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April 12, 2009

Analysis: Diversity

In the article, "Kidnapped US captain freed; snipers kill 3 pirates," the Associated Press writers deal with the racial and cultural diversity of people involved in the story. The writers must tell a story that bridges the very different lives of Somalian warlords and pirates, common U.S. citizens working on a commercial freighter, and U.S. Navy Seals and their commanders. All people involved come from very different backgrounds, so the writers must be careful to move beyond stereotypes. The writers must be particularly careful concerning the people of Somalia, whose government is in tatters and the shores of which are described by the writers as "anarchic" and gun-plagged."
I believe that the article makes several attempts to move beyond the stereotypes that many Somalians are warlords and pirates. The article includes an interview with a Somalian citizen, who owns a clothes store, who said that upon receiving news of the event he was concerned that pirates would exact revenge on villages and common citizens like himself.
The article makes few other attempts, however, to explain what life is like in Somalia and focuses mostly on the statements from government officials and the actions of the pirates.

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April 5, 2009

Analysis: Numbers

The Associated Press story, "Magnitude-6.3 quake hits northeast of Rome," uses numbers in several ways. The value in magnitude of an earthquake (6.3) is used to frame the, well, magnitude of such an event in the news as a whole. A value of distance (in kilometers and miles), denoting the value of the radius this earthquake affected, and a value for time, listed in two different ways, help frame the where and when of the event. The numbers are slightly overwhelming when values of time and distance are listed under two different systems (for example, miles and kilometers), but this is necessary since the Associated Press is a global journalistic institution. The reporter had to use math in order to come up with these conversions and it is effective in helping the reporter's diverse audience picture the event. The sole source of these numbers comes from the U.S. Geological Survey, which it seems gave values in kilometers and Greenwich Mean Time. The reporter lists these values in between parentheses, though only after listing the more familiar units (to a U.S. audience) of miles and Eastern Standard Time.

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March 29, 2009

Analysis: Obituary

In Michael Russo's article on the life and death of Edina native Bill Nyrop, Russo uses an unconventional lead by relating the life of the obituary subject to his own life and the present day, turning the article into a timely yet personal piece. This lead functions for this purpose, though not entirely in the function of explaining Bill Nyrop's life story (which the article takes seven paragraphs to get to). The obituary is substantially different from a resume because the obit explains Nyrop's life in stories that represent his character, while not addressing details about his life. Russo uses many sources in the article, including himself, Nyrop's father, Minnesota Wild GM Doug Risebrough, and Lou Nanne.

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March 1, 2009

Analysis: Obama Weekly Address

The difference between the weekly address given by President Obama this past Friday and the news report by NPR is has many differences. One of the major differences is that the NPR report covers the controversy and debate over the budget while the statement by Obama reports mainly on the needs and effects of such a budget. The NPR reporter covered statements made in response to the address rather than reporting only on the address.

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February 15, 2009

Structures

In the Star Tribune article, "Rail Crewman Spots Man's Body on Tracks," the reporter, Chao Xiong summarizes the elements in order of importance. The lead includes the elements of who, what, where, when, and why the event occurred, though with little detail and in as few as 14 words.
The second paragraph summarizes the story the rail crewman who found the body, omitted in the lead, and explains what is positively known about the event or the "how." This paragraph explains how the body was found and how the authorities eventually learned about the body.
The third paragraph explains the who and what in greater detail, typically the most interesting points of a story. This paragraph explains who this unidentified victim is (apparently in his 30s) and what happened to him (nothing suspicious about death).
The fourth and fifth paragraphs take a quote from the police and explain the "why." In other words, why was the man dead on the tracks and why was he on the tracks to begin with.

I find this structure sound because it puts the most newsworthy information first, then includes the process of the events occurring, and finally suggests what news is to follow (such as who the man is and why he died). If anything could change in the article, I believe it would be that parts of the process of the events occurring could be lowered in the article. The matter of who this man is might be equally important to how he was found. Simply because the man has not been identified does not make the "who" information less important. As soon as he is identified, though, it is likely that this information will precede the "how" section.

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February 8, 2009

Attribution

In the Reuters story on Rodriguez's past use of steroids, four sources were used: Sport's Illustrated, Alex Rodriguez, Major League Baseball's 2003 survey testing, and an ominously stated "four independent sources." Two of these sources appear in the first paragraph (the "four independent sources" and Sport's Illustrated) while the other two appear much later in the article. Alex Rodriguez is the only singular person attributed, the other sources are either not identified as people or are organizations or records, the latter being the Major League Baseball's 2003 survey testing. The reporter sets up the attribution so that it follows a statement of information. He attributes Sport's Illustrated and the "four independent sources" early because they are the two sources that have made this event newsworthy and relevant today. The attribution is effective and not confusing, though it is unique how this article is a report on a report by a different news organization, which broke the story. The writer of the story is sure to always attribute Sport's Illustrated, which broke the story, in a paragraph where the information is purely from the magazine. In an instance where two sources are cited simultaneously, the writer makes no confusion in writing it thusly: "according to four independent sources, Sports Illustrated magazine reported on Saturday."

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February 1, 2009

Leads

It is important to relate the who, what, where, when, and how or why when in many news leads. Some of these parts, however, may be omitted because they are not of much importance. For example, many scientific studies will not communicate the where in the lead--or even the story--if the who suffices.

In the story, Governor Pawlenty's Budget Proposal Puts State Art Schools at Risk, the where is not important in explaining the art schools are at risk. It suffices that these schools are in Minnesota, which is understood by explaining the who, Gov. Pawlenty. It is therefore the who and what that are most important, while the when, where, and why may be general, or omitted.

The reporter may opt for a less straightforward hard-news lead if the story has a quirky side to it. These stories may be more fascinated with one certain aspect, like the what, and omit the other parts. For example, Draper begins his story with this lead: "The Perpich Center for Arts Education -- a hallmark of school choice in the state -- faces a fight for survival." Draper believes the who and what are very important, but finds no reason to even include the why, when, and where. As a result, the lead has a shocking effect.

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