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September 30, 2007

Voice of Jazz Signs Off Forever

An article on the front page of the Source section of the Saturday September 29 Star Tribune had the feeling of an obituary. It talks about the retirement of longtime Jazz DJ Leigh Kamman. The first half of the article is a direct report of his final recording session, and the second half was an interview with Kamman about his career, his plans after retirement, on his style, and on how he wants people to remember him. The article about Kamman in the Pioneer Press talks much more in-depth about Kamman and his career, while having the same half article/half interview style as the Star Tribune article. Since these articles are about a retiree, there isn't really a balance or bias issue. The leads of both articles are anecdotal. The headlines of the stories pretty much serve as the leads for the articles.

The Battle Between Political Power and Moral Authority

In Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, the religious caste of Buddhist monks used to be what gave the military junta it's moral legitimacy. However, recently, the monks have been rebelling against the military regime. The current government was put into place by students in 1988. Now, those students have grown up and entered the work force, many of them joining the monks or the military.
Civil unrest started in August when fuel prices went up. A few students-turned-activists protested, but were arrested or forced into hiding. The real trouble started when "security officers" beat monks at a confrontation in early September. This conflict has exploded into the whole monk vs military conflict.
This article, from the New York Times, presents the situation fairly well. It provides excellent background information about the history of , but paints the military regime, perhaps rightly, as an evil, intimidating, and unpopular. Other sources, including the AP, other articles from the New York Times, and the Chicago Tribune all denounce the military leadership of Myanmar, making this imbalance towards the side of the monks universal.

Murderer of Child Stays in Jail

Eugene Fort tried to reopen a case against him that had convicted him of murdering an 11-year-old child in 1990. According to a September 29 Star Tribune article, a fellow inmate of Fort's, one Paul Rice, confessed to the murder on two occasions. But, after examining the confession and the evidence, the court decided to reject the appeal for a new trial. Turns out, Rice confessed to shooting the boy, while the evidence showed that the boy had been stabbed 44 times. This Pioneer Press article tells the same story, but presented the facts of the incorrect confession much earlier than the Star Tribune article did. The Star Tribune took a more narrative approach to the story than the other did, presenting the background information before telling about the incorrect confession. The Press article's lead is one sentence about the false testimony, while the Star Tribune's lead shows the responses of the murdered boy's mother when she heard her son's killer wasn't going to receive a new trial. The good thing about both of these stories is that they were both written by local reporters, and not generated by the AP. This saves the articles from having a tinge of bias toward one side or the other.

Excommunication Not Just a Medieval Threat

In Little Rock, Arkansas, six nuns have were expelled from the Catholic Church for heresy. These nuns were members of the Army of Mary, a Canadian group who believed their leader was possessed by the Virgin Mary. The article, located in the middle of the front section of September 27's print edition of the Star Tribune was a copy of the Associated Press article informing us of this. The article gives the reader the direct information, but doesn't give any of the background information that would make reading the article more enjoyable. It doesn't give any background information on the Army of Mary beyond the fact that they believe their founder was possessed by the Virgin Mary. I Google searched "Army of Mary" and found this website with the group's history. It was founded in 1971, and for a time had approval by the Quebec diocese as a "Pious Association". This approval was revoked in 1987. The historical info also said that, as of 2001 they had 25,000 members, not just the 6 nuns featured in the article. The article says all members of the sect were excommunicated, but didn't say how many that was. The article makes it seem as if the Army of Mary was just 6 crazy old women in Canada.

September 23, 2007

American Tradition on the Endangered Species List

The article on the front page of the Saturday Star Tribune evokes the sense of nostalgia in those old enough to remember the heyday of the drive-in movie theater. This article tries to appeal to the emotions of the audience in order to make them agree with the author's point that the drive-in theater should not be torn down. A conflicting article from Sunday's Pioneer Press takes the opposite stance. The theme of that piece is that a shopping complex would be good for Cottage Grove. It is a drier piece, focusing on economics rather than emotions. Much more emphasis is placed on the owner of the drive-in in the Star Tribune piece. In the Press article, he is quoted once, in one of the last paragraphs. Cottage Grove Mayor Sandy Shiely is quoted as supporting both sides in both articles, suggesting that the authors of each took what quotes supported their own opinions.

Media Sends Mixed Messages About End of Strike

This article from the Saturday edition of the Star Tribune makes the situation between the AFSCME union and the University administration sound almost as resentful as that of the nations of Europe after World War I. The front-page headline misleads the story, as well. "Time helps to bring U and union together" conflicts with the theme of the article, which says it was really desperation over the lack of wages that caused the union to grudgingly accept the university's offer. The inner page (A15) headline is more clear, but still written strangely. "Every day without pay helped bring U and union together" seems to have a conflict of emotional weight. "Every day without pay" sounds negative, but "helped bring U and union together" is positive. This university student written article from the Minnesota Daily glosses over the money factor as well. The union is painted as surly but acquiescent in both articles. Both the Star Tribune article and the Minnesota Daily article have the same quote from university president Bob Bruininks, which sounds almost as confusing as the headlines. The Star Tribune article's author clearly supported the union in the struggles, because the Bruininks quote is the only attention the university is given. The rest of the article gives support to the union side in the form of anecdotes and quotes from union members.

September 21, 2007

Private Security (Read as Mercenaries) Taking Heat From Iraqi Gov't

Blackwater USA has been taking a lot of fire in the press lately. This article from Wednesday's print edition of the Star Tribune discusses the allegations leveled against the "private security" firm recently by the Iraqi government. Those allegations are discussed more fully, as well as the Iraqi government's investigation here, in an article from the New York Times posted on the Pioneer Press website. The lead from the Star Tribune is a standard AP direct lead, aimed at telling the reader what happened as quickly as possible. The article takes the side of the Iraqi government; Blackwater USA are villains who kill Iraqi civilians unprovoked. There are no statements in the article from anyone in the Blackwater organization, which serves to unbalance the article. The authors, Robert H. Reid and Matthew Lee, of the Associated Press, assume the reader agrees that Blackwater USA fired upon the civilians without reasonable cause. This type of assumption seems to be fairly prevalent in AP articles.

Miami Cops Ready to Rock 'n' Roll

Police in Miami are now given the option to carry assault rifles in order to deal with criminals using the same. An article in Monday's Star Tribune, page A6, describes this escalation of the arms race in Miami. The New York Times also picked up this story from the Associated Press. The article uses a direct lead, and puts the less pressing information at the end of the article (the parts about the "frangible bullets". There is not really a counter argument present, which would balance the article. This article from the Miami Herald shows other viewpoints, including a quote from a gun regulation advocate. Since that article was written by someone from the Miami Herald, instead of being a story generated by the Associated Press, it makes sense that the Herald article would have a better view of the situation.

September 16, 2007

Peaceful Protest Harks Back to Protesting Heyday

Fifteen hundred protesters marched on the site of the 2008 Republican Convention Saturday, says David Phelps' article in the Twin Cities + Region section of Sunday's Star Tribune. Phelps' article balances the anti-war and the pro-victory sides of the protest, but gives the protesters more space, likely due to the reportedly greater size of the protesting group. Phelps quotes a veteran, whose story gives the emotional strength to his side's arguments, but the article itself supports neither side. The tone of the piece is apolitical, especially since the subject matter is so touchy and political. Phelps manages to tell his story without scrambling the message with politics.

Bad Luck for Tourists in Mexico Results in Death for Seventeen

According to the Sunday Print edition of the Star Tribune, seventeen passengers traveling on a bus from Puerto Vallarta to Guadalajara died on Saturday due to the bus going over a mountain road. The article discusses this bus crash in a cold, clinical manner. Strangely, the article never mentions what caused the accident and that question doesn't come up. The writer, unnamed due to the story coming from the Associated Press, spends a good deal of space in the latter half of the article telling the audience the immigration status of the Hispanic passengers killed and injured in the crash. The absence and presence of these bits of information cause the article to seem unbalanced, more concerned with tying the story in to immigration controversy than in informing the readers.

The lead of the story, however, is an excellent one. I will reproduce it here: "MEXICO CITY- A bus carrying tourists including passengers of a flight from Phoenix crashed in western Mexico on Saturday, killing at least 17 people, authorities said." It answers the crucial "W" questions. Who? Tourists from Phoenix; Where? western Mexico; What? the bus crashed, killing 17; When? Saturday. It is a good example of a direct lead, as discussed in class. The information given in the lead hooked me into reading the rest of the article, which is what good leads are supposed to do.

Breaking News! College Dorms Noisy!

An article in Saturday's Star Tribune talks about a very near and dear subject: dormitory noise levels. The tone of the piece is light-hearted and runs alongside the Emmy predictions in the print edition. It talks about how some students have trouble confronting roommates, suite-mates, and neighbors with complaints about noise, ruckus and "--not to mention loud intimate encounters in adjoining rooms..." (Rosenblum). The article is a good piece for the front page of the Source section, which covers arts, entertainment, and other human interest articles. The article is balanced; it doesn't list towards the side of the noisy students or the side of the victimized students. One problem I found with the article is that, while it does offer one community advisor's opinions on how to fix these kind of interpersonal problems, Rosenblum doesn't offer any alternative fixes.

"Save Money. Live Better" New Wal-Mart Slogan

An article in the Business Section of the print version of the Thursday Sept. 13 Star Tribune tells about Wal-Mart's new slogan "Save Money. Live Better." The article has a tone more similar to the official Wal-Mart press release, than a news article. The article discusses the new ad campaign and tells about some of the earlier failed ad campaigns Wal-Mart used in the past. It also tells of Wal-Mart's choice to switch to a new ad agency after disappointments with their old New York based one. The article is unbalanced, in that it only tells the side of Wal-Mart, but since the article is parroting the press release and located in the Business section, balance might not matter as much in this case.

September 10, 2007

The Neverending Football Game

Marcus R. Fuller's Pioneer Press article about the University of Minnesota Golden Gopher's near victory over Miami of Ohio on Saturday, September 8 does a good job of passing the feeling of exhaustion felt by the players and Coach Tim Brewster on to the reader. The language of the piece helps; the lead and the second paragraph convey Coach Brewster's physical and mental tiredness. This almost certainly must be a fabrication; one isn't able to know exactly what went through the coach's mind after the end of the game. That being said, the intro is a good emotional lead. It grabbed me when I was reading through the paper. The article is written in pretty much the standard sports writing style. The emotional opening is the only interesting writing.

September 9, 2007

Bacon's Best Friend

Stillwater Police Chief John Gannaway thinks that police dogs are too expensive for every town to maintain, while Officer Jeff Gottstein thinks that police dogs fill multiple useful roles in public relations, tracking, and others. An article written by Bob Shaw for the Pioneer Press seems to balance these two viewpoints fairly well intellectually, but is given an emotional slant. More emotional weight is given to the pro-police dog viewpoint. Chief Gannaway is portrayed as a miserly villain, while Officer Gottstein regales us with an anecdote about how sad it was to retire his old canine partner at the end of the article, leaving an emotional slant on the reader as they go on. It seems like Shaw is trying to get the audience to side with the police dog proponents.

What Osama bin Laden's Been Up To

According to Sunday's Pioneer Press, Osama bin Laden has not been hiding in caves on dialysis for the past six years as we had previously been told. The article, written by Tom Lasseter and Jonathan S. Landay, reveals that bin Laden has established a network of friendly villages in hard terrain. The tone of the piece is grim, but somehow not surprised. The way they write it, the story is almost a treatment for a Tom Clancy techno-thriller. The article quotes a number of US officials, but keeps several of them anonymous, which seems to go against the official AP style. The article conflicts with a recent Star Tribune article from September 10 that said Osama bin Laden was "virtually impotent". Clearly, there is dissent over the threat bin Laden places on the world.

Catholic Confession Enters the Digital Age

An article printed in the Sunday Edition of the Pioneer Press, originally from the Los Angeles Times, describes how some enterprising Ministers are creating websites that allow sinners to confess online. The tone of the article is light, and seems just the slightest bit bemused. The article does a good job of describing the Sacrament to non-Catholics, but isn't overly expository. The only real weakness of the piece occurs as it nears the end. The writer, Stephanie Simon, begins to philosophize about why American Catholics stopped confessing. It is informative and interesting, but it seems a little out of place with the tone of the rest of the piece. It almost seems as if Simon decided to write a short history book at the end of her article. She also tosses out a few buzz words, like mega-church(es), and cliches like "the masses" and "self-help pep talks" that, while useful, clutter the work. Simon listed a couple Online Confession websites including IveScrewedUp.com and absolution-online.com.

September 5, 2007

Test Blurb

This is a test to make sure this hairbrained blog thing is working. This is only a test.