check he's ever made. So he's not exactly sorry that it happened. The blogger cites a Star Tribune article which questions the objectivity of the Wild announcers. I would have thought this was obvious. I think it is a loophole in sports journalism. It's not really journalism after all it's two guys announcing the game for their local fans watching the game. It's like listening to two friends call the game. The blogger seems to think that these announcers are probably employed by NHL teams, which is probably true. The Detroit Free Press is also cited in the blog, which highlights the truly subjective nature of hometown sports journalism. Their paper defends Hasek, the Star Tribune defends Gaborik.

This type of subjectivity is so common in the local presses, because that's what fans want to read. You don't open the sunday paper and expect to get an objective piece of journalism about the upcoming Vikings game. You open the paper and expect to read a story about how the Vikings are going to win the game or a puff piece on how Adrian Peterson is great. This sort of loophole in objectivity exists because newspapers are a business and you have to pander to your demographics in order to sell more newspapers.

December 2, 2007

Miss China, Miss World

EfluxMedia files this story about Miss Zhang Zilin, 23, from China who won the crown of Miss World. This is the first time that China has won the beauty pageant. It is a decent story and covers the main points, until you read another story on the event. I found this at United Press International, in wire story format. The key facts that I think are crucial to this story are that the Communist party has banned Chinese women from entering the international beauty pageant. But in recent years has changed it's tune and has been paying $4 million annually for four years to host the event, which it did this year. The EfluxMedia story also doesn't mention that the pageant garners about 2 billion viewers, the U.P.I. story claims that the Chinese government used the pageant as a publicity vehicle. Meaning that it was a way to spread China's good name around the world. There is definitely a trend developing, especially with China hosting the 2008 summer olympics.

I don't know why EfluxMedia doesn't report these details. I think the communist angle is probably the most interesting, seeing as women weren't allowed to compete for so long, once they finally do compete they win. I think the money angle is also noteworthy.

At first I thought that eFluxMedia was based in China, so that's why they didn't print the potentially damaging aspects of the story, the communist thing, money line, etc. But according to the sites "About Us" tab they are headquartered in New York. The statement on their intentions is kind of nebulous too. Nothing there really hints at why they would leave that information out, most likely it is a case of poor research.

Man tries gun case for fun?

Robert A. Levy, a rich libertarian lawyer is trying a handgun ownership case in the Supreme Court. The case was meticulously constructed and funded by Levy, who has never owned a gun. This is how the New York Times article characterizes Levy, "Mr. Levy, 66, is a small man with a bald head, big ears and an impish smile." Impish smile? Is that objective, did someone else say this and that gave the times reporter license to use it in the story, where is the attribution? Is this one of those things that the New York Times gets away with, but journalism students wouldn't get away with?

I think this is the crux of Levy's case, "If you want to apply for a license or permit for a handgun, you have to prove ownership of a handgun,? he said. “Where do you get one? You can’t buy a handgun in Washington, D.C., and federal law says you can’t buy a handgun in any state except where you reside.? The reason this rich lawyer is going after the District of Columbia, according to Levy, his Libertarian values.

This story is interesting, because it outlines the case in the beginning and then goes into a short bio on Levy, who apparently has led an interesting enough life to warrant a short bio at the end of the story. This case and this story wouldn't exist without Levy who seems to be actually kind of an interesting guy. Sometimes I guess an entertaining interviewee creates news.

Who Cares? Sugar Gliders and dirt roads.

Just to mix it up a bit, here are two stories that made me ask who cares?

First, did you know that between St. Paul and Minneapolis there are about 66 miles of unpaved roads. 60 in St. Paul and 6 in Minneapolis. Who cares? Well the people that live along those roads do. Well some of them. This story from the Star Tribune in typical objective reporting offers two views. One guy can't believe that his road is unpaved, says that his unpaved road in Brainerd was much nicer. Apparently unpaved roads are coated with oil year after and year and sometimes patched with asphalt. Another lady says her unpaved road reminds her of up-north. She gets to feel like she is driving in the country while living in St. Paul. The reason I think people shouldn't care about this issue is the amount of money it's going to take to fix these roads, how about we get that bridge built first? It'll cost Minneapolis $4.3 million and St. Paul spends $12 million a year on unpaved roads.

The second story concerns Sugar Gliders, a small marsupial hailing from Australia. Bill Stephenson, St. Paul's animal control supervisor wants to ban the animal as a pet. Who cares? The story and Stephenson speak to the importance of the issue at the end of the story. "For the record, the city's animal control folks haven't snared a sugar glider. As far as Stephenson is concerned, it can stay that way." So the city isn't or hasn't caught a Sugar Glider and Stephenson feels they shouldn't or wouldn't care? From that quote I get the feeling that Stephenson doesn't want to go on a search and destroy mission for Sugar Gliders, so it isn't that big of a deal, he just wants to ban future owners from purchasing and owning them, legally. Why even report this, I can't find the newsworthy aspect to this, besides the fact that the animals are "cute." Maybe the picture catches people's eyes and that is enough to warrant publishing the whole story. Or maybe there has a been a rash of people purchasing Sugar Gliders recently that I wasn't aware of? Who knows who cares, moving on.

Follow-up, Suspects named in Cyclist death.

Back in September cyclist, Mark Loesch, 41, was found dead in a yard. When the story first broke there were no suspects, and it seemed as though the story might disappear. Now police have two suspects in custody and are poised to file charges. This story from the local Fox affiliate, reads like an on-air transcript. The noteworthy aspects are noted, nothing else. The structure is classic news format. The lead reintroduces the public to the original story and also mentions the new information. The second paragraph names the new suspects which were hinted at in the lead. The following graphs provide smaller details. The last lines retell the story of Loesch's death. The story works for broadcast, but would never fly in print form.

This from the Star Tribune provides all of the details that would be too time consuming to list on-air. Details like the events leading up to Loesch's late night bike ride. Like the fact that he had just watched the 10 p.m. news, also that he had been found beaten up and barely breathing. Also that he had been beaten with a metal bat and that the suspects had lured him around a corner. Another interesting factor is that authorities believe Loesch was trying to buy marijuana. Which adds insult to injury for the family. It does explain why Loesch was lured around a corner. Why else would he stop his bike ride? Does this matter though? I think it helps police do the investigation, it doesn't really help the family.

November 25, 2007

Updates from Iraq

This from Iraq. Factbox from Reuters, which details the current developments from Iraq. I didn't know this type of reporting existed. I love it, it's straight facts, kind of like the type of stories you would find on National Public Radio. Straight to the point, this happened, and then this happened. There is no context really, but with a broad and never ending story like this you don't need context, hopefully everyone already knows that. The article displays the major provinces or cities and denotes what happened that day in them.

This type of reporting works well when it is coupled with vastly in-depth pieces. You can get away with this kind of fact based list reporting when you follow it up with deeper stories every week or so. I think this story represents the way the dissemination of media is going. It represents multi-pronged media outlets. You can get your straight up facts online and then turn the radio on and hear an hour-long piece on the social history of islam in Iraq. I think the more media gets multi-channeled, the more singularly focused these stories will get. For instance you won't see packaged reporting, where a particular news story is dissected back to front, with all aspects covered. The problem with this new wave of journalism is that it demands the reader to be multi-dimensional in their media choices.

9/11, Coast Guard, oil spill.

According to a Christian Science Monitor article, the Coast Guard's response to 9/11 thwarted the efforts to clean up the oil spill in San Francisco. Apparently local fishermen used to train to clean up oil spills, but lately they haven't been doing the drills. "We began telling [state agencies] in 2000 that the training of our fishermen began to lapse," says Zeke Grader, head of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen's Associations in San Francisco. But "after 9/11 the Coast Guard was completely focused on the war on terror."

This reads like a traditional disaster story. There isn't much to report on after the event, the clean up process will probably drag on for years, and thats not novel or interesting. So now the focus becomes who can we blame. I saw a similar story appear after the I-35W bridge collapse. It appeared in the Star Tribune it said something like after the bridge collapse all eyes on Molnau referring to the Lieutenant Governor.

I really don't see a point to this story. All it does is highlight a lapse in judgement. An error that only becomes apparent after the fact. How can you fault the coast guard for focusing on terrorism after 9/11. Oil spills happen but what is more important, border control or oil spills. I guess the answer to that question comes down to political affiliation.

What does Michelle Bachmann stand for?

One of these articles is clear about Bachmann's position, the other is not. In this article from the Kansas City Star. The Kansas City Star says that Bachmann is for a bill that will allow $195 million for the I-35W bridge collapse. The first couple of paragraphs are about the bill and then it goes on to talk about how the political system is muddy. "All too often in politics, all you do is muddy the water," said Rep. Tim Walz, who supposedly according to this article was huddled on the capitol steps with Bachmann patiently waiting to get this bill passed. The article uses the word huddled, I added the words patiently waiting. Did the author actually witness Bachmann huddled? Was it cold, why is she huddling? Or is it like a football huddle, where representatives huddled together discussing strategy, Bachmann said break and then they boldly ran into capitol?

This article from the St. Cloud Times represents a much clearer perspective of Bachmann's position. "On Nov. 14, Bachmann once again put Bush and the Republican Party first when she voted against a bill that included the $195 million for rebuilding the Interstate Highway 35W bridge that the federal government has promised to Minnesota." Okay that is so much better. The first article actually outlines Bachmann's position but it does so much later in the story. This article leads with it. It also leads with the somewhat biased perspective that all Bachmann does is follow the Bush line of thought. While this may be true, at what point does a popular opinion become actual fact, a fact that does not need to be attributed. I think with politics you can never be too careful. You need a lot of people to say it before it can be true. Like Political Science professors and members of the government.

While I like the research of the first article, I like the directness of the second article. However the second article from the St. Cloud Times is too opinionated. It kind of reads like an angry diatribe against Bachmann. Which it is because it was written by Brian Melendez of the Minnesota DFL Party.

Quaffing or riffing?

Puff piece or legitimate journalism? Probably more of the former and none of the latter. Doug Hoverson teaches history at St. Thomas Academy. He just finished a book about beer history in Minnesota titled, "Land of Amber Waters." This article from the Star Tribune is a short interview of the author.

I should probably give the article the benefit of the doubt because it is found in the style and people section. These sections usually focus on extraneous subjects. You won't find intricate analysis or in-depth coverage. What you get is this article.

I think there is room in this article to get more in-depth, but the interviewer seems content to let every question drop, there are no follow-up questions. No clarification of meaning. It just seems like this could be such an interesting guy to interview over a glass or four of beer. When reading this article I really wanted to know more about why he thought this era of beer-making was so interesting and why the 1870's were so interesting as well.

This could have been a better puff piece if the author had chosen questions mroe directly related to the book. For instance when reading the book he had found an interesting passage that could have been a contributing reason for someone to buy the book and then asked Hoverson about that particular passage.

With more research I found this article which appears to be the puff piece written by the same author as the above mentioned article.

I tried to do some more research on the format of these two pieces, but now the Star Tribune is asking me to subscribe. I don't understand, did these two articles appear together, that would make sense, what would make even more sense is if they were just combined into the same article.

November 18, 2007

Sick of hearing about Pakistan?

It seems every day some minor but newsworthy event takes place in Pakistan, and we get to hear about it daily. If you listen to NPR, Pakistan pretty much dominates an hour or two every day. Are people that interested in it? I don't think so, none of my friends want to talk about it. Which doesn't mean a whole lot. I think the U.S. government cares the most about the issue. We have aided Pakistan with $10 billion to fight terrorism, so they are an investment. Also they are a potential threat, if elections take place and a hostile government takes over, Pakistan's nuclear arms are up for grabs. The New York Times broke this story. A secret program has been ongoing to help Pakistan safeguard their arms. It is running in the ballpark of $100 billion. The NY Times has known about the secret program for three years, but was asked by the Bush administration to delay publication.

Do we want democracy or do we just want to make sure that nuclear arms don't go missing? Do we want oil or democracy in Iraq?

Arsonist fights wildfires

A man who plead guilty to setting fires ten years ago in San Diego violated his parole by volunteering to the Ranchita volunteer fire department. Steven Santos Robles Jr was sent back to prison. I want to believe this guy was just trying to redeem himself, here he is a convicted arsonist helping to put out fires instead of starting them. Then he gets thrown back in jail for failing to tell his parole officer he had joined the volunteer fire department. I don't get it a creative judge might have actually sentenced him to put out fires. This is a typical wire story.

I love this quote, it doesn't make any sense, apparently you aren't supposed to help people. It's against the law.
"I never had any reason to question the guy," Ranchita Fire Chief Gary Loyd said. "The guy was out there saving lives and houses. Unfortunately for him, he wasn't supposed to be." This comes from a more in-depth wire story from the San Jose Mercury News, the first half of the article reads like the first wire story, but there is more details and quotes. The outcome of this story is that now volunteer fire fighters will have to undergo background checks. Yeah let's waste time with paperwork while houses burn down.

U students meet with South Sudan President

This story from Twin Cities Daily Planet has an interesting format. First what it's about, which seems more important than the formatting.

Gabriel Solomon of St. Paul, Minn. lost his great-grandmother and two of his nieces were kidnapped on October 3 in Jonglei state, South Sudan. His grandmother was also wounded. I heard this story on Minnesota Public Radio. Solomon came back and wondered what to do, so he told some classmates, they joined up and started writing letters to senators. His group swelled in numbers with each passing week. At the urging of congressman Solomon and a classmate were given an audience with President Kiir. He told them he wasn't sure peaceful negotiations would get the nieces back, that it would take military force.

What I thought was cool about this story is at the end there is a background section. It provides context on the story. Which I think this is great for these types of follow-up stories. It is easy to forget the original catalyst for a story sometimes, a background section lets people walk into stories when they might have missed the original.

If you want to learn more or participate:

"Please join us for the discussion panel "Save Yar and Ajak: Child Abductions in Southern Sudan"
When: Monday, November 19th 3-4:30 pm
Where: Cowles Auditorium, Hubert H. Humphrey Center, University of Minnesota West Bank"