December 9, 2007

Naked men buy candy in Arizona

On CNN, there was a story about two naked men who went into a convenience store, shortly after 3 a.m., to buy candy, soda and dough nuts in Phoenix.

The reporters interviewed the cashier who was working at the time. She let them come into the store, unaware of their lack of clothing.

She said she did not want to call the police because they were being polite and not hurting anything, but that if this becomes a habit, then she will.

The names of the men were not mentioned, but their faces were shown on the surveillance footage from the store, which aired on television December 5.

Though this is not the hardest news in the world, it has entertainment value and tells the story of regular, working-class people. This is not the most important kind of story to society, but it still serves an important niche in journalism.

News companies should, however, be weary about airing too many "fluff" stories like this one
to maintain credibility and integrity.

Canada farmer found guilty for murder

A Canadian pig farmer was found guilty of second-degree murder of six women, and is awaiting a possible trial for the deaths of 20 others, according to BBC news and CBC news.

The remains of the six women were found on Robert Pickton's property by police in 2002.

The verdict came after a week of deliberation, and 10 months of testimony, including almost 130 witnesses, thousands of pieces of forensic evidence and video of Pickton telling police that he had hoped to kill 50 women.

Murder conviction in Canada requires a life-sentence, so Pickton will serve at least 6, depending on if he goes to trial for the 20 other murders of which he is suspected.

Most of the women that Pickton is accused of killing were prostitutes and drug addicts from Vancouver.

He was charged with first-degree murder, but the jury did not have enough evidence to prove that these murders were pre-planned, and found him guilty of second-degree murder.

I thought both of these stories were structured well, and very easy to read and understand.

Hastings cop may lose job

A story in the Pioneer Press does a really good job of investigative reporting to get information about a Hastings police officer, whose future is yet to be determined by an arbitrator within 30 days of last Friday.

Rene Doffing was suspended with pay on March 27 for an incident undisclosed to reporters that happened on March 26. He stopped receiving pay in May.

The reporter was able to find out that the incident involved a Wisconsin man who was hospitalized for minor injuries. The city of Hastings has been paying the man's medical bills.

The reporter also did a good job interviewing Doffing's co-workers to get character information and learn about the officer's past.

The part about Doffing threatening to kill a 16-year-old following a dispute over a tennis ball hitting his car, after mentioning the officer's height and weight, created a very vivid image that helped tell the story of Doffing's anger.

Gradution rates increase at the U of M

The Star Tribune features a story about the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, and its reputation based on graduation statistics.

The story starts with an anecdotal lead about a student who graduated in 3 and a half years. I thought it did a good job introducing the story by applying a general trend to a specific student.

The story continues by saying that graduation rates after four and six years, though increasing heavily, are still the lowest of the 10 other schools in which Minnesota compares itself.

I felt the article did a good job of balancing quotes and statistics to tell a story, and showed the issue from many perspectives.

I was, however, confused by the last quote of the story from Robert Bruininks: "When you think of being able to get into the labor force a year earlier and you think about that in terms of lifetime earning, it can mean as much as $1 million over the course of your lifetime."

I do not understand on what he is basing this vague statistic, and I do not understand why the reporter chose to end on this confusing quote.

November 26, 2007

'Girls Gone Wild' Producer Says He Was Abused in Jail

Joe Francis, the producer of the "Girls Gone Wild" video series, said he was abused by guards at an Oklahoma jail, which can be read in The Oklahoman and CNN.

Francis said guards denied him food and blankets and threatened to tie him naked to a chair for 48 hours.

He was at Grady County jail in Oklahoma for two weeks, while being moved from Florida to Nevada to await a federal tax evasion trial.

Shane Wyatt, the Grady County jail administrator, said Francis was not treated any differently than any other inmate.

Francis has been jailed because one of his "Girls Gone Wild" videos made in 2003 featured a 17-year-old participating in sex acts and because he yelled at a lawyer during a hearing. He has decided not to post bail in Reno while awaiting his tax evasion trial.

November 25, 2007

At least 2 Dead After Plane Crash in Faribault

A small plane carrying four people crashed Sunday afternoon in Faribault, Minn., killing two. There were no reports about the other two, but three hospitals in the area reported that no plane crash victims were received Sunday. You can read about this on the Star Tribune and
Pioneer Press websites.

None of the passengers' identities were released as of Sunday evening.

The plane, which was a Cirrus SR 22, crashed a little before 3 p.m. at the Faribault Municipal Airport. It was registered to Mayo Aviation in Aberdeen, S.D., the FAA said.

Photos taken from a helicopter showed a deployed parachute lay near the crash scene.

I don't think it was appropriate to use the word "speculated" when it mentioned the 20 mph winds on the Star Tribune. Maybe it could have just stated something about the wind gusts without attributing them to an official spokesman. It s not a journalist's job to "speculate."

However, I thought the sentence "A deployed parachute lay nearby" was used really well. The placement and simplicity made it have a lot of 'weight' in the story.

November 24, 2007

Victim of LRT Accident Identified

A pedestrian killed by a light-rail train in south Minneapolis was identified Friday as Gary X. Langlois,48, of Minneapolis, according to the Star Tribune and the Pioneer Press.

The accident happened at 2:45 p.m. Wednesday at the 46th Street station. Langlois was not carrying identification during the accident.

It is not clear why he was on the tracks, but all safety warnings were working properly at the time, according to Julie Johanson, Metro Transit Assistant General Manager. She also said an investigation is under way.

The identity of the train driver, whom Johanson said had a "very good" safety record,
will be released Monday.

This was the second light-rail death at the 46th Street station, and the fifth since the light-rail system started in 2004.

I felt that these stories should have included some information about the victim's family. How was he identified? Also, I am left wondering what officials think about the safety of the light-rail trains. Do they consider these five deaths a concern, or not? What should be done about light-rail safety?

November 18, 2007

Whale in The Amazon

A whale that swam about 1,000 miles up the Amazon River has gotten stuck twice, and Brazil's Environmental Protection Agency lost track of the animal and called off their search on Friday, according to CNN and BBC.

Experts say the whale could have been in the area for a coupe of months.

The minke whale, which is the second smallest of the baleen whales, was trapped from Wednesday until Friday near the city of Santarem. Local residents splashed water on its back to keep it from drying in the hot sun.

After it was freed, the whale disappeared from sight, and helicopters searched for it with no luck, until Sunday, when it was found stuck again.

Though this is not the first time a large ocean animal has swam up the Amazon, it is a rare occurrence.

Online Breakup Ends in Suicide

Megan Meier,13, of Dardenne Prairie MO, was tricked into thinking that a cute boy named Josh wanted to be her friend on MySpace, as the St. Charles Journal and the Star Tribune reported.

After chatting online for a month, Josh ended their relationship, saying he heard she was cruel. She hanged herself the next day.

She suffered from depression and attention deficit disorder, and had spoken about suicide when she was in third grade. She saw a therapist ever since then.

Later, Megan's family learned later that Josh never existed. A neighborhood family including a former friend of Megan's created him.

Megan's parents want the family responsible for the online fraud to be prosecuted, but law enforcement officials said that this does not fit into any law.

Swastikas Found at St. Cloud State

Two swastikas were scratched into the walls of a multicultural office's computer lab and a nearby men' room at St. Cloud State University, which can be read on the Star Tribune and WCCO's websites.

Police said that swastika in the computer lab was a foot long.

Police have classified the incident as bias-motivated property damage and said they are still looking for who is responsible for the crime.

The University made posters and sent emails to students calling the act despicable.

The WCCO version of the story had a quote from Steven Ludwig, the Vice President of Administrative Affairs at St. Cloud State, which I felt made it more personal to read than the A.P. version which quoted no one.

They were both pretty short stories, which is fine for this story, but I still feel like there is some information missing. I would have been interested to hear what some students had to say about the incident.

November 17, 2007

Barber Loses Shop in Fire

A story on the Star Tribune's website reported about a barber who lost his shop in an arson fire on Nov. 5.

Warren Smith, 55, now is making house calls to his customers in Virginia, Minn., and inviting them to come into his kitchen for haircuts. He said he doesn't care if someone wants a haircut at 9 or 10 o'clock, because without cutting hair, he has no income.

He sees less people now than he did before the fire, from 20 or 30 customers a day to about 15 now.

He said customers have been very appreciative of his house calls, but that he is even more appreciative than them for allowing him to continue his business.

One thing that really stood out to me was the last paragraph of the story. It made me wonder what the other building was that caught fire, and about the arsonist and his motive, which apparently had something to do with drugs. I also wondered if the barber shop was insured or not and how much of the $1 million in damage was done to the barber shop. I wish there was more detail reported about that, and less fluff about house calls.

November 12, 2007

Foreign Students Boost Econony

According to the New York Times, A growing number of foreign students is increasingly contributing to our national economy.

International students' net contributions to the United States increased by a billion dollars in the 2006-07 school year from the previous year, the largest increase to date.

I appreciated how the story had quotes from an expert that could put some of the numbers into perspective, for example, how international students in New York contributed "--more than the Yankees, the Mets, the Rangers, the Knicks and the Giants combined.?

I also liked how the numbers were thoroughly explained in the context of change over time and that there were not too many statistics in one paragraph, which made it easy to comprehend.

However, the last three sentences of the article seemed tacked on because they didn't follow the same logical flow that the rest of the article did. The information in those sentences is relevant and newsworthy, though, and did belong in the story.

Semi Driver Pleads Guilty in Crashing into Trooper

The driver of a semitrailer truck pleaded guilty Friday to criminal vehicular injury and to driving under the influence after sideswiping a state trooper on I-94 near Sauk Centre, Minn., which can be read about in the Star Tribune.

Donald Kerkau, 46, of St. Louis, Mich., struck the car of trooper Gregg Gerhartz on June 5, which resulted in Gerhartz breaking his femur. Tests showed that Kerkau had marijuana and cocaine in his system during the accident, The Department of Public Safety said. The story from when Kerkau was charged can be read on WCCO's website.

The trooper was making a traffic stop at the time, and had his emergency lights on. Kerkau admitted to dozing off and not seeing the lights, according to a criminal complaint.

I am wondering if the use of the word "admitted" in both these stories isn't a little biased and unfair. Also, there wasn't much perspective from the truck driver's side of the story. I feel that both of these articles could have been a little more balanced.

November 4, 2007

King Tut's Face Unveiled to the Public

For the first time in history, the face of Ancient Egypt's most famous ruler, King Tutankhamen, will be on public display, according to BBC and AHN.

The mummy was placed in a climate-controlled case inside his tomb in Luxor's Valley of the Kings 85 years after the tomb was discovered by British explorer Howard Carter.

Before this event, only about 50 living people have seen the face of King Tut.

It is believed that he died over 3,000 years ago, at about the age of 19.

This was partly a plan to protect the remains. Archaeologists said the heat and the humidity brought into the tomb by about 5,000 tourists a day were harmful to the body.

The King's body was x-rayed in 1968. A shard of bone was found in his skull, leading some to believe that he was killed by a blow to the head, murdered, as some speculated, for religious reasons.

However a CT scan done in 2005 led some researchers to believe he was not murdered, but could have died of complications from a broken leg.

Though all researchers did not agree on this theory, they all said they rejected the idea that he was murdered.

New Protection for Pagans in West Virginia

An A.P. story on the New York Times website and one on Google Groups reported that a new policy at Marshall University in West Virginia allows pagans to miss class for religious holidays.

Some students took advantage of the new policy on Thursday, which was Samhain, a pagan and Wiccan holiday that honors the dead.

The decision was an extension of existing policy toward other religious groups, said Steve Hensley, the dean of student affairs at Marshall.

"It was really just a matter of looking into it, and deciding what was the right thing,? Hensley said.

Paganism experts said they are not aware of any other university with such a policy, but there are some universities wth blanket policies allowing students to miss class for any religious holiday.