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November 28, 2007

Armed and Dangerous, and Remorseful?

In Houston, Texas, a man defended his neighbor's home by attacking two burglars with his shotgun. His neighbors admire him, while others raise questions of vigilante justice. The Star Tribune printed the AP version of the story, while the Houston Chronicle printed an original, and much more interesting, article, dated Nov. 18, 2007. There, Horn is portrayed as a confused, possibly unstable man, who said he would be haunted by the killings for the rest of his life, as opposed to the AP article from the Star Trib where he seems more like a vigilante cowboy figure. The AP article is written in a very anecdotal form; it seems more like a treatment for a movie scene than an article of news. It is a strange combination of direct and indirect news. The author uses a delayed lead, but then the article is in the inverted pyramid form. It's very confusing to try and work out exactly what happened when.
The Chronicle article is much more traditional, not to mention longer, probably due to the locality of the news to the paper. It tells the story of his attack on the burglars, but also talks about the legal process and snarls that he is going through because of it. The AP article never mentions charges, or a trial, or what happens to Horn after his adventure. This is odd because the Star Trib AP article was printed more than a week after the more complete Houston Chronicle article. I chalk this up to the AP creating random news geared at entertainment, rather than delivering complete and accurate news.

Archery Takes a Hit

According to a Tuesday Nov. 27 Star Tribune article the hobby of archery might become outlawed in suburban areas, in addition to the ban in urban areas. The article focuses on the recent Roseville ban on backyard archery. According to a sidebar within the article, there are 70,000 bow hunters in Minnesota, and doubtless there are more than that who shoot arrows as a hobby. The majority of the people quoted in the article didn't support the ban, citing childhood backyard archery tradition as a reason. The middle of the article gives humorous descriptions of laws about bows, including the fact that it's illegal to carry a concealed bow (difficult to do anyway), and gives generalizations that say todays criminals are not using bows to commit robbery or assault. People do support the ban, though, because unskilled archers could kill and maim people accidentally. I could see this tying into controversy surrounding the Supreme Court's look into the 2nd Amendment regarding the right to bear arms. Its never overtly stated, but I think there could be a connection.

November 18, 2007

Croaked the Tin Man, "Oil!"

In Nov. 12's Business Section of the Star Tribune, a group of Star Trib analyze the country's new oil crisis in comparison with older ones. On the front page of the Business section, they had a large graph at the bottom of the page showing the cost of a barrel of oil from 1970 to today, in the modern dollar and in the dollar of the day. Inside the section, is a large sidebar, separated by a dark background which tells how companies are coping with the raised gas prices. All kinds of companies are affected, including airlines, manufactureres, restaurants and the food service industry. The article has a lot of information about the situation, but nothing about how to fix it. None of the people interviewed have anything to say about fixing the overall problem, just about fixing their own smaller problems, like grocery stores reducing packaging, and trying to find cheaper ways to supply the petroleum products they need. It would have been nice for the writers to get some opinions from store or company owners about how to fix the new oil crisis.

Legends of the Hidden Costs

In Tuesday's Star Trib, Josh White of the Washington Post revealed the estimates of the real cost of the Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. This refers to not only the cost of weapons, etc, but things like higher oil prices, paying medical and rehabilitation care for wounded vets, and paying interest on loans. The first half of the article is the gist of the report, while the second half is the views of people who disagree, like a member of previous president's National Security Council, Robert Hormats. He says that the price of the current wars is still less than half the cost of WWII. Hormats has issues with some of the estimates the government report made, like "it would be hard to show that the Iraq war has caused oil prices to skyrocket or oil producers in the Mideast to falter." The article closes with comments by Hormats about the economic differences between America at the time of WWII and today.

Some St. Paul Residents Worried About Campus Renovations

The St. Paul campus of the U of M is known as the "getaway" spot used for relaxation when classes become too stressful. Residents who live near the campus think so to, which is why they're worried that the U's plans to update the campus will upset the balance of the town of Falcon Heights. Thursday Nov 15ths Star Trib article talks about these worries and says that the U will "hold a 'listening session'... to gather input." The officials quoted from the university talk about what the campus needs, but beyond the first few paragraphs, Jean Hopfensperger doesn't give any more column space to the thoughts of the community. She also says that the university people re-evaluate the use of space on both campuses every ten years, which I think might have been a good thing to put farther up, because the way the article reads now makes it sound like they are randomly renovating another part of campus in addition to Kolthoff Hall and the new Stadium area.

Attack of the Hybrids

A parade of hybrid buses drove down the Nicollet Mall. According to this article from Friday's Star Tribune the city of Minneapolis Metro Transit has spent $557,000 on each hybrid bus. The people quoted in this article are all in support of the cost of purchasing 19 additional buses, possibly due to the social and commercial boost the paper could get for advocating the hybrid buses. This article seems like a puff piece, and therefore is pretty bad journalism.

November 11, 2007

Deadly Duck Parasite

Bluebill ducks are dying in northern Minnesota. The ducks that eat a certain kind of snail that carries the parasite will be passed onto the duck, which will result in the duck's death. The article, from Wednesday's Star Tribune, describes the impact on this season's duck hunting. The experts quoted in the article talk about how they can't predict the extent of the infection of the nematode that's killing the ducks. It talks about how the incredibly low levels of the scaup (bluebill) population is, and how the large quantities of surviving scaup rest in northern Minnesota and are at risk of infection and death.

Number Time

Target is the subject of an article in the Wednesday Business section of the Star Tribune. It's targeted (pardon the pun) at the business world, and is therefore difficult to read. It describes the sales increases from the last few months and compares it with Walmart. The article is loaded with jargon and is confusing to me, a layperson. It has quotes from business professionals, who apparently know what the article is trying to talk about. Basically, this article isn't interested in producing information for the general public, only to business professionals.

He's Being so Nice. Are there Germans Coming?

The French people call their president, "Sarko the American". According to a Wednesday Nov. 7 article in the Star Tribune, President Sarkozy has been trying to mend relations with Bush after the diplomatic battles between Bush and previous French president Chirac. The tone of this article is vaguely mocking towards Sarkozy. The article, which was made by the Associated Press, is light on the details of why exactly Sarkozy is in America, beyond the fact that he was going to address Congress.

Return of the Native (Filmmakers)

The Coen brothers recieved a lot of press in the Friday Star Tribune. Their new movie "No Country for Old Men" was released in theaters, and it was reviewed in the Source Section. In the front page section, though, Colin Covert interviewed them about their next project, which will be set in Minnesota. Native sons: Back for a dose of home is the article's title. The Coen brother's first movie, "Fargo", set the national opinion on Minnesota and the accent of its residents. Now, they are gearing up to shoot a new film called "A Serious Man", which will be based on the brothers' experiences in their childhood.
I'm not sure that this article needed to exist. It could have been combined with the article about the movie review; they could have made it more of a feature, saved column space for other stuff. I also don't think it should have been on the front page of the paper. Maybe the two articles about the Coen brothers could have shared space on the front page of the Source section instead.

November 5, 2007

Minnetonka Traditional Yard Sale Busted Like Underage Party

Minnetonka police officials shut down a yard sale occurring at an vacant house due to zoning violations, which set off annoyance among residents who didn't think it mattered. In the Saturday November 3 Star Tribune, the article "When is a yard sale not a yard sale?" talks about how the proprietor, Laura Soelberg, was issued a citation at her last sale, and the city's plans to press charges against Soelberg after her Oct. 24 sale was broken up. Soelberg claims that she doesn't hold her sales for profit, and that the stuff she sells is second hand things from her family's various houses. The theme I brought away from reading this article was that people don't necessarily want the state, city, or presumably federal government micromanaging their lives. The article said multiple times how shocked people were that the sales had suddenly become an issue.

If Location is Everything, Then Why Was This Buried?

Last week, news of the deadly Staph infections was on the front pages of the Star Tribune and the Pioneer Press. But by November 1, the article "Experts say to take 'superbug' seriously" was buried down in the Source section of the Star Tribune. The article, generated by the Contra Costa Times talked about what exactly Staph is, how it's spread, how virulent it is, and gave tips on how to protect oneself. It would seem that this information on how to prevent this potentially fatal disease might deserve, if not mention on the front page, but at least placement in the front page section. If people are in a rush, they might not take the time to read through the Source section, which usually has human interest stories, advice columns and other non-critical news features, but many more skim the front section on their way to sports and business. It isn't even on the front page of the Source section.

November 1, 2007

New Comic Book to Raise "Visibility" of Arab and Islamic Culture. And There's Only One Burqa-clad Character! What Progress!

In the annals of modern comic books, Muslim characters have either been terrorists, or the "not-all-Arabs-are-terrorists" character that tried to get people to think beyond stereotypes. Almost always, they have held secondary roles in the books. But now, a comic book by a Kuwaiti company that translates mainstream comics into Middle East languages is turning this paradigm around. This article from the Thursday Nov. 1 Star Tribune talks about "The 99". Not all the characters are Islamic, but the back story is based in Islamic history, albeit a supernatural take on it. According to the creators, the comic will combine the American solo super hero book and the Japanese super hero team book. To me, this concept reads like the TV show Heroes, but based in the Middle East instead of New York City. This article only quotes people from the company that is making the book, and those who support it. A comment or two from somebody against the idea would have made the article more balanced.

Buy Up the Movie Rights Quick!

In a scene resembling a young adult adventure novel, two St. Paul women, Erin and Holly Stojan survived a night lost on the St. Croix River. What originally had been intended as a four-hour trip lengthened to 21 hours last Sunday and Monday. The two women had to deal with a twice-capsized canoe, but fortunately had a plastic bag of dry clothes to change into. They could have been rescued earlier, but the rescue boat developed a hole, which forced the boat back to shore. The two women survived by covering themselves with leaves and they "kind of hunkered down." The article's lead starts strangely, with "Surely providence played a role...." Providence is the weird word, as it is usually a reference to the works of god. In an article that isn't about the Middle East, or any sort of church, the reference to god is puzzling. Perhaps the writers, Paul Walsh and Pat Pheifer of the Star Tribune, were just searching for poetic language to spice up the lead, but I think they could have found better words for it.