Main | October 2008 »

September 28, 2008

Analysis Entry on Structure

This article from the Star Tribune about a woman who was fatally hit while on her bicycle, begins with a hard news lead and goes on with the inverted pyramid. Within two sentences, the reader knows the key facts. The first few lines give the summary of what happened and who was involved. As the story continues, the facts provided are less and less important, or at least less news worthy.

The structure of this article was written effectively and clear. The fact blocks of the article are well placed from the beginning to the end. With a story like this, the reader wants to know the key Ws before other information, so I would not change how the reporter ordered the information.

Iowa discussions of 4-day school week

Iowa school officials are showing an increasing interest in having 4-day school weeks, as other states have already done to cut costs, the Des Moines Register reported.

Van Buren County is hoping to get this underway for their schools as soon as next year. The county would need a waiver from the mandatory state schools calendar.

The smaller school districts of Iowa are showing a particularly growing interest in this proposition because of the shrinking enrollment and high-fuel costs.

In the US, 17 states already have districts with 4-day school weeks. On average, most of these school have increased the school day from six and a half hours to eight hours a day.

Not everyone is on board with the idea.

“I just think it would be too much for kids to stay focused long enough,? said Liz Henning, a mother of two in Lehigh, which is in the Southeast Webster-Grand school district. “I think five days is better.?

Schools in Arizona and Colorado with 4-day school weeks have reported fewer absences with the longer days. Arizona school officials have not seen an increase, nor a decrease in student achievement.

No formal studies have been conducted on the long-term or short-term effects of students attending 4-day school weeks.

The first schools to go through with 4-day school weeks were in New Mexico, because of an energy crisis in the 1970s that made utility and fuel costs have a dramatic increase.

Officials approve White Bear Township airport

The White Bear Township Board approved for the Benson airport to expand on September 15, with a conditional-use permit, the Pioneer Press reported.

The permit allows the airport to store 42 planes, limits the use of louder aircrafts and does not allow helicopters. Pilots may fly from sunrise until 30 minutes after the sun goes down.

The private airport was built in 1945 by John Benson in an area that at the time was quite rural. Since then, the area has seen an increase residentially. When Benson died in 1993, White Bear Township aquired the property.

The township built a water tower on one part of the land and plans to build a park on another part.

The board's vote includes letting The Benson Airport Association replace two hangers and and build five more. No decisions have been made for when the building will begin.

Neighbors worry about the increase in noise in their neighborhood, along with safety.

"There are times when you just hit the floor — you're terrified," Nanci Stoddard, a neighbor of the airport, told the Pioneer Press.

Board Members are taking these fears into consideration as they begin planning.

"We've been at this for quite a few months," Dick Sand, a member of the board, told the Pioneer Press. "What we're still working on is the actual airport operations: how the flights are going to be conducted and how people are going to fly in and out of there. We set that aside for further discussion."

Chinese Astronauts Make It Home Safely

Three Chinese Astronauts made it home safely Sunday in their space capsule after spending almost three days in low earth orbit and finishing China's first spacewalk, the New York Times reported.

The capsule was located around 5:40 p.m. Beijing time after the Shenzhou VII spacecraft floated down by parachute and landed on the grasslands of north China. The astronauts were helped climb out of the space capsule by a search and rescue team.

The three astronauts spoke on national television briefly after emerging, and appeared to look well.

China said the space mission was "a major breakthrough" for their space program, which has a long-term goal of sending a man to the moon.

"It was a glorious mission, full of challenges but the result is perfect," one of the astronauts, Zhai Zhigang, said after emerging from the space capsule.

Over the past decade China has spent billions of dollars on their space program, and is only the third country to send humans into space with its own space capsule. Russia and the United States are the other two.

Minnesota Voters Setting New Record

The number of registered voters in Minnesota is already 12,000 more than in 2004, the Star Tribune reported.

The Secretary of State's office predicts that by November it is possible that 90% of eligible voters will be registered. At this point, 84% of eligible voters in Minnesota are already registered.

Secretary of State Mark Ritchie expects about 150,000 people to do same-day registration, which would bring the Minnesota registration number to 90%. The national average for voter registration is about 64%.

Ritchie said Minnesota already has the highest percentage of registered voters in the country.

"In our office, we see this as a watershed year," said Ritchie.

In Ramsey County, 310,00 people were registered to vote as of mid-September. The number of people registered on election day in 2004 (excluding same-day registration voters) was 303,000.

Joe Mansky, Ramsey County elections manager, said the number of registration cards his office was receiving weekly has doubled since Labor Day.

"This is kind of a once-in-a-lifetime event this year," he told the Star Tribune.

September 23, 2008

Nephew of Tubby Smith killed in fight

William Smith, nephew of University of Minnesota men's basketball coach Tubby Smith, died Sunday morning after being stabbed near his college in Worcester, Mass., according to Worcester police, the Star Tribune reported.

University officials confirmed Monday that William Smith, 19, was the son of Tubby Smith's brother.

Smith had been at the off-campus party when a group of unwanted guests arrived around 2:00 am, according to Worcester police.

“We have a bit more clarity of how it went down. These non-Becker students were the cause of the hostility,? Detective Capt. Edward J. McGinn Jr. said yesterday. “It seemed from the outset they were looking for trouble.?

The flight started inside the apartment complex and moved to the street. Smith was stabbed once in the chest, the knife penetrating his heart.

Smith was pronounced dead at 2:45 am at the University of Massachusetts Memorial Medical Center, the Telegram reported.

"We lost a special young man last night. The grieving process will take some time for my brother and his family but I know that they appreciate and will need all the support, " Tubby Smith said in a statement released by the University Monday.

This was the first homicide in Worcester since the Spring.

September 22, 2008

Analysis entry on attribution

The sources in this CNN story are House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., and Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala. These sources were scattered throughout the story as different elements unfolded.

The information from the story came mostly from the sources, as they are the people most closely tied to the story's topic. The reporter gradually goes into the subject matter that the source touches on before putting in the quote. The quote typically starts its own line, followed up the attribution. The reporter's style was effective and clear in distributing accurate credit to sources.

Minnesota suburb ranked #3 place to retire

Eden Prairie has been named today as the third healthiest place to retire in the US, the Star Tribune reported.

Falling behind Bella Vista, Ark., and Boulder, Colo., the annual ranking was published in today's edition of U.S. News and World Report.

The magazine listed the top 10 cities best for providing places to exercise, promoting strong social support and encouraging healthy lifestyle habits.

Other factors were included such as cost of living as well as climate and recreational activities.

Eden Prairie has three large fitness centers, 100 miles of trails, and many programs promoting health and fitness.

The suburb was admired for its abundance of park land, jogging paths, a community center which recently expanded, as well as numerous exercise classes and opportunities for seniors.

Low-income families still paying too much for rent

In the past three years, the Twin Cities rental vacancy rate has dropped from seven to about four percent, Minnesota Public Radio reported.

Average monthly rents during the same time period have increased by more than $25, rising to a total of over $850.

The number of low-wage workers in the Twin Cities continues to increase, new information shows. The Wilder Foundation, a St. Paul based social service and research organization, believes the number in some areas will actually double.

Researchers at the Wilder Foundation discovered that the number of people paying too much for rent or owner occupied housing will double by 2010 from 70,000 to around 140,000.

"Low wage workers are spending too much on housing, " said Michael Dahl, the executive director of the Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless.

Dahl says a partial solution to the problem would be the federal government to reverse course on housing policy and supply increased funds for rental assistance including money for working families.

In the Twin Cities, the wait for section 8 housing can be as long as 10 years.

Heated Washington debate could give choice to terminally ill patients

This November election will bring up a very personal issue for residents of Washington state.

Initiative 1000 would allow doctors to perscribe lethal doses of medication for terminally ill patients seeking to hasten their deaths, the Seattle Times reported.

Currently, Oregon is the only state with a law that allows doctors to give medical help for the sole reason of death to dying patients. Washington is the only state with this type of proposal on this year's ballot.

This is not the first time for a physician-assistance-in-dying initiative in the state of Washington. In 1991, Initiative 119 was one of the most expensive initiative campaigns at that time. Initiative 119 would have allowed doctors to perscribe and administer lethal drugs.

What makes I-1000 different is that patient's would self-administer, or "digest", a lethal dose of medication. Doctors would perscribe the medicine, but not administer them, as closely modeled on Oregon's law.

By having patient's self-administer the drug, doctors are avoiding a state law against assisting a suicide.

Former Washington Gov. Booth Gardner, who has Parkinson's disease, began the campaign in 2006.

"When the day comes when I can no longer keep busy, and I'm a burden to my wife and kids, I want to be able to control my exit," he said at the time.

In order to be eligible for I-1000, patients must be free of depression, able to exercise sound judgment and have less than six months to live in order to obtain a lethal prescription. A counter argument, though, is that doctors are often wrong about life expectancy.

Nancy Niedzielski watched her husband die painfully and slowly of brain cancer in 2006 and wants other patients to be able to avoid this.

"Nobody knows what they're going to want in the future," Niedzielski told the Seattle Times, who gathered more than 1,700 signatures for the initiative. "This is about giving people options and choice, because none of us knows how we're going to die."

Andover death more than accident, suspect arrested

A 33-year-old man is in custody in connection with the death of Natasha Waalen, 28, the Pioneer Press reported.

When Waalen's body was found near a motorcycle early Friday morning in Andover it appeared she had been in a motorcycle accident. The details have since then not been adding up.

"There are multiple factors that are not consistent with a motor vehicle accident," a statement from the Anoka County Sherriff's Office said.

Ryan Boland has been arrested on suspicion of Waalen's murder. Boland was Waalen's long-term boyfriend, and the father of her 4-year-old daughter, the Star Tribune reported.

"It's hard to accept is about the only thing I can say," Natasha Waalen's father, Jeff, told the Star Tribune. "It would be easier for me to believe something else than thinking it was the guy she had known for 10 years."

The investigation remains ongoing, and it is not yet known how Waalen died.

Charges for the investigation are still pending. Boland is being held at the Anoka County Jail.

Death Toll Rises from Pakistan Hotel Rubble

The number of people confirmed dead from the truck blast outside the Marriott Hotel in Pakistan has gone up to 53, with 266 people wounded, the New York Times reported. Officials say the numbers are not expected to rise much more.

The Pakistani government described the blast as an attack on democracy.

“Our enemies don’t want to see democracy flourishing in the country,? said Rehman Malik, a senior Interior Ministry official, at a press conference Sunday.

The hotel was a favorable place for government officials to do business. Pakistani officials favored it because of its easy access, although Western security officials found the security to be problematic.

Malik said investigators are still trying to determine how the attacker was killed. Pakistani officials do not want help from the United States' FBI to conduct the investigation.

Rescue workers pulled five dead bodies from the wreckage Sunday. Two Americans were among the total 53 dead.

Increased tuition as part of Bruininks plan

University of Minnesota President Robert Bruininks announced his request to the Minnesota legislature Friday, Minnesota Public Radio reported.

In 2009, the U's president will ask for $141 million in new money. During these tough economic times, many are sceptical that the U will be unsuccessful in receiving state funding.

Bruininks believes the funding is critical, and the amount he is asking for is "modest".

There are three major components that President Bruininks belives will need more funding. These three things that Bruininks wants the state to pay for:

1. A 3 percent salary increase for faculty and staff in both of the next two years, for $95 million.

2. Funding for more student scholarships, especially students who come from middle income homes, for $16 million.

3. More funding to enhance research capacity, at $30 million.

U of M regent Dean Johnson told MPR, "what we need to do is take the long-term approach. If we take the short-term approach, we will fail at this. We need to convince the Legislature and the governor that this is an investment in our economy."

In addition to the requested funds Bruininks would like to receive, he plans on making $26 million in cuts over the next two years. This will be reflected in student's tuition as well, where he plans to increase it by 4.5% over the next two years.

Bruininks says the increase in tuition could be higher if the state does not provide the U with the funding he has requested.

The regents will vote in October whether or not to approve President Bruininks plan.

Leads Article Analysis

The Pioneer Press reported an article today about the details and design of the new 35-W bridge. The lead was as follows:
When the design of the new Interstate 35W bridge was unveiled, many debated its aesthetic merits — was it beautiful enough?

The two major news elemens that stand out in this lead is impact and timeliness. When the 35-W bridge collapse happened in August 2007, there were few local Minneapolis-St. Paul residents who weren't impacted in some direct or in-direct way. Whether it was because their usual commute was much more delayed, or because they knew someone who was driving on the bridge at the time of the collapse, most people have some connection with the bridge that makes this lead have impact. Also, these lead catches the interest of readers because of its timing. The new bridge is rumored to open as soon as Tuesday, so a lead that includes anything about the new bridge will keep a reader's attention.

The lead is detailed in that the reader knows that the story will contain some degree of information the the design of the new 35-W bridge. It remains general in that the reader does not yet know the answer to the question that is posed in the lead. The article could go on to give positive feedback on the design, or it could include harsh criticism from expert critics. The structure of this lead is not a hard-news lead, because it is not giving straight-forward information. The reporter may have chosen this structure to enable the story to stand out from all of the other 35-W stories that are out right now.

Obama raised $66 million in August

The New York Times reported that Senator Barack Obama had his highest fundraising month to date in August, raising $66 million.

Both presidential candidates took a brief break from negative campaigning during the major damaging passing of Hurricane Ike. Senators McCain and Obama have resumed their political attacks, with Obama referring to McCain this weekend as "out of touch". Shortly after, McCain supporters accused Democrats on Sunday as "ageist" in reference to attacks against 72-year-old McCain.

McCain will receive a $84 million cash infusion from a government presidential-election fund, putting him at a higher advantage over Obama in terms of fund-raising efforts.

More striking than the amount of money Obama raised in August, is the half-million first-time donors who contributed. Many of these donors gave far less than the $2,300 limit per person in any general election.

Obama's campaign saw significant spikes in donated funds immediately after he accepted the Democratic presidential nomination, as well as when Gov. Sarah Palin was announced as McCain's running mate.

Senator Obama's campaign announced it raised $10 in 24 hours this month, after Gov. Palin addressed the Republican National Convetion, the Associated Press reported.

“These are very positive numbers for Obama, and they nearly guarantee him an overall spending edge in the fall,? said Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virgina.

Obama spoke to a large rally in in Manchester, N.H. on Saturday saying, “John McCain doesn’t get it. He doesn’t know what’s going on in your lives. He is out of touch with the American people.?

Hazardous fluids being shipped improperly from San Francisco cosmetic firm

In San Francisco, a cosmetics company has been allegedly shipping hazardous materials by air, and is now facing federal charges, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Benefit Cosmetics shipped isopropyl alcohol by air on March 26, 2006, federal prosecutors told the Chronicle. This highly flammable substance is used as a cleaning fluid and is a prominent ingredient in personal-care products.

Neither company, nor its employees, were properly licensed or certified to transport these hazardous materials by air, according to federal charges filed Monday in U.S. District Court in San Francisco.

Benefit Cosmetics, popular for its fun, candy-store atmosphere, began in 1976. Beginning with one shop on Market St., there are now more than 1,000 counters in more than 25 countries.

Bush Approves Pakistan Raids

CNN reported that U.S. special forces will be conducting ground assaults inside Pakistan without Islamabad's approval, after given authorization from President Bush.

A senior American intelligence official said Thursday, "We have had the president's OK for months." The official, whose identity has been kept private due to the classified order, would not get into detail on the exact circumstances of the order.

The official told CNN that Pakistan's leaders will be notified during an assault or after the fact although "most definitely after a decision has been made and things are set in motion."

The news of the ground assaults came a day after a statement from Pakistan's armed forces chief indicating that no foreign forces will be allowed to operate inside Pakistan.

Last week a senior U.S. official announced that U.S. helicopters dropped troops in the village of Angoor in South Waziristan, a border of Afghanistan. The U.S. official said there may have been a small number of women and children in the nearby area.

In a press conference on Wednesday, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the U.S. and Pakistan must increase cooperation to battle al Qaeda and Taliban militants that are using areas along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan as a safe haven.

"In my view, these two nations are inextricably linked in a common insurgency that crosses the border between them," Mullen said.

St. Kate's has new name, keeps values

Beginning this June, The College of St. Catherine will change its name to St. Catherine University, the Star Tribune reported.

St. Kate's officials are aiming for a more holistic representation of the school, and hope to prove that the school is more than just a residential liberal arts college for women.

St. Kate's, which opened in 1900, offers a wide array of graduate and weekend programs as well.

"It's simple, it's elegant and it puts St. Catherine, which is our brand, first," President Andrea Lee told the Pioneer Press.

The new name is not intended to shift the focus of St. Kate's mission for education, and they intend to keep their baccalaureate programs just for women. The graduate school, which consists of more than 1,400 students, is co-ed.

Last school year, 2007-08, St. Kate's was ranked as the largest women's college in country with 2,900 women in the undergraduate program.