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February 25, 2007

Pop Priness Checks Into Rehab

Britney Spears, the pop singing star, checked into a rehab center Thursday that could be confused as a lush resort. Spears, who has been battling alcohol addiction, will stay at Promises Residential Treatment Center in Malibu, Calif. A 30-day stay at Promises costs $48,000. The center has gourmet chefs, masseuses, private rooms, and two pools among other ammenities.

An AP report published in The Houston Chronicle went into detail about the Promises center. They detailed the fancy meals patients receive, as well as the serene view of the countryside. Richard Rogg, Promises' founder, said that his center was still very serious about recovery despite its perceived relaxed attitude. Other rehab clicics are know for their much more drab atmosphere and much more demanding requests on patients.

Another AP report, this one in The Sydney Morning Herald, focused on the more dramatic side of the Spears story. This report focused on Spears' wild behavior before checking into rehab, which included shaving her head bald and lashing out at a photographer's car. A website where pictures of her wild behavior can be found was also mentioned. These events tied into her ongoing custody battle with ex-husband Keven Federline.

Whether reporting on the soft or wild side of this story, it is still a bizarre episode. To see a once hugely succesful singer seemingly spiral out of control is quite the spectacle. For whatever reasons, our celebrities captivate us and we just can't get enough of them--particularily when it involves juicy, personal details.

Senate Democrats Draft Anti-War Legislation

Democratic Senators drafted new legislation Friday which calls for troop removal within 120 days and also calls for political action in resolving the Iraqi conflict. This legislation is a far cry from 2002, when both houses of Congress granted President Bush the power to invade Iraq. The new proposal will likely be voted upon in two weeks, though its chances of passing into law are slim, due to the number of Senate republicans and Bush's veto power.

The AP reported that the proposal calls for complete troop removal by March 31, 2008. Democrats have called President Bush out on the issue, saying that he is ignoring the majority of Congress and the public.

A more more fiery article was written by columnist Charles Krauthammer of the Washington Post. Krauthammer criticized both houses of Congress, saying that current plans to end the war were flawed. He said the House's plan to defund the war sends the wrong message to the troops. He also criticized the Senate's plan to challenge the legalities of the 2002 authorization of force. This sounds to Krauthammer as if the Senate would authorize the use of force, except for combat. Such an idea is very illogical to him.

Of course, Krauthammer was granted more freedom than the AP writer. Krauthammer's piece dug deeper into the news and delivered stinging analysis, whereas the AP did its typical job of dutifuly reporting the facts. Its hard to disagree with an AP report; Charles Krauthammer offers much more room for just that.

"The Big One" Hits Minnesota

One of the largest snow storms in years hit the Twin Cities and the rest of the Upper Midwest Saturday, causing white-out conditions and numerous accidents. The storm is expected to last throughout the weekend and predictions call for beteween 10 and 15 inches of snow, although extreme predictions are calling for 2 feet. Plows have been able to manage decently so far, but the State Patrol is still urging for people not to travel.

A Star Tribune report cited WCCO meterologist Paul Douglas, who said this storm will likely be the largest storm in Minnesota in the last eight years. He also noted that Minnesota has never seen a foot of snow in one snowfall during February since records were first kept in 1891. The Pioneer Press reported that the Minneapolis-St.Paul International Airport was closed for some time this afternoon due to slick runways from freezing rain. They advised anyone going to the airport for any reason to call ahead for the latest information.

In a story like this, local newspapers have an obligation to report the information that can most help local citizens. In this case, both The Star Tribune and The Pioneer Press relayed important information in a timely manner. Details on how much snow to expect, the duration of the storm, and public safety concerns are all of great interest. Both of these papers delivered in these areas.

February 24, 2007

Missing Minnesota Man Found

A Brainerd-area man who had been missing for a week was found Friday. Ryan Hamre, 24, went for a walk in the woods a week ago and apparently became lost . He was found in the Arrowhead region of northeastern Minnesota by relatives. Authorities had been performing a massive search before he was found.

According to a Star Tribune report, Hamre was apparently found as he walked from the bush onto a road, the Tomahawk Trail. Hamre built at least one fire while he was missing in order to stay warm. He was checked out at a Ely hospital and reported to be in good condition.

The Pioneer Press reported the finding differntly. Apparently, Hamre was found in a fish house in the woods. He was found there with his truck in working condition.

Obviously, as more details come out, a better picture of this story will emerege. When this occurs, one of these two papers will look bad for reporting inaccurate information.

Prodi Given Second Chance

Romano Prodi, the Prime Minister of Italy who resigned last week, was asked by the president Saturday to retain his role. Prodi will face a confidence vote in parliament in order to reestablish some order in Italy. Prodi resigned Wednesday after a parliamentary defeat of foreign policy.

The AP has reported that even a vote of confidence does not ensure future stability. The International Herald Tribune concurred, noting that the current situation was "weak". Radical leftists, who were to blame for Prodi's resignation, will have to allign with Prodi for him to receive the support he needs.

This is obviously a situation worth watching over the next few months. It will be interesting to see how the Italain government functions under such turmoil. Expect plenty more news coverage in the coming month's as Italy's Parliament and Ministry deal with ongoing conflict. Initial coverage had been efficient in following this story in detail.

February 18, 2007

Clinton Calls for Iraq Withdrawal

Democratic presidential candidate Hilary Clinton on Saturday called for President Bush to begin removing troops from Iraq within 90 days. Clinton, while in Congress, voted for Bush's resolution in 2002. Clinton has been receiving pressure to apologize for her vote. Clinton has not apologized, instead saying that she made the vote based on circumstances at the time and would not vote the same if she had know what she knows now.

The Tehran Times quoted Clinton on her proposal.

"If George Bush doesn't end the war before he leaves office, when I'm president, I will."

Reuters discussed the criticism Clinton has been receiving from John Edwards, a rival for the Deocratic nomination. Edwards, a former North Carolina Sen., apologized for his 2002 vote and wants Clinton to do the same.

Clinton also spoke of the need to get Republican votes for her proposal, knowing that it would be impossible to pass without some bipartisan support. This scenario remains unlikely becaus of the number of Republicans in Congress and Bush's veto power.

The Reuters report went into more depth than The Tehran Times. Likely, The Tehran Times article is more brief because it was written for an international audience, who might be less aware of internal workings of the United States government. The Reuters article assumed its readers have more previous knowledge of the situation and wrote accordingly.

U.S. To Mediate Israel-Palestinian Talks

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will meet with Israeli and Palestinian leaders Monday, although expectations for the meeting have lowered since it was first discussed. Rice will talk with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas with informal discussions, not negotiations, the primary objective.

According to Reuters, the U.S. would like to discuss challenging issues, such as the parameters of a potential Palestinian state. Any discussions must stay true to Quartet conditions, say both the U.S. and Israel. These conditions were set by the Quartet of Middle East mediators, which includes the U.S, the UN, the EU and Russia. Among these conditions is the renouncement of violence, which Israel stressed as essential.

A BBC news report focused on the coalition between Fatah and Hamas, which happened within the last week. The two rival factions had been fighting violently before the agreement. The next step will be for Palestine to recognize Israel so that a new Palestinian state will be able to coexist peacefully with Israel.

Each article was highly informative and does a good job of reporting on the critical information. Each article was also timely, since they were able to inform people of what to expect in the future. The articles were good background pieces which will lead in nicely to future reports.

Historic Snow Shortage Hurts Businesses

Minnesota hasn't had this little amount of snow this late into the season since 1960. This is also the longest into the season without a snow emergency since 1990. An average Minnesota winter has 38 inches of snow, yet this season has had only 12 inches. All of this data was reported in a brief article by the Pioneer Press.

A Star Tribune report took the story a step further. They discussed how the lack of snow was having an adverse affect on many local businesses. A salesman at a snow sports store called this "probrably the worst (winter) ever" and that potential customers were simply going elsewhere this season. Also of note was the cancellation of The John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon, which was called off for the first time in 25 years due to lack of snow.

The Pioneer Press brief is useful as a quick summary of an important story. However, much more is needed to make this a complete story. The Star Tribune article provides this; the human element that relates the raw data to real people.

U.S. Marine Sentenced for Killing Iraqi Civilian

A U.S. Marine was sentenced to 8 years in military prison Friday for his role in the kidnapping and subsequent killing of an Iraqi civilian last April. Lance Cpl. Robert B. Pennington, 22, will serve 8 years for assisting in the killing of Hashim Ibrahim Awad, 52, in the Iraqi town of Hamdania. Pennington said that he did not fire any shots during the kidnapping.

The Associated Press reported that Pennington offered up his confession as a plea bargain to avoid other charges. Pennigton's mother also described how trying the whole event has been. Reuters reported that Pennigton's sentence was reached after five days of testimony. Pennington was the sixth person to plead guilty to involvement in the killing, according to the AP.

This last bit of information is the one thing the Reuters report lacked. It is important to know that Pennington was not the first person to plead guilty in this case. The large focus here is not Pennington himself but the whole case. Having multiple Marines involved in an awful case like this is the overall topic. Pennington is just part of a larger story.

February 15, 2007

Franken to Run Against Coleman

Al Franken, a comedian famous for his Saturday Night Live appearances, will oppose Norm Coleman for Senate in 2008. Franken, who grew up in St.Louis Park, will run for what he has called "Wellstone's seat" (MN Daily, Feb.15). Franken will drop out if he is not endorsed by the DFL.

A Star Tribune report focused on Franken's goal of establishing universal healthcare. This, Franken said, is a must since many other Western countries already have it. He said he believed that it would not cost any more than the current healthcare system. The Pioneer Press reported that Franken is promising, despite his comedic background, to take the race very seriously. The Star Tribune mentioned that Minnesotans may be wary of a celebrity politician after having mixed results with Jesse Ventura as Governor from 1999-2003. Each article mentioned Franken's Minnesota roots, which are of obvious importance to local readers. Focus was also put on the race between Coleman and Wellstone and what may occur as the election nears.

For local coverage, each paper did a good job of covering issues that are important to Minnesotans. Obviously, much of a Senatorial race involves national perspectives, like universal healthcare. That said, each article was able to highlight issues such as Franken's background and the competing campaigns which are locally relevent.

February 11, 2007

Havard Chooses First Female President

Drew Gilpin Faust, 59, became Harvard's first women presient on Sunday when she was chosen to replace Lawrence Summers. After Faust's appointment, half of the eight Ivy League schools will have women presidents. Faust is a scholar of Southern history and was the dean of Harvard's Radcliffe Institue for Advanced Study before her promotion.

For many, this is seen as a huge step in gender equality. Only 20 percent of U.S. colleges and universities are run by women. Having a woman appointed president at one of the best universities in the country is a big step in leveling the playing field. A report by the Christian Science Monitor explores Faust's journey and discusses the struggles women encounter when they try to get jobs such as university president. The discussion centers around how Faust's appointment could effect other women who are looking for positions at the university. An AP report also gives a biographical account of Faust's life and describes the circumstances around the hiring. The AP gets less involved with the impact on gender equality, though they do touch on these issues some. The focus here is on the historical significance and the personal details. The Christian Science Monitor has a bigger-picture focus on how this hiring will impact women professors and professionals everywhere.


St.Paul Man Dies in Fire

A 29-year-old St.Paul man died Saturday when his kitchen went up in flames. The fire was ignited by cooking oil that the victim was using.

Ronrico Madison of 232 Goodrich Ave. was cooking by himself Saturday evening. His pan of oil caught fire and Madison likely doused it with water, which would have fueled the flame and led to his death. Madison's mother was on her way home when she noticed the flames and called 911 around 9 p.m. The fire was put out quickly, but not quickly enough to rescue Madison.

Both the Star Tribune and the Pioneer Press covered the story and both approached it in similar fashion. A hard news lead is followed by a detailed explanation of how the fire started, who discovered it, and how it was handled. Structurally, both stories are typical hard news reports. The only differance is that the Star Tribune did not release the victim's name. Either they hadn't received it yet or they could be trying to be considerate of the sensitive nature of this story. The name does make the Press article more factually complete, though both articles do a good job of covering the details of the event.


Mauer a Done Deal

The Minnesota Twins and Joe Mauer have come to terms on a 4-year deal that will keep the St.Paul native on his hometown team through the 2010 season. The Star Tribune is reporting that the deal is worth $33 million, plus incentives for awards such as Most Valuable Player.

After giving details on the deal, the Tribune gets a quote form Terry Ryan, the Twins' General Manager who completed the deal. Ryan said he is excited to have a young star like Mauer signed for the future. He also touches on the fact that Minnesotans will be proud to have one of their own starring for thier local team for years to come.

The article concluded with facts about Mauer's exceptional 2006 season, in which he won the batting title. Comparisons to other Twins stars who have been negotiating deals recently were also made. The article also mentioned that pitchers and catchers, like Mauer, will report to Spring Training by next Sunday.

The Pioneer Press is way behind the Tribune in their coverage of the Mauer deal. The most recent article from the Press mentioned that a Mauer deal was near, but not completed. Compared to the Star Tribune, the Pioneer Press looks like an inferior news source due to their slower reporting time. The Tribune did a nice job of detailing the signing while the Press still hasn't announced the deal. This is slow, poor journalism on the part of the Pioneer Press.


Festive Feast Fetches a Fortune

Arguably the most expensive meal ever, at around $1 million for 15 paid guests, was served Saturday night in Bangkok. The meal featured many exotic foods and rare wines. Along with the 15 paid customers there were 25 invited guests. Most of the meal's profits will go to charitable causes.

The AP put the initial focus on the hefty price tag and the potential record setting feat. More detail was later given to the meal's contents and descriptions of the chefs and diners. This article closed with a section that listed what 13,000 pounds (the price per diner) could also have been used for. Examples included sponsoring needy children for 17 years and building libraries for tsunami-damaged communities in Thailand.

A softer piece was written by Ian MacKinnon of The Observer in England. MacKinnon looked to stimulate the senses with his opening graph, which details the sights and sounds of the event. This approach puts the reader at the table as the food is being unveiled. From here, MacKinnon's approach is similar to the AP. He discusses the wealthy diners, the three-star chefs, and the rare wines and foods. Again, the exorbidant price is a main focus, due to its utterly staggering size.

For a story like this, the approach used by MacKinnon is the best choice. A subject involving such visual elements as exoctic foods, rare wines, majestic views, and high-rolling guests is best described using all five senses. Without use of the senses, a story like this lacks the type of spark and energy found in MacKinnon's article.


February 10, 2007

Obama Officially Announces 2008 Candidacy

Barack Obama, the young Democratic senator from Illinois, officially announced his plans to run for president in 2008 on Saturday. Obama has only been in the Senate since 2004 and has considerably less political experience than his top rival for the Democratic nomination, Hillary Clinton. Obama is the only black senator currently and could become the first black president ever.

An online article from National Public Radio explores the personal details of Obama and presents the strengths and weaknesses of his candidacy. The story focuses initially on whether Obama is here to stay or a product of hype. This sets up a question for the reader: Is Obama for real? What comes later in the articles is the substance on which one would determine the answer to this question.

The substance here is an examination of Obama's roots (his white mom and Kenyan dad), his seemingly genuine nature, and his strong anti-war stance. Each of these points further paints the picture of who Obama is. The structure of this story allows the reader to gradually learn more about Obama and, possibly, answer the burning question raised earlier.


February 4, 2007

Senate Set for Showdown

The United States Senate will be a battleground for debate on Monday when a nonbinding resolution for Iraq will undergo a test vote. Republican John Warner of Virgina is the leader of a resolution that opposes any further troop buildup. Republican presidential hopeful Chuck Hagel will support Warner. Another Republican presidential hopeful, John McCain of Arizona, will lead a rival resolution which will support President Bush's call for an increase in troops.

Both the Associated Press and the New York Times went to the participants to get their contrasting points-of-view. McCain and Hagel, who will remain in the news as presidential candidates, had their first true war of words. Each Senator expressed his beliefs through direct quotes and paraphrased statements. They are the obvious focal points of the impending debate.

The only notable difference in coverage was he Times style of dramatizing the lead. Instead of a staright-forward approach, the Times called the debates "bitter and personal exchanges" and compared the debate to sparring. The New York Times went for a lead that draws attention and captivates the audience. The AP followed their traditional mold of using a more standard, simple approach. Since each paper accurately used the main sources of news, neither style of coverage was wrong.


Two Shot and Killed in Waseca

A man and his son were shot dead in their Waseca farmhouse on Saturday. Tracy Kruger, 40, and his 13-year-old son Alec were both killed while wife and mother Hilary Kruger, 41, is in critical condition. Michael Zabawa, 24, was arrested Sunday and is the main suspect in the killings.

The Star Tribune announced that Zabawa was arrested and that he had given statements that he was at the scene of the crime when the murders occured. However, the Pioneer Press did not mention Zabawa's name and only said that a man had been detained. Chief Deputy Brad Milbrath is the source of information in both articles.

Why has the Tribune been able to get more information on the story? Each newspaper went to an official source, yet only the Tribune got the exact details. It looks like flawed reporting for the Pioneer Press, or just less efficent news breaking. In either case, the Pioneer Press should have been able to get the same details from the deputy that the Star Tribune did. Their article lacks the completeness of the Star Tribune report.


Giuliani May Run in 2008

Rudolph Guiliani, former New York City mayor, has announced "there's a real good chance" he will run for president in 2008. He made that comment to an AP reporter Friday in South Carolina. Giuliani is most famous for how he handled the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks and will challenge John McCain of Arizona and Mitt Rommey of Massachusetts, among others, for the Republican nomination.

The Associated Press and the New York Times both went straight to Giuliani for information. Giuliani's response was limited to him saying that he probably would run and that he would appeal to different people in a uniform way. Beyond that, the reports are only speculative at this point as Giuliani has not officially announced his candidacy.

The New York Times also got comments from Patrick Dorinson, spokesman for the California Republican Party. Dorinson provided insight on the Republican party's excitement over the possibility of Giulaini running. He also said that if Giuliani were to make his announcement at the Sacramento convention that it would be a wise decision, since the convention should be well attended.

Each article has enough sources. Since Giuliani is from New York, the Times wants to provide more insight on his chances. The AP article is more just a report of the news. As a hard news story, it gives enough detail into what occured on Friday. The Times article is simply more of an in-depth type report.


February 2, 2007

St.Paul Soldier Dies in Iraq

Michael Charles Mettile, 44, of West St.Paul died Thursday in Iraq. Millitary officials said that the death did not occur during battle. The believed cause of death is either a heart attack or an aneursym. Mettile leaves behind four children and his wife Pam.

The Star Tribune and the Pioneer Press both have reported on this story and both placed it near the top of their main web pages. This is a large story locally. Both papers got material from millitary officials. Maj. Gen Larry Shellito of the Minnesota National Guard was quoted in both articles for calling Mettile a "role model."

The only notable difference in sources was the inclusion of quoted materials from Mettile's oldest child, Elizabeth, in the Star Tribune article. The Pioneer Press said that family members declined to comment. For whatever reason, the family was willing to talk with one paper but not the other.

The inclusion of material from a family member made the Tribune article stronger. While both papers utilized their sources well, the Star Tribune got a source that the Pioneer Press did not. The comments from a family member gave the story a more personal touch that the Pioneer Press article lacked.

Alarming New Report on Global Warming

For the first time, climate change scientists are saying that global warming is inevitable and that human actions are the main cause. In a report released Friday by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of the UN, 90 percent of the scientists concluded that carbon dioxide and other human-released greenhouse gases are triggering the global climate change.

Both BBC News and the New York Times are attributing these results to the aforementioned IPCC. The IPCC is the leading group on climate change in the world, consisting of hundreds of scientists and reviewers worldwide . They have issued a total of 4 climate change assesments since 1990. Undoubtedly, this is the best source for any news regarding global warming.

BBC gets further information from the EU Enviroment Commisioner, who is likely the best local source. Getting the commisioner's perspective places the story in a more localized context, since Brittish readers can probably relate better to a European authority figure than a non-European figure.

The New York Times takes the same approach. Their next source of information is a Harvard professor who is a climate and energy expert. He supplies his knowledge to the subject and the article even has a link to a complete report of his. This source functions in the same way that the EU commisioner does; it provides a national source with a high degree of credibility.

Each article uses sources in the proper way. The IPCC is the logical first source, since they are the definite authority on the subject. After that, choosing credible and respected local sources is the proper way to create a highly respectable and in-depth article.