May 2, 2007

Despite Rumors of Chaos, Closing of Highway 36 Goes Smoothly on First Day

A section of Highway 36 closed on Tuesday for construction between White Bear Avenue and Century Avenue. After being publicized for months in newspapers, on the radio, and on television, most people thought that the morning and afternoon commutes on Tuesday would be chaotic. Surprisingly, it went smoothly, according to morning and afternoon articles in both the Pioneer Press and the Star Tribune.

Reported and posted online after the morning rush hour, the Pioneer Press said "Motorists met today's challenge of getting around a partially closed Minnesota 36, and found that traffic on some alternate routes were chugging along." While many people were still skeptical about the afternoon rush hour, convinced that it would be "backed up forever," an evening post on the Star Tribune's website painted a different picture.

According to the Star Tribune article: "MnDOT's Regional Transportation Management Center in Roseville watched traffic behavior with freeway cameras during the morning and evening rush hours and concluded that most motorists were taking the posted detours onto Interstate Hwys. 694 and 94, judging by traffic volumes.

Todd Fairbanks, a dispatcher for the traffic center who watched evening rush hour via camera, was pleasantly surprised.

"I wasn't sure what to expect," he said. "The word got out there, well in advance, so people were aware of the closure. We'll be fine."

While many residents said they had steered free of the work zone, motorists passing through found themselves backed up for a mile or two on eastbound Hwy. 36. They detoured onto side streets, backing up traffic for blocks at some Maplewood intersections."

Still, many commuters anticipate the delays to get longer as the summer continues. From the Strib: "Rachel Franco, of Oakdale, predicted that the worst is yet to come, as people stop leaving early or later.

Meanwhile, John Hourdos, director of the Minnesota Traffic Observatory at the University of Minnesota, said it typically takes three to four weeks for people to settle into a pattern. In the first few days, people may leave early and try their new routes and then gradually try their old departure times on their new routes until they can't improve their travel time by making different choices.

During that time, Hourdos would not expect things to go "boink" and break down. "If that doesn't happen the first few days, the learning process is gradual and it will not produce crazy results," he said."

The section of road will be closed until November, a length of time that was (interestingly) reported differently in the two news stories. The Star Tribune said it would be closed for "months" while the Pioneer Press said "until November." Other reports have said "five months" or "six months," creating a disparity as to exactly how long the road will be under construction.

April 26, 2007

New Twins Ballpark Approved

The Hennepin County Board has officially approved the building of a new Twins ballpark along with the possibility for a 30-year lease on the property, a huge step for the franchise. Construction is slated to begin this summer and finish up for opening in 2010.

According to an Associated Press article that appeared in the St. Paul Pioneer Press (surprisingly, not a full scale hyperlocal story): "Under the agreement, the Twins get to keep all revenue from ticket sales, advertising, naming rights, tours and concessions during baseball games. They must share 10 percent of net revenue from non-baseball events with the authority."

According to a short mid-day posted story on their website, the Star Tribune reports this: " “This is another huge milestone," said Dave St. Peter, president of the Twins. "Symbolically, it means a 30-year lease, which is a huge deal for this franchise. What this mean is the new ballpark is fast becoming a reality. We persevered for this and now we can see it. ?

The ballpark authority will meet later today to formally approve the agreement."

I found it very interesting that the Pioneer Press, widely known for its hyperlocalism and commitment to stories that directly affect Twin Cities citizens, that they relied on an AP wire story, while the Star Tribune, a more (inter)national newspaper, sent out a reporter to get the story, and posting it mid-day on the website. I appreciated the promptness by the Star Tribune, and I hope to see a longer expose on the ballpark soon in the Pioneer Press.

April 25, 2007

Minneapolis/St. Paul Catholic Archdiocese gets a New Conservative Bishop

Roman Catholic Bishop John Nienstedt of New Ulm, Minn., was named Tuesday to succeed Archbishop Harry Flynn for Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Known to have very conservative viewpoints when it comes to enforcing Catholic rule, Nienstedt has "prohibited cohabitating couples from being married in Catholic churches. He barred female pastoral administrators from leading prayers at a semiannual leadership event. He once disciplined a priest for holding joint ecumenical services with a Lutheran congregation after the Catholic church had been destroyed by a tornado," according to the article in the Pioneer Press.

According to the Star Tribune: "He has pushed for an amendment to the state Constitution defining marriage as between one man and one woman and has taken conservative stances on issues ranging from Terri Schiavo to the causes of homosexuality. But he skirted questions about whether he will be liberal or conservative, calling such labels "too political" and saying that "the Holy Spirit, not I" will mediate disagreements among Catholics.

"The church is like a football field with goalposts and boundaries, but a good many things can be accomplished within the structure of the game," he said. "Jesus has given us instructions, and we have to be faithful to them, so if someone is out of bounds, they may be whistled down. But yes, we can always talk about issues.""

The political and social views of this priest may or may not affect the attitudes of his public, but only time will tell.

April 18, 2007

West Point Cadet found to have Drowned in Goose Lake

Nicholas Rossini disappeared on December 17th, and the West Point Academy student's body was just found in Goose Lake in northern Ramsey County. According to the autopsy, he drowned.

According to the Pioneer Press:

"He left his parents' home before dawn, giving no hint of where he was going.

The Rossinis and their five daughters expressed optimism that a lesser evil had befallen Nick until the very end. They theorized he had suffered a head injury in the accident that left him dazed, perhaps unaware of his own identity." [on the day of the disappearance].

Investigators believe that he had been on a jog when he met his fate. He was wearing running sweats and the time of his disappearance corresponded with his West Point training schedule. They say he might have fallen through the thin ice on Goose Lake, thinking that it was frozen over completely.

According to the Star Tribune: ""There's absolutely nothing to indicate that Nick took his own life," [White Bear Lake Police Chief Lynne] Bankes said. "There was no trauma to the body nor any reason to believe this was anything but a tragic accident.""

Both the Star Tribune and the Pioneer Press wrote long exposes on this discovery, including many interviews with family members and friends.

Double Homicide in North Minneapolis

This is the extent of the story that the Pioneer Press had on its website as of 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday:

"Minneapolis police are investigating the discovery of two bodies late Tuesday in North Minneapolis.

Two men were found shot to death about 11 p.m. Tuesday in an alley in the 4700 block of Sixth Street North. Their names are not available.

No one is in custody. Anyone with information is asked to call 612-673-3781 or 612-673-2733.

The two deaths mark the 17th and 18th Minneapolis homicides since Jan. 1. On this date last year, there had been 16 homicides reported."

As of the same time on the Star Tribune, their story had been updated to include a full story instead of just a brief. It is suspected that a robbery was involved in the double homicide discovered in an alley in North Minneapolis late Tuesday night. The article said that these killings are the 17th and 18th that have occurred in Minneapolis this year.

Police have talked to witnesses who heard the gunshots: Peggy Ryan and Roslyn Richmond, the latter who called herself the "eyes and the ears of the neighborhood" and regrets not calling the police sooner.

Names of the victims have not been released and the suspect is likely still at large as the investigation continues.

This type of story is difficult to write when there is such limited information at the time of printing, which is likely the problem that the Pioneer Press ran into. It is appreciated however, that the Star Tribune takes the time to constantly update their website throughout the day when new information comes up.

April 15, 2007

Five Students to Travel to Arctic for Global Warming

Five students and their teacher from the School for the Environmental Studies in Apple Valley have teamed up to go on a trip to the Arctic with world renowned explorer Will Steger.

All five students that were selected are seniors at the "zoo school" (because of its proximity to the Minnesota Zoo), and have made sacrifices to save the $3500 to make the trip.

According to the Pioneer Press: "The group departs today for a two-week expedition that includes stops in Ottawa to talk to students in Canada's capital city about everything from how humans contribute to global warming by burning fossil fuels to the impact on animals. They also will attend an Earth Day summit in the Clyde River community of Baffin Island and even deliver additional sleeping bags, coats and communications equipment to the Steger team."

The students and the professional expeditioners will be blogging on the experience continually so that other metro area schools, and others that are interested, can keep up with their progress and learn more about the effects of global warming through them.

Many of the students described the "field experience" as a "once in a lifetime opportunity" and a "great learning experience."

Organizers of the trip hope that the event will help to publicize global warming and make more people aware of it.

"Lost" Toddler was a Hoax

The toddler that was reported found on a Frogtown corner on Thursday actually was in the care of the man who reported the finding to police. Chue Xiong, 44, is apparently the stepfather of the little boy, and was supposed to care for the boy while his mother was in jail under forgery charges. Xiong "evidently got tired of the job and instead reported him abandoned." (Pioneer Press)

Also according to the Pioneer Press: "Police received a report Thursday of a mysterious, shoeless boy who appeared out of nowhere on a puzzled couple's doorstep. The neighborhood was searched; news outlets ran the story in full."

"But police spokesman Tom Walsh said Chue Xiong called police early Saturday morning and confessed to the hoax, after being pressured by relatives who saw news reports of the incident. Walsh said an officer went out in person to take Chue Xiong's updated story."

According to the Star Tribune: "On Saturday afternoon, however, Xiong denied that he knows the boy's mother and that he was supposed to take care of the toddler, said his stepdaughter Judy Vue, who was translating for Xiong when the family was reached by phone. He maintains that he found the child, she said."

This was likely a difficult story to cover merely because of the ethnic differences and a language barrier, needing things to be translated, etc.

I felt that the Pioneer Press did a better job on details, but the Star Tribune put in other context at the end of the story about other child-finding-hoax stories that had occured in the past, which was interesting.

April 8, 2007

Pregnant Convenience Store Clerk Justified in Shooting Robbery Suspect

On Saturday evening, a woman entered a Super USA convenience store in St. Paul and attempted to rob it, pretending she had a gun underneath her bag. The store clerk at the time (the wife of the owner who doesn't normally work there, and 8 1/2 months pregnant) grabbed a gun from behind the counter and shot the suspect. The couple's 2 year old daughter was also present, along with other customers in the store.

It was legal for the couple to keep a gun behind the counter, and the clerk will not be charged for any crime, because the shooting was in self-defense. The robbery suspect, however, will likely face charges after her release from the hospital.

According to the Star Tribune: "Khalil [Joe Khalil, owner of the store] said his wife suffered minor injuries to her finger and is home recovering. The couple's daughter was uninjured and is a little "scared" but OK, Khalil said. "My wife, she's doing OK," he said Sunday afternoon. "She's just a little shaken up."

He said his wife did not want to comment. It was the first attempted robbery in the year he has owned the store, Khalil said. "It's not a bad area," he said."

The Pioneer Press' story on the event was very brief and didn't provide much information, but the Star Tribune's was very informative, and was put in a very chronological format, which was interesting because it still kept my attention.

Three Gopher Football Players in Jail after Accusations of Rape

Alex Daniels, Keith Massey, both 20, and E.J. Jones, 19, were arrested Friday night after an 18-year-old woman called police and claimed she was assaulted at the University Village apartments where the men live. All three men are players on the University of Minnesota's Gopher Football team, who just hired a new coach.

The men were each given a $100,000 bail on Saturday, and were expected to be released, pending charges, on Sunday.

According to the Pioneer Press: "Meanwhile, as friends and relatives expressed surprise at the arrests, university athletics officials tried not to let news infiltrate Saturday's annual spring scrimmage, which attracted several thousand alumni and other fans to the Metrodome.

Communications staff told players not to discuss the situation, and reporters were told that if they raised the issue, interviews would be cut short. "

According to the Star Tribune: "On Sunday, Jeff DeGree, the attorney for Jones, said he is "cautiously optimistic" that charges won't be filed."

The Pioneer Press' article was extremely long, almost like a feature piece, full with interviews from family members, old high school friends, and all the extra personal information they could dig up on the arrested men. Although it was very informative, I felt that such a touchy topic should have been treated with slightly more respect and dignity. The Star Tribune, however, was on the other end other end of the spectrum. Their article was the length of a brief, and didn't provide nearly enough sufficient information compared to that of the Pioneer Press article.

Knowing when to draw the line on issues like these is definitely a challenge, but both local papers missed the mark.

March 31, 2007

Minnesota Senate Says Go to a Tax Increase

This week seems to be a week for local legislature, as the Senate has made another very big decision in the course of four days.

According to the St. Paul Pioneer Press: "Wealthy Minnesotans would pay the highest general income tax rate in the nation under a bill that Senate Democrats plan to pass today.

The measure, unveiled and quickly approved by the Senate Tax Committee on Friday, would raise $991 million over the next two years by adding a fourth rate to Minnesota's three-tier income tax system.

The new top rate would be 9.7 percent, up from the current 7.85 percent. It would apply to an estimated 60,000 tax filers - joint filers earning more than $250,000 a year and single persons earning $141,000 or more.

Democratic-Farmer-Labor senators want to spend the additional tax revenue on education and property tax relief.

But that almost certainly won't happen. Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty repeatedly has said he will veto any tax increase. "

According to the Star Tribune: "The bill would create a top Minnesota tax rate of 9.7 percent, giving the state the highest top income tax rate in the nation. It passed the Senate on a 35-29 vote, with seven DFLers defecting.

The new tax would pump $444 million into K-12 schools, vastly increased preschool options and tuition relief over the next two years, and lower homeowner property taxes."

Although the bill is primarily DFL supported, the Star Tribune received mixed messages along partisan lines:

""The price tag seemed a little steep for my district," said Sen. Sandy Rummel, DFL-White Bear Lake. "I want to be more moderate. I think we might have to increase income taxes, but not that much."

Sen. Kathy Saltzman, DFL-Woodbury, called it an "extremely difficult vote for me" but said she was "very uncomfortable" with voting for the nation's top tax rate.

Saltzman and most other DFLers did say they hoped to bring the rate down a bit so they could support a more moderate tax increase and the spending that could go with it.

"I'm not a hard 'no' vote at all," said veteran Sen. Ann Rest, DFL-New Hope. "After a few adjustments, I'll be the first green vote up there. I believe a correction to the tax system is needed. This one just went over the top.""

Both articles noted that Governor Tim Pawlenty has been adament about signing a bill with a tax increase, and the Star Tribune called it a "showdown."

The one aspect that the Star Tribune provided that the Pioneer Press was lacking, was detailed information about where the government plans on spending this extra money that would (theoretically) come from more tax dollars. Here is what the Strib reported:

"For instance, the Senate now would allocate nearly $850 million of new spending for preschool through high school programs The House has proposed more than $970 million for new pre-school and K-12 spending.

Those figures are not exactly comparable because the components of the two education plans don't exactly match. But subtract $125 million in property tax relief included as part of the House total, and the increases for pre-K through high school spending are very close for both chambers.

The big differences lie in where the money is going. Much of the Senate allocation for K-12, for instance, is still earmarked for helping schools pay off big debts incurred for children with learning disabilities and other special education needs. The House, on the other hand, puts much of its new money into funding all day kindergarten and giving schools bigger raises than the Senate in basic education funding. Both plans would help lower tuition costs."

Reporting this story may have been challenging to write, since there are so many numbers involved (I wish this event had happened last week when I had to write about numbers), that it can sometimes be difficult for the reader to comprehend exactly what is happening when there are so many numbers and jargon thrown in. Both papers did a good job, however in making the stories understandable.

March 27, 2007

Senate Approves Statewide Smoking Ban -- Will the House be Next?

The Minnesota Senate voted Tuesday on the statewide smoking ban after much debate, and it passed 41-24. Next, it will go to the House of Representatives, where it will have more hoops to jump through to get passed. Governor Tim Pawlenty has said in the past that if the bill reached his desk, he would sign it.

According to the Star Tribune coverage of the event, here's what the bill says:

"The bill prohibits smoking in public places, aboard public transportation and at public meetings. Violations would be petty misdemeanors.

The measure allows bars, restaurants and bingo halls to build outdoor smoking patios. Electricity and heating would be allowed on the patios but not food or beverage service.

Hospitality workers would be eligible to use the state's Dislocated Worker Program if they lose their jobs because of the ban.

Exemptions include private residences and vehicles, hotel rooms, specific areas in nursing homes and some smoke shops. Local governments could impose stricter requirements; the state's Indian casinos would not be covered by the bill."

Because this event happened extremely recently on Tuesday, not much other information was available at the time, but more will surely be available in the next few days.

The Pioneer Press's article was very brief, and very vague. I wasn't sure exactly what the bill said, but the Star Tribune gave a nicely explained version of the stipulations of the bill, which was appreciated for someone like me who doesn't always follow political stuff very well.

This is a big event for Minnesotans, and I wouldn't be surprised if it gets alot of coverage in the next few days or weeks.

Continuing coverage to come .... what will the House do? How will this affect Minnesotans as a whole? We will see.....

March 25, 2007

Tubby Smith Gets Well Compensated to Come to Minnesota

Former University of Kentucky men's basketball coach Tubby Smith announced this week that he was coming to the University of Minnesota to coach. After a long search for a new basketball coach, Gophers Athletic Director Joel Maturi didn't mind giving him a good reason to come: a big paycheck. He'll get $1.75 million annually, plus a bevy of benefits in the wake of winning championships or being sent to tournaments. He has signed a seven year contract with the University, with a two-year option afterward.

While the Star Tribune devoted a little section just on the numbers portion of Smith's contract, the Pioneer Press focused mainly on the effects of the hire, on the team, on the school, etc.

Considering that numbers like this are sometimes hard to understand, the Star Tribune put them in list format to make them easier to comprehend, which was appreciated for those of us (like me) who sometimes have a hard time understanding numbers, even in a sports format.

Police Anticipate "Long Haul" of Investigation after Friday Killings

After the brutal shootings in St. Paul on Friday, police are still trying to pin down details, anticipating a long investigation. Their main concern right now is to find the men who committed the crime and get them off the streets as soon as possible, but right now they have few promising leads. Other area residents are just glad to know that the acts probably weren't random, and numerous city officials are assuring them of their safety. Police think that drugs may be involved, but a neighbor said that there "was no funny business going on."

The Star Tribune and the Pioneer Press basically had the same information in their continuing coverage of this event, but a few details varied. The Star Tribune reported that the backgrounds of the victims were not released, but the Pioneer Press disclosed the criminal record of one of the victims (the man). Also, according to a neighbor of the victims said to the Star Tribune that there were five to seven men that arrived at the house, where the Pioneer Press reported that "no more than five" men were at fault.

This type of story is difficult to cover, given the severity of the situation, as well as the amount of information that comes in all at once, and making sure to keep the facts straight. While the two local Twin Cities newspapers generally had the same information, they had slightly different interviews with neighbors, and the Star Tribune's article was longer.

March 9, 2007

Man Shot on Minneapolis Metro Transit Bus

Late Thursday night, a man was shot in the chest after a "scuffle" on MetroTransit route #5. Cleveland Montgomery, the victim of the shooting, is in critical condition Friday at North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale. He is 34 and a Minneapolis resident.

The number 5 bus was heading north on 18th and Emerson Avenues North, said Police Inspector Lee Edwards. The bus driver made a call for help at 7:12 p.m. accordin to MetroTransit spokesperson Bob Gibbons. Police still do not know what motivated the shooting and a description of the shooter was not available after he fled the scene. He is still at large.

Because the #5 route is the most used in the area, and possibly in the region, it is prone to accidents, but has never encountered anything this serious in the past.

The Star Tribune and the Pioneer Press both reported on this surprising event in Minneapolis.

The Pioneer Press, however, wrote their article in only a brief form, not being able to get information such as name, age, and more specifics about the incident.

The Star Tribune's article was much longer and more informative, providing more specifics about the incident as well as getting quotes from police and Metro Transit spokespeople, which added credibility. They also provided a history lesson on the previous violence that has taken place on that particular bus route in recent years, which was informative and interesting.

March 6, 2007

Drama between Local Newspapers

It was announced on Monday morning that Par Ridder, publisher of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, is leaving the newspaper for the same position at the competition: the Star Tribune.

"A tumultuous year in the Twin Cities' newspaper market took perhaps its most surprising turn today when Par Ridder, the publisher of the Pioneer Press, announced he's leaving to take the same job at the Minneapolis-based Star Tribune," reported the Pioneer Press.

"The Star Tribune's new publisher and CEO, former St. Paul Pioneer Press publisher Paul Anthony (Par) Ridder, reported for his first day of work in Minneapolis on Monday morning as staffs at both newspapers were informed of his decision to cross the river and come to work for his former rival," reported the Star Tribune.

Par, whose family has been with the Pioneer Press for 80 years, is excited about the transition, but made it clear that he was proud of the Pioneer Press and the work that they do.

This may have been a challenge for reporters to write, considering the implications of the move and the rivalry that has been present between the two papers for so many years, but it is also a multi-faceted story that will be sure to have updates for a rainy news day.

Both papers conveyed the issue very differently. The Pioneer Press' was significantly shorter and focused on Ridder himself, his family connection to the paper, and the rivalry between the papers, while the Star Tribune's was long and informative about the specifics about the recent purchase of the paper, and the process that the paper will now go through. There was an undertone of betrayal in the Press' article, and one of pride in the Strib's.

March 4, 2007

Snow Days are a Double-Edged Sword

Two teenage girls died in a car crash in Wisconsin on Thursday afternoon just after being let out of school for the day due to excessive snow.

Traveling south on Wisconsin Highway 46, Ashley Severson, 16, was driving when she lost control of the vehicle and crossed the center line, colliding head-on with a vehicle traveling in the opposite direction. Severson was thrown from the vehicle and died at the scene. Her passenger, Nicole Peterson, also 16, was taken to Amery Regional Medical Center and later transferred to Regions Hospital in St. Paul, where she died.

The other vehicle's driver, David Sykora, 22, and his passenger, Matthew Carroll, 22, were taken to Amery Regional Medical Center. "Their conditions, which officials said did not appear to be life-threatening, were not available," according to the article printed in the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Officials say that icy roads due to the weather were very likely to be a contributor to the accident.

Both the Pioneer Press and the Star Tribune reported on this tragic event, but did so in very different ways. The Pioneer Press' was longer and more personalized as an ode to the girls that died, with anecdotes from family and friends, and began in a story-like way, proceeding to the chronology of the events.

The Star Tribune, on the other hand, treated the accident purely in a hard news fashion, with a solid lead and following graphs with details and current conditions of victims. No editorializing whatsoever was done in their article, and was subsequently shorter. Their article was also followed closely by other briefs of happenings in the area.

A challenge for the Press' reporters would have been to talk to family and friends of the deceased, because death is a difficult topic to address, but the Strib probably just got their information from the police report with a few extra sources.

February 28, 2007

Chaska 18-Year-Old Dies After a Night in the Cold

The 18-year-old man that was found partially frozen to the pavement on a sidewalk in Chaska died on Sunday afternoon shortly after his parents had claimed the then identified man. It was his 19th birthday when he died. Sean Patrick Humphrey died at Hennepin County Medical Center.

The circumstances of his death are still unknown. Alcohol was smelled on the teen's breath, but blood alcohol levels are still pending. He was at a party with friends on Friday night when, on his way home, he fell and cut his head on the sidewalk before he was found at 4:45 a.m. Saturday by a snow plow driver. His internal body temperature at the time that he was transported to the hospital was 77 degrees.

At that time, Humphrey had not yet been identified, but his parents heard the description of their son on the five o'clock news and only saw him for a few more hours before he was pronounced dead. His parents are donating Sean's organs.

The Star Tribune and the Pioneer Press both covered this event, but the Strib had quite a bit more information about the investigation into the circumstances of the death and also provided general information about hypothermia, which was interesting and good for the public to know.

It would have been challenging in a story like this to talk to the parents of the teen, considering the weight of the circumstances. Such a touchy subject like that is always hard to confront, so to do an interview would have been difficult for both parties.

I felt that the Star Tribune did a better job of reporting the event, providing more background information, but the Pioneer Press was also concise and got the point across. The only thing that I did not like about the Star Tribune article was the headline and lead. The fact that Humphrey died should have been the primary thing in the headline and the lead, but the article didn't mention his death until the third paragraph. The angle was more focused on the parents reaction to the whole ordeal, but I felt that the death should have been the forefront fact.

February 25, 2007

Man Found Partially Frozen to Pavement in Chaska

Police found a man partially frozen to the ground early Saturday morning in Chaska. Initially, his identity was not known, but he was rushed to St. Francis Regional Medical Center in Shakopee, where he was admitted in critical condition. His internal core body temperature was reported at 77 degrees, well below hypothermic conditions.

When the Pioneer Press reported this in their Saturday publication, the man's identity was still unknown. A detailed description of his clothing and body type was released, along with a possible cause for the occurance. Police at that time suspected that he was "walking and fell, striking his head on the curb, possibly after visiting area “liquor establishments,? according to the news release."

They were still looking for help identifying the man at press time.

On Sunday, the Star Tribune had reported that his parents came forward to identify the 18-year-old man, but would not release his name at this time. Police assume that he was out there for a few hours, but don't know where he was coming from or who he was with. So far, there are no indications of foul play.

This was an interesting story to see, going from little information, to much more information and slightly different speculations within the course of 24 hours. It would be challenging to write this story because there is very limited information.

I can't say which article I preferred, because they both had different amounts of information at different times. Both did well with the amount of information that was at their disposal.

Seven Weather Related Deaths in Wisconsin

Three died after a minivan struck a snowplow at about 8:30 a.m. Saturday in Kenosha County. A 38-year-old woman and her teenage daughter, who were sitting in the front seats, were killed immediately. The 8-year-old boy that was riding in the back seat died later at a hospital.

Two died when a van left Interstate 94, just two miles out of the Minnesota border in St. Croix County. One person was ejected from the vehicle and pronounced dead at the scene, while the other died later at a hospital.

One person died Friday night in Dane County where a vehicle slid off the road and struck an embankment.

A Racine man died after his car left a street in Mount Pleasant and struck a tree Friday night, police said.

Both the Star Tribune and the Pioneer Press printed articles about these seven snow-related deaths over the weekend, and also spent a bulk of the articles recapping what was predicted and what had been received thus far in the area in regards to total snowfalls.

The Strib concentrated much of their article on the three deaths in the minivan and then wrote the other three accidents in brief format at the bottom of the article.

The Press covered each accident relatively evenly.

Many of the names of the victims had not been released at press-time, so it probably was a challenge to get information from police.

Both papers had their strengths. It was nice to get a longer, fuller report on one of the accidents by the Strib, but the other accidents were then not very well known or understood. The Press' shorter lengths on all three was appreciated, but not much detail was reached in any of them.

February 15, 2007

Maplewood Man Wins Lottery Twice

In short articles by the St. Paul Pioneer Press and the Star Tribune, a Maplewood man, Raymond Snouffer Jr., won $25,000 in the Minnesota State Lottery on both February 10th and 11th. This kind of feat has never happened before in Minnesota, and officials say that the odds of something this happening is "virtually incalculable." He was playing the Northstar Cash game, and matched five numbers correctly each time he won. The normal odds for winning one game is about 170,000 to 1.

Both newspapers did a good job on reporting on the facts, considering that the winner was not available for comment. The Star Tribune had slightly more detail in the information on the numbers the man picked, and the process he went through for the tickets. They also managed to get a short interview from his father, who gave them the quote for their headline. The headline, in this case, was catchy, and was what made me read the story, so I think that puts them slightly ahead of the Press in this case.

February 12, 2007

Joe Mauer Stays Loyal

Avoiding an arbitration hearing, Twins superstar catcher Joe Mauer signed a four-year $33 million contract to stay with the team. Mauer, who is a Minnesota native, said he is happy to be staying, especially after the warm reception he received at the TwinsFest a few weeks ago. Mauer made $400,000 last year, and will make $3.75 million in 2007, $6.25 million in 2008, $10.5 million in 2009 and $12.5 million in 2010. The Twins, who are planning on opening a new stadium in 2010, have also been working on signing fellow players Justin Morneau, Michael Cuddyer, Johan Santana, and Joe Nathan.

Both the St. Paul Pioneer Press and the Star Tribune covered the event, although it seems that the Strib printed the story a day ahead of the Press. The Press also included in their report more detail about Mauer's celebration with his parents and friends after the signing of the contract, and the Strib did a bit more comparison of contracts with other young superstars in the league.

February 11, 2007

Man Dies in St. Paul House Fire

A St. Paul man died on Saturday night after a grease fire engulfed his kitchen. Firefighters were called to the scene around 9 p.m. Saturday night and extinguished the fire fairly quickly, as the man, still unidentified, was rushed to Regions Hospital in St. Paul where he was pronounced dead.

This incident was covered completely different by the two local newspapers. There were many information discrepancies between the St. Paul Pioneer Press and the Star Tribune. The Strib had quite a bit more information and was more specific, while the Press was much more brief, and missed a few key points in the story. While the Press reported that he was a 30-year-old man, the Star Tribune confirmed that he was 29. The most important point however, was that the Press only reported that the man was injured and was being cared for at Regions Hospital, while the Strib reported that the man had died later that night.

Although both articles were fairly brief, the structure of them was similar, and followed the classic Inverted Pyramid structure. The Pioneer Press mainly relied on fact blocks, with a slight bit of chronology, but the Strib, with their longer article, was more obvious in their structure. After the lead and second graph of specific facts of the event, the reporter turned to chronology of the incident, playing out that the victim's mother came home to find the man unconscious and quotes by firefighters to play out how the grease fire could have occurred.

February 6, 2007

High School Wrestlers Resume Competition After Bout with Skin Herpes

The Minnesota State High School League suspended competition of all wrestlers in the state last week after numerous reports of herpes gladiatorum virus outbreaks among many young men. At the beginning of the suspension, 24 wrestlers on 10 different teams were confirmed with having the virus, and before the suspension ends Wednesday, the total has come to 40 wrestlers from 16 teams. All but one of the infected wrestlers are from the top three weight classes. Through the suspension, participants were allowed to continue to strength train and condition, but could have no skin-to-skin contact. Most coaches, although now scrambling to reschedule meets before the last tournaments of the season, see this as a very proactive stance taken by the MSHSL, and are glad that it was contained before it grew out of hand.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press spent more time reporting that the number of infected wrestlers has grown, and included a quote from Craig Perry, the associate director of the MSHSL, and only briefly mentioned that the teams can resume practices and matches on Wednesday.

The Star Tribune, on the other hand, spent more time discussing the fact that teams are struggling to reschedule big invitationals, etc. before the section and state tournaments, now that they can resume competition. They only briefly mentioned the event that occured last week and the numbers to go along with it.

Neither local newspaper fully covered the story to its completeness. They both focused on different aspects of the story, and it would have been better if they had been combined into one. However, it was a small story which was only given a small amount of print space, and each respective reporter had to decide which aspect of the story was most important, which was a toss-up.

February 4, 2007

Flu Claims Life of Ramsey County 8-Year-Old

Ramsey County 8-year-old Lucio Satar died on Wednesday morning from complications of the flu and pneumonia. This is the first influenza related death this season, and Minnesota hasn't seen one since the 2004-2005 season.

The Twin Cities newspapers covered this event very differently.

The Pioneer Press's article was substantially shorter in length and dealt more with the personal story and tragic death of the little boy, detailing the circumstances of the sickness and the actions that his elementary school took in lieu of his death.

The Star Tribune's article, while longer, hardly gave the boy's name or any information about the specifics of the event, and focused more on the community's need and availability of flu vaccines this season. They also provided information and statistics about who is more likely to be vulnerable to the flu, and who should be concerned.

Attribution was done well in the Star Tribune, mostly using quotes from officials and statistics as support in the article. I found a couple spots that were not attributed in the Pioneer Press' piece, but it was written as more of a human-interest piece, and the reporter may not have found it necessary, or appropriate given the weight of the situation.

February 3, 2007

DNA Shows that St. Paul Rapist is Actually Two Attackers

After receiving full DNA evidence from the rapes of a 13-year-old girl and a 57-year-old woman early in January, police have confirmed that the rapes were from two different attackers. Many circumstances from the rapes were very similar, which led police to have 90 percent certainty that the rapes were connected to eachother, but now it has become certain that they were not. It was all just coincidental.

This issue is a very touchy subject, which may have been a challenge for reporters, but it is also important for the public to know about, as it affects many lives.

The Star Tribune's article focused more on the police record and the actual circumstances of the event. They also covered in depth the process that the police will continue to go through in attempting to find the alleged attackers.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press's piece was quite a bit shorter, and placed the focus of the article on the public reaction to the new findings. They also had some information on the ongoing police investigation, but took into account how the ordeal will affect residential community.

Attribution was performed very well in both articles. There were many quotes from police, and even if information was a part of public record, the respecive reporters made sure that the readers knew that it was all fact.

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.

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.