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December 3, 2007

National story 12/2 BCS selections made, it's LSU vs. Ohio State

On the national sports scene, Ohio State will get a chance for redemption after last year's blowout loss to Florida in the Bowl Championship Series National Title Game where they will face LSU after BCS selections were made Sunday. Ohio State, who plays in the Big Ten conference where no championship game is held, got help from losses by No. 1 Missouri and No 2. West Virginia on Saturday. The title game will be played January 7th, 2008.

The San Francisco Chronicle took an approach many newspapers did following the BCS selection; sending a reporter to cover the story and reaction from college personnel on the results, followed by analysis of the selections with arguments for and against them. For the article, the lead plays out the dichotomy of no college football games on Sunday when the results are released. Only two sources are used for the story, with the article focusing more on the controversies that have surrounded the BCS selections in the last few years.

Pat Forde of ESPN offers more of a columnist recap in his article, reflecting on the college football's never-ending fountain of upsets that began when Appalachian State defeated Michigan in the first week. The second half of the story offers his opinions of the BCS selection system. A lot of games are attributed, although no interviews are conducted.

November 18, 2007

National story 11/18 Jimmie Johnson wins back-to-back NASCAR titles

In a Chase that lacked much drama, Jimmie Johnson had no trouble fending off Jeff Gordon to capture his 2nd career NASCAR Nextel Cup Championship Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Johnson, who won by 77 points, is the first driver to win back-to-back titles since his teammate, Gordon, did the same in 1997 and 1998. Johnson had an 86-point lead going into the race and only needed to finish 18th or better to win.

The New York Times' Viv Bernstein uses the lead to reflect on Johnson's dominance of the most popular auto racing sport in the United States, pulling some statistics on how the sport has changed since Gordon won back-to-back Cup titles (Only 17 teams were competing full time back then). The champion then speaks about his strategy, followed by other things that happened in the race. Also, as expected, the runner-up is also quoted before reflecting on Johnson's performance during the race and during the 10-race Chase, NASCAR's playoff format.

Terry Blount of ESPN spends half of the article with a page-by-page story and reaction as soon as Johnson knew he had won his second title. Quotes from Johnson aren't included until a few paragraphs down, before Blount interviews the race winner, Matt Kenseth. However, the main news value isn't lost in the statistics of the race, Blount quickly goes back to Johnson and interviews his crew chief, Chad Knaus.

November 11, 2007

National Story 11/11 Hershey "kisses" goodbye to Board of Directors

Chocolate maker Hershey announced an overhaul of its board of directors Sunday as the charitable trust that owns the company looks for a solution to recover its languishing stock. Six members quite after being asked to resign, two left on their own.

Nelson D. Schwartz of The New York Times uses a direct lead for the story. No full quotes are used, although two are used to report on the overall mood of the company from people in the trust. Financial information, including some mathematical computations, is reported to better clarify the struggling situation at Hershey (shares have dropped 25 percent in the last six months).

The Associated Press differs in coverage by naming the directors that left the company, perhaps to inform shareholders who may not have heard of the situation. Not much investigative reporting is used in the story, with the bulk of it name-dropping from those who are bowing out and board members who will replace them. A statement from the company's future CEO, at the end of the story, is the only source to explain the overhaul of the board.

October 30, 2007

National Story 10/30 - Pediatricians urge autism screenings

The American Academy of Pediatrics released two reports after its annual meeting Sunday suggesting that parents screen all their children for autism twice before age 2. Autism is currently diagnosed in one out of 150 children in the United States with no identified causes and no cure, but experts say early intervention can reduce its severity.

An enterprising report that blends the results of the new studies with recent developments in autism awareness is what you'll find in the Associated Press version of the story. Contributing to this long story is a fact pointed out by one of the article's sources, a co-author of the reports from the University of Texas, who said autism was virtually unknown 10 years ago. Now, Dr. Chris Johnson says she gets parents coming in worried their children have autism. The story has a very professional tone, as all but one source are doctors who have experience with autistic children. The only informal source was a parent of a now 18-year-old autistic daughter.

Serena Gordon of HealthDay shows us the difference between a reporter for a news outlet and a reporter for a more-specific audience. Gordon quotes only one source, an institutional one at that. Gordon then released more specific details of the reports; the first discusses warning signs that a child may have autism. The second advises parents on what to do after a child is diagnosed with the mental disability.

October 28, 2007

National Story 10/28 Red Sox crowned 2007 World Series Champions

Here's an example of just how quickly stories can be published in the digital era.

The Boston Red Sox don't waste time winning World Series titles these days. Boston's 4-3 victory Sunday over the Colorado Rockies gave the Red Sox a series sweep, winning their second World Series title in four years four games to none. Mike Lowell was named most valuable player of the series. The Red Sox won the 2004 World Series in the same fashion when they swept the St. Louis Cardinals, a championship that ended an 86-year World Series title drought. Both the 2004 and 2007 World Series championships were won while Boston was the away team.

The Associated Press strays from the hard news lead, referring to the Red Sox as the new monster in baseball. A few quotes are used from Red Sox players mixed in a barrage of details about the World Series and the change in attitude for Red Sox fans and the overall sports scene in Boston (Their New England Patriots are still undefeated). If it's any consolation for Denver sports enthusiasts, the AP ends their story by pointing out they can provide their full attention to the Denver Broncos for a Monday night football game against the Green Bay Packers at Denver.

Reuters was also there. Their version of the story was less enterprise and more hard news style, recapping statistics from game four. Reuters' reporter, Larry Fine, does include factoids to break up the statistical barrage, such as Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester taking chemotherapy to treat lymphoma last winter. It is likely that Fine was at the game and only needed to add a few paragraphs to publish the story once the final out was recorded.

October 18, 2007

National story 10/18 - Autistic teen who wandered off during hike found

A young autistic adult was found alive Thursday after wandering off during a hike in the Dolly Sods Wilderness area, part of the Monongahela National Forest, in West Virginia. Jacob Allen wandered away while hiking with his parents Sunday. He is reported to have the mental capacity of a 3- or 4-year-old.

An Associated Press story that ran on CNN begins with a typical direct lead, followed by a quote in the next paragraph explaining a possible reason for Allen's disappearance, also standard. It follows with supplemental details about conditions in the area where Allen was missing, efforts from search crews to find him and experiences from two of the searches that were looking for him. This story, a follow-up from the time he was reported missing, puts a lot of effort into answering any potential questions readers may have, with the exception on what autism is. As such, autism doesn't play a big factor in the man's disappearance outside of his mental capacity.

WBOY-TV, a TV station in West Virginia, starts in the same fashion. Surprisingly, no direct quotes are listed in the story's transcript and list the location Allen was found as Boars Nest Trail. A quick research shows that Boars Nest Trail is part of the Dolly Sods Wilderness Area. WBOY looks to cover the impact angle by listing all the agencies and departments involved in the search towards the end of the article. One small piece of evidence suggesting the station's proximity is reporting what tipped rescuers to Allen, in this case, a hat he was wearing.

October 14, 2007

National blog 10/14 Cave explorers found safe

Three University of Texas students were found Airman's cave Sunday in Austin, Texas. Rescue crews found the group, two women and one man, after a 30-hour search.

CNN begins the story with that account followed by a brief description of the cave, located four miles south of the Texas campus. There aren't many details, so CNN sticks with a quick inverted pyramid with updates likely to come soon. CNN was able to conduct an interview with the spokesman of the Austin Fire Department to add information about the cave where the students had gone missing. A short dig in the Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Service also shows that the students told a friend to call 911 if they had not returned by a certain time.

The Associated Press ran this story just before the students got out of the cave. The AP was able to find a parent whose son was among the missing in the cave after they had been found. They find another source with the division commander of the county's emergency medical services, although that information was mostly background for the lead. The AP also interviews the Austin Fire Department's spokesman, who said that rescue crews were aided by citizen cave explorers.

Although similar to CNN's version, the AP worked a little harder to add relevance to the story outside of the missing college students for the national audience.

October 7, 2007

National story 10/7 6 killed in shooting spree

An off-duty sheriff's deputy went on a violent rampage early Sunday, killing six young people and injuring another before he was shot dead by authorities in Crandon, Wisconsin.

Most of the local TV stations were carrying Associated Press feeds of the story. After explaining what happened in the lead, the next two paragraphs provide supplemental information about the shooter and the victims. After volleying back and forth with more info on the suspect and victims, intertwined by a quick sound byte of what was going on at the time of the shooting, neighbors who witnessed the incident are interviewed. The article ends with some background information on Crandon, given the likelihood that readers outside of Wisconsin don't know where it is.

Chao Xiong of the Star Tribune fuses parts of the Associated Press story and does some reporting of his own. One example is his work to make a Minnesota connection; his research dug up a similar incident that happened in the Red Lake area in 1992. It also connects to a possible motive Crandon residents told Xiong, as the shooter and one of the victims recently broke up. Xiong also begins the article with a community angle by speaking on telephone to a father of three children who are in high school.

September 30, 2007

National story blog 9/30 Latest round of Iraq controversy

Once again, CNN and the Associated Press are on the case. This time, the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad isn't too happy on a Senate resolution that would divide Iraq into federal regions. Iraqi leaders say the move is a violation of the country's sovereignty.

After the first paragraph, CNN opts to build a little suspense by waiting to reveal supplementary information about the Senate's vote. Paragraphs two and three are used to quote a statement written by the embassy expressing their distaste. The embassy isn't alone on that position, as Senators Joe Biden and Sam Brownback, two presidential hopefuls, are interviewed to bring the story a little closer to home. Their runs for president may have also come into play as their names have more prominence than candidates who aren't seeking presidential candidacy.

The Associated Press takes the story in another direction. The Senate resolution is talked about in the second paragraph, but not revisited until the second half of the story. Instead, they provide the latest update on attacks against insurgents and Al-Qaeda militants. The end of the story gives an update on a U.S. Army sniper accused in the deaths of two unarmed Iraqi civilians.

The article is a squeeze play not often seen.

September 12, 2007

National story 9/12 Kevin Everett

The biggest headline that recapped week one of the NFL regular season was a spinal cord injury sustained by Buffalo Bills tight end Kevin Everett during a game against the Denver Broncos. Initial prognosis from surgeons at Millard Fillmore Gates Hospital in Buffalo said he would never be able to walk again. That has changed as Everett showed signs of improvement in the last two days, doctors are now "cautiously optimistic" that Everett may be able to walk.

Naturally, this has generated a lot of press coverage. The Associated Press has been following the story since the initial tackle that caused the injury. After providing updates on Everett's condition, the AP expanded the human interest level to the story with an interview of Everett's mother, who described her reaction when she first saw her son injured on the field followed by her emotional roller-coaster when she was informed on his condition. Towards the end of the article, details of the on-field action leading to Everett's injury are reported, tailoring to readers who may not have followed the story when it first happened.

Newsweek takes another route in this story, spending less time on Everett's condition and reaction as the injury occurred three days ago. Instead, they examine how his prognosis changed from grim to optimistic within a day. What follows is an in-depth story of what doctors did to treat Everett, revealing techniques that have had little experimentation outside of labs. Doctors injected an IV with cool saline solution to lower Everett's body temperature, a procedure where the full term effects are still not officially known. Additional medical procedures on Everett are then listed.