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January 25, 2007

Legislature Introduces Statewide Smoking Ban Proposal

Legislators introduced a statewide smoking ban proposal on Thursday that would extend to both restaurants and bars in Minnesota. The ban would go into effect on August 1st of this year, and would ban such facilities from providing ash trays, matches, or other smoking paraphernalia to customers. Refusal to comply would result in a petty misdemeanor for the smoker, and other charges for the business. Exceptions to the rule would include American Indian ceremonies, and smoking in homes, private cars, hotels, and tobacco stores.

The presentation of this news was very different between the St. Paul Pioneer Press vs. the Star Tribune. In the print version, the Pioneer Press constructed a very brief overview in the form of boxes and bullet points of the exceptions and the pros and cons of the issue. The Star Tribune on the other hand presented the issue in the classic style.

Both takes on presentation were appropriate, but the Pioneer Press' was slightly more effective, in making the issue easy to understand by making it visually appealing as well as simplifying it enough for the general public to understand how the potential passing of this law could greatly impact their lives.

The only challenge I could see was the need to read through legislative documents and extract the important elements that the public will need to know about. Sometimes sifting through language that is potentially unfamiliar can be challenging.

Gang Killings in Ireland Covered Up by Belfast Police

After over three years of research, Police Ombundsman Nuala O'Loan released a report on Monday accusing Belfast police of covering up at least 10 gang killings between 1993 and 2000. Belfast police were paid off in tip-offs in exchange to keep quiet about the murders. The police involved, however, are unlikely to be criminally charged, because they covered their tracks very well.

The coverage of this event was very similar between the St Paul Pioneer Press and the Star Tribune, the only difference being the order of information released in the articles.

The only great challenge in reporting this story is obtaining information from an international source.

Michele Bachmann Makes News With President Bush

After President George W. Bush gave his annual State of the Union Address on Tuesday, he followed tradition by mingling and signing autographs for the members of Congress. One in particular, however, made sure she got the attention she wanted. Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann had her program signed by the president, and then proceeded to place her hand on his shoulder and keep it there for a full 24 seconds, before bringing him in for a kiss on the cheek.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press spent much of their Thursday report on the popularity of the video of the event on KTSP's website, whereas the Star Tribune devoted more of their story on the reactions of various parties involved, and compared her interaction with others, such as Representative Norm Coleman.

A challenge faced well by both publications was that of writing such an article and keeping opinion out of the story. Many people have an opinion on the matter, whether they are disgusted with Bachmann's actions or understanding.

The leads of the stories were very different. The Pioneer Press's was slightly more direct and contained more information about the event. The Star Tribune, on the other hand, used more of a teaser type of lead, giving just enough information to get the point across, yet still intrigues the audience to continue reading the story.

You can check out the KTSP video here.

January 23, 2007

Survivor of 17 Story Fall is Lucky

After Joshua Hanson, 29, fell through a 17th story window of a downtown Minneapolis hotel last Friday and is living to tell the tale. He underwent surgery on Monday and had a metal rod put in his leg. He is extremely lucky to not have any head, spinal or back injuries. Hanson, who owns a bar in Blair, Wisc., was in town for the 22nd annual Minnesota Operators of Music and Amusements dart tournament at the Hyatt Regency. After a night of drinking, he accidentally fell through a window on the 17th floor before landing on an awning above the ground.

The Pioneer Press investigated the velocity of his fall with a physics professor at the University of Minnesota, who estimated his speed to be around 69 mph upon impact. The professor also noted that the awning that broke his fall acted like an airbag in a car, probably saving his life.

While the Press focused much of the article on the physics of the incident, the Star Tribune interviewed numerous family and friends of Hanson, and investigated the structure of the building through which he fell. His condition and what will be done to the building to prevent future incidents took up the bulk of the story.

The challenge for the reporters of this story was finding a unique angle. The basics of the story are obvious, but both papers took a different approach for the rest of the story.

Although the Press' article injected some humor into the issue with the "math stuff" of determining the physics of the fall, I thought it bordered on corny and a little distracting to what the important part of the story was.

New Passport Rules in Effect Today

The St. Paul Pioneer Press reported Tuesday about the new passport rules that are taking effect for air travelers. As of today, people traveling out of the country will need a passport to get back into the U.S. While this was the case previous to Tuesday, areas needing a passport now include Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean and Bermuda. U.S. territories, however, are exempt from the rule. This includes Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Swains Island and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. This rule does not go into effect for land and sea travelers until January of next year. The need for a passport now also includes travelers of all ages, including infants.

While the issue was not a particularly difficult one to cover, Ellen Tomson provided the facts that travelers need to know about the new rules and regulations.

The Star Tribune also covered this event, but used a different approach to the same story, which was released in print on Monday the 22nd. Received via the AP wire, the article focused on how the new rules are or will affect the lives of Americans rather than on the strict changes of policy. Along the course of the story, readers were informed of the changes, but it was written in a more editorialized format. The Star Tribune story also included more insight from businesses like AAA and Expedia.com about the notifications they have been giving potential travelers. The only major disparity between the two stories was in the statistics about current passport holders in the U.S. The Pioneer Press reported that 94% of Americans already had passports, while the Star Tribune claimed that "only about a quarter of U.S. citizens hold valid passports."

I felt that the Pioneer Press did a better job of reporting the changes, as they simply gave the facts about what to expect and where the changes are taking effect. The Star Tribune got the point across, but only on a very basic level, and was hard to find through all of the anecdotes from specific people. This may have to do with the fact that the Star Tribune's story was received from the Associated Press, but the directness of the Pioneer Press was appreciated. The leads of the two stories were also very different. Again, the Star Tribune starts out with a direct story from someone in Atlanta, and then gets to the information later, while the Pioneer Press begins by giving the most important and useful information right away.