December 9, 2007

Get 'Em Out By Friday, or Don't. They Can Just Wait

This December 4 Star Trib article talks about how airplanes are starting to be fuller and fuller. It says that the reason for the packed flights is because the airlines are charging less for each ticket in order to steal people from competitors. This means that when flights are canceled or delayed, the next available flights get filled up faster, resulting in all too many people getting stuck and missing appointments and such. This title and tone of the beginning of this article suggest that it will make a horrible villain of the airline industry for forcing this change, but the industry can't really be blamed for the economic and political problems, including the "tech bubble burst" and 9/11. The article closes with the statement that the problems probably won't end soon. So, the villain of this article is neither the consumer nor the airline industry, but the rest of reality.

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.

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.

November 11, 2007

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.

November 5, 2007

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.

October 25, 2007

Unstoppable Firestorm Rages On

The Star Tribune did a strange thing on Wednesday. It reprinted an article originating from the New York Times, written by a couple of staff writers there the day before. The focus of the article was the California wildfires that are ravaging the state. The article describes how intense the fires are, and how unpredictably they spread. In fact, just about every article about these fires I've read have used some combination of "unpredictable," "tentacles", and "shifting." Even though this article was printed before the situation was resolved, I feel that it tells the story so far remarkably well. It discussed the deaths attributed to the fire (at least 1 directly, four others indirectly due to age), the environmental causes of the firestorm and why the fire fighters were/are having such a hard time containing the fire, and about the new refugee crisis and the migration of evacuees away from dangerous burning areas. Other stories, such as this one from Tuesday Oct. 22's Pioneer Press-via the AP- give more direct quotes from refugees, but only barely approaches the scale of the New York Times article. It seems like the AP story is made up of nothing but quotes (even though they are really, really good quotes: "'It was nuclear winter. It was like Armageddon. It looked like the end of the world,' Mitch Mendler, a San Diego firefighter, said as he and his crew refilled their truck from a hydrant."). The New York Times article has the advantage of a day's worth more of reporting time, though so it was probably easier to gauge the scope of the devastation.

October 18, 2007

Thoughts on a Pair of Headlines

On Wednesday, I noticed a similar story being run in both the Star Tribune and the Pioneer Press, with wildly different headlines and inflection. The Star Tribune headline was "Infections from drug-resistant bacteria growing deadlier" and the Pioneer Press headline was "Deadly superbug on rise in U.S.". The Pioneer Press headline seems much more forceful than the Star Tribune's. Both articles say pretty much the same thing; it's the Press' headline that makes me want to read what the article says. People have been scared of a "Superbug" ever since before Stephen King wrote The Stand (a book about a super-virulent plague that kills 99% of the world's population). The Press uses this fear to charge the headline of it's version of the article and thus hopefully sell more papers. The Tribune headline uses medium-long words that lack the emotional punch of the other. The Tribune's headline gives the reader more accurate information, but also threatens to bore them, while "Deadly superbug on rise in U.S." is short, sweet, and scary.

October 14, 2007

Some Guantanamo Inmates May Go Free, Finally

An AP-originated article printed in Friday's Star Tribune talks about how some of the detainees might receive new trials, with courts looking at "new or previously overlooked evidence" that could result in the courts ruling some no longer threats. A similar article was printed in Friday's New York Times by a staff writer.
The Star Tribune piece is a direct news article. The lead tells the audience where, who, and what the story is about (Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, 330 "enemy combatants", the military considering new hearings). It was apparently not deemed front page news, being stashed on page A3. It gives a lot of background material for the Guantanamo Bay prison complex since 2002, but doesn't go into the state of the prison, like so many other Guantanamo Bay articles do. This can perhaps be seen as a strength because the article doesn't waste the audiences' time telling them things they already know, especially if that knowledge isn't really necessary in context with the news.

October 7, 2007

Dennis Hopper: Man of His Time

According to an article in Monday Oct. 1st's Star Tribune, Dennis Hopper is returning as Ameriprise's spokesman in a new series of commercial spots. According to Kara McGuire, the author, Hopper has been mocked on the Internet, as well as in the humorous weekly magazine The Onion. The article discusses Hopper's return to the commercial business, and how his presence at Ameriprise has helped its business.

The beginning of this article sounds like much of it was taken from an Ameriprise press release/media kit. I believe that this is one of the major sources for this article, due to the specifics of the client numbers, and assets. After this rewritten portion, McGuire obviously interviewed representatives from the company, including Chief Marketing Officer Kim Sharan about the target audience and how the internet is helping and hindering the advertising goal, and Matt Thornhill, president of the marketing research firm the Boomer Project about how best to reach baby boomers in advertising. She also interviewed John Haritos, someone who creates parody of the ads, and Howard Liszt, a retired CEO and senior fellow of the SJMC at the U of M. These interviews at the end of the article give it balance, because McGuire talked to all sides, and dropped academic names to bolster the article.

September 30, 2007

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 21, 2007

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

"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 9, 2007

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 and