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December 9, 2007

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 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

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

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

Homeless Man Dead After Slipping off Bluff

A homeless man was found dead Saturday morning in St. Paul after he fell 60 feet from the river bluffs, the Pioneer Press reported.

Homeless-outreach volunteers found his body at about 10:30 a.m. near Kellogg Park in downtown St. Paul.

Police Cmdr. Paul Iovino said it is unclear how long he had been dead before his body was found, but signs suggest that is was recent.

Police said they believe that it was an accident and do not suspect foul play.

The Star Tribune reported that St. Paul police have not released the man's name yet, but they said he was in his 50s.

Man Killed While Confronting Bully is Identified

Andrew E. Nakao was fatally shot in the chest on Friday in Minneapolis' Folwell neighborhood while confronting teens that had been bullying his younger brother, the Star Tribune reported.

The Hennepin County medical examiner's office released Nakao's identity Sunday.

According to the article, Nakao went to the house of the teens, less than a block from his house, to talk to them about beating up his brother, and minutes later he was shot. Police said there was no argument.

Another man connected to the scene had a non-life-threatening gunshot wound, police said, but did not identify him.

It is not clear if the shots came from the same or multiple sources.

Police did not say if any arrests have been made.

The Pioneer Press covered this story as well.

They used a sentence that I thought was very confusing: "The medical examiner's office confirmed the death was a homicide, the third in as many days in days in North Minneapolis."

I do not understand what that last clause is supposed to mean. It also uses the preposition "in" too many times. This detracts from the readability of the article.

October 29, 2007

Possible Charges in Nanny-ad Killing

A teenager in savage Minnesota was arrested for suspected involvement with the death of Katherine Ann Olson.
Police said charges could be filed as early as Monday.

A friend of the suspect, Steve McCutchan, 20, spoke with the Star Tribune. He said he was shocked and that he can not believe he did it.

The suspect has not been named by Savage police, but they said he was 19 and a resident of Savage.

Olson was killed while responding to an ad for a nanny on craigslist.org. She was found dead in the trunk of her car by police at Kraemer Nature Preserve in Burnsville about 10 p.m. Friday.

Olson's friends have made posts on the popular website cautioning people to be careful when responding to such ads.

The Houston Chronicle reported that this was the first homicide connected to craigslist.og, though it has been used to advertise prostitution and set up robberies.

October 28, 2007

KQRS Morning Show Upsets Native American Leaders

Native American leaders said they plan to protest in front of the KQRS building at 10 a.m. Monday in response to comments made on-air by morning-show hosts Tom Barnard and Terri Traen, according to the Star Tribune's website and the Bemidji Pioneer's website.

Representatives of the American Indian Movement (AIM), the Red Lake Indian Reservation and urban Indian leaders said they hope to meet with executives from the classic-rock station at its headquarters in southeast Minneapolis, AIM co-founder Clyde Bellecourt said Sunday.

In a broadcast last month, Barnard and Traen commented on the Red Lake and Shakopee tribes while discussing a report by the state Health Department that Beltrami County has the state's highest rate of suicide among young people.

Traen made comments about incest affecting suicide and Barnard said that Mystic Lake Casino doesn't help the tribe in the rest of the state. The station has not yet issued a response.

"Bellecourt said Red Lake has received nearly $4 million in grants from the Shakopee tribe since 2004 toward building a new Boys and Girls Club, assisting with the recent rebirth of the tribe's walleye fishing industry and creating a center in Bemidji to address sexual assault."

He said he and other leaders are pushing for the station executives to take "swift action" against the show and its hosts, as this is not the first time they have been accused of racial and ethnic insensitivity. They have also made politically incorrect comments about the Hmong and Somali populations.

October 14, 2007

Suspect Arrested for Rape at Light-rail

A 20-year-old man was arrested in connection with a rape at a Minneapolis light-rail station, which can be read about on the Star Tribune website.

The Minneapolis man was arrested by St. Paul police on Friday afternoon and is being held in Hennepin County Jail pending charges.

The investigation is being conducted by Metro Transit Police, who said the woman was abducted at gunpoint at 1:55 a.m. on Oct. 4.

She then went to a friend's house and called authorities and was taken to the hospital.

This was the first rape involving the light-rail since it started running in 2004.

An A.P. story on WCCO's website did a good job using quotes to cover this story, but had less information overall. They also mentioned that the victim was a 44-year-old woman, which the Strib did not.

Volunteer Crushed by Caboose

A man was crushed to death by a small-gauge rail caboose on Saturday afternoon while trying to stop it from tipping over around a curve, as you can read about on the Star Tribune website.

William Paget, 68, of Savage, Minn. was working as the brakeman on the caboose just west of Northfield.


The Caboose was the only car attached to the engine as it rolled around a curve at less than walking speed, and started to tip, Rice County Sheriff's Office said.

Paget tried to stop it from tipping over, and was crushed by the car that was carrying three adults and five children.
He was pronouned dead at the scene on a private lot in Webster Township.

The Star Tribune did not mention if passengers in the car were injured, but Kare 11's story said that none of them were injured.

Their version also mentioned that this event was an annual demonstration and that it is still under inverstigation by the Rice County Sheriff's Office.

October 7, 2007

Woman Loses Trial Over Music Piracy

In a story on the Star Tribune's website, it states that Jammie Thomas from Brainard, Minn. was ordered to pay $222,000 to the Recording Industry Association of America for illegally downloading 24 songs. She said that she has not decided if she will appeal the claims of "willfully" violating copyright laws. This is considered symbolic to the industry, as she is the first individual to be sued for illegal downloading, but many experts feel it doesn't change anything when it comes to downloading music.

I appreciate how the article had quotes from many different experts, officials, and people involved, but I also found it confusing. Towards the end, a different person was being introduced and quoted every sentence. Also, the quotes did not seem to follow a structure. It felt awkward to read. There was also two times when ellipses were used in quotes. I found this distracting, as, the first time they are used in the middle of a sentence, and the second time they are used when it could have easily been broken up by ', "he said. "'

On Ars Technica's news site, it gives a detailed re-telling of the trial. I found it easier to follow the quotes because there were less and they were in a better context with the surrounding information.

Two Stabbed in St. Paul Street Fight

An Associated Press story on the Star Tribune website reported that two people were stabbed with a sickle in St. Paul's east side during a street fight that involved 30 to 50 people. The fight happened at about 10:15 p.m. on Saturday outside a house in the 1200 block of Bush Avenue. This fact was attributed to KARE-11 news, which I found rather interesting. In fact, the entire article seemed to be attributed to KARE-11. I suppose that KARE got lucky, and were the only ones to get the tip and/or information about the incident.

On the Pioneer Press website, it has basically the same information as the Strib, but it relates the information to a specific police spokesperson, and includes extra little details, such as the 16-year-old that was hit in the head with a lawn mower and didn't wish to speak to the police and that police are hesitant to call the incident gang related. These details and specific attributions give the story a more personal touch than the A.P. story.

September 30, 2007

Statewide Smoking Ban Starts Monday

Starting Monday, the entire state goes smoke-free in accordance with the "Clean Indoor Air Act," as you can read about on the Star Tribune's website. This includes all bars, restaurants and public gathering areas, including some outdoor areas according to local ordinances. This law does not affect Native American
reservations, private homes and hotel rooms.

Minnesota is the 17th (20th, according to The Washington Post?) state to pass a statewide smoking ban after years of debate and local support from anti-smoking groups.

Penalties for breaking this law include a misdemeanor charge with a $300 fine, and suspension of liquor licenses for bar owners that do not enforce it.

I found The Washington Post's website more balanced because it included the viewpoints of people that do not support the law, unlike the Strib.
"I for one don't like you putting your nose in my business," he told backers. "That's my air in that cafe, not yours. If you don't want to come, don't come," said Rep. Bud Heidgerken, who runs Charlie's Cafe in Freeport. This issue is definitely not as one-sided as the the Tribune makes it appear.

September 27, 2007

Update on Birthday Party Shooting

Two Minneapolis teens are charged in the shooting of Vernice Hall, Thursday's Star Tribune webpage said. Tywin Marcell Bender, 17 and Semaj Marquise Magee, 16, were allegedly firing shots outside a birthday party near Vernice's home last weekend. They were arrested Monday, and police believe them to be members of the gang, the "Stick Up Boys." They were both charged Thursday with attempted first degree murder. The charges include witness testimony that says the boys fired 20 rounds with a handgun, and two rounds with a shotgun.

Bender allegedly made threats that he was going to bring a gun to the party and shoot people after exchanging words with a rival gang.

Vernice Hall remains in the Hennepin County Medical Center in critical condition and the suspects are still in custody.

For an itemized list of charges against Bender and Magee, see http://mplscrimewatch.blogspot.com/2007/09/charges-filed-in-vernice-hall-shooting.html

September 23, 2007

Twelve-year-old Shot

Last Friday night a 12-year old girl was shot in the head while leaving a party in the Willard-Hay neighborhood in North Minneapolis, as was reported by the Star Tribune website. She is in critical condition.

This is causing much concern that gun activity is going on with younger and younger people each year. City Council Member Don Samuels said on Saturday, "The ages of the people being shot and the ages of the shooters has gone down over the past four, five years," but Minneapolis Police Chief Tim Dolan said that 'overall criminal activity among youths has declined.'

No arrests have been made yet, but an A.P. story on the Pioneer Press reported that 'about six or seven teenage boys were seen hiding behind a fence about a block from the party,' and 'police say they have descriptions of two suspects.'

Although police have not released the girls name, the A.P. story also mentioned that the Hennepin County Medical Center said her name is Vernice Hall. As was mentioned in the Strib, the family of the girl did not want to talk to the press, and the police did not give her name, which makes me question the ethical integrity of the A.P.'s printing a name that was based on speculation rather than fact.

September 18, 2007

Education Laws Punish Schools

On the Star Tribune website today, a story about the reactions of state officials and educaters to the "No Child Left Behind" act tells how standardized testing may not be the answer. Over a third of Minnesota public schools do not meet the qualifications of math and reading. Federal funding cuts and state takeover are some possible outcomes for these schools if they don't improve. "This is a direct attack on public education, which might not recover from it in my lifetime," said Prior Lake schools Superintendent Tom Westerhaus. The purpose of the "No Child Left Behind" act was to improve test scores of students who don't speak english as their first language, students who live in low-income areas, and minority students, that have not done as well as others. Many Educators argued at a hearing Monday that using test scores to determine a student's ability is too simplistic, and that one should take into account other factors, as every student is a unique individual. There have been some proposals in congress addressing this, allowing other forms of measurement to determine a student's ability, but nothing has been passed yet.

September 16, 2007

Shooting At Target Center

On the Star Tribune's website there is a story about
a fight in the Target Center during a martial arts event that lead to one person shooting at another. The article is very vague. It says no one was injured, but said the victim was a 27-year-old Minneapolis man. How can there be a victim of a shooting if no one was injured? Was someone killed? You'd think they say so if that is the case. They said there was a suspect name, but never said if anyone was arrested or not. This really makes me wonder because the artice also said it was the first shooting in the Target Center during the 20-year career of police spokeswoman Sgt. Tammy Diedrich, who commented to the press. If this is such a unique occurance, then why is there not more coverage and information about it? This article poses more questions than it answers, which is kind of counter-intuitive for a news publication.

Nothing but the same on KSTP's website. They put it into some perspective by mentioning specific times, but all they say about those involved is that no one was immediately taken into custody, without ever mentioning if anyone was taken in at all.

Most of the information on this story is apperently not available yet, but the local news companies want to run them anyway. I see this as yet another example how the industry is so concerned with being the first, that they don't care if the story is incomplete and full of holes. I feel many news companies are so focused on getting the information out as early as possible, that they don't stop to realize they don't actually have any.

Heavy Trucks on Minnesota Roads Lead Crituque

The lead for today's Star Tribune article, Heavy trucks escaping road limits, was rather long and unneccesarily wordy: "Renegade truckers who pack illegally heavy loads and haulers who don't understand Minnesota's complex truck-weight laws inflict an estimated $30 million a year in damage to state roads, bridges and railroad crossings." Although it is close to 25 words,
the subject of the sentence is too long and awkward and has too many adjectives. Also, the word "renegade" has a harsh connotation associated with it, and is probably the wrong word to use because of the opinionated tone it creates.

It does, however, do a good job of setting up the story and giving the relevant information up-front, but maybe it should have mentioned how only two citations have been given out in the last 10 years on I-35 for carrying too much weight instead of the long, clunky bit about "renegade truckers."

September 10, 2007

Bomb threat and protesters on campus

An anonymous email sent last friday morning to University of Minnesota's information technology help desk said that a bomb had been placed in Weaver-Densford hall. According to the Pioneer Press' website, the Minneapolis bomb squad came around noon; however, late enough in the day to not interrpupt many classes. It was not disclosed by U of M police chief Greg Hestness as to why the threat was serious enough for such a search, though he does not suspect that it was related to the group of protesters that disrupted a meeting the same morning.

The Star Tribune website goes into more detail about this. Over 100 protesters in support of the striking clerical workers interrupted a Board of Regents meeting, five of which were arrested. They were arrested for interfering with public property by blocking the exit of the room the meeting was being held in. This delay caused the meeting to adjourn early as the protestors chanted "shame on you."

University President Robert Bruininks said on the matter "We believe we have a fair offer out there, and we believe we have to run the university in a way that is responsible to all of its employees," adding "it will continue to be our position no matter what the level of noise is on the university campus."

For more information about the strike, visit www.uworkers.org or www.workdayminnesota.org

September 9, 2007

Minnesota school districts relying on voters

A levy that that gives funding to Minnesota public schools will be expiring this fall if voters
do not agree to an increase in property tax. It was reported in today's Star Tribune and on M.P.R.'s site on Sept. 4th that the owner of a $250,000 house would pay an extra $330. Also the Strib said that last year only 42% of the voters were in support of tax increases for schools, the lowest in over twenty-five years.

White Bear Lake Superintendent Ted Blaesing is very worried for his district. If the referendum does not pass, he says to M.P.R., he will have to close five schools and eliminate one hundred teaching positions. He continues by saying he feels like a "professional begger" by having to persuade voters, especially when "gas prices are high and the stock market is volatile."

For an Adobe guide to Minnesota school finance go to
www.house.leg.state.mn.us/hrd/pubs/mnschfin.pdf