Recently in Analysis Category

Number Use: Japan Faces Fear of New Downturn

A journalist from the Wall Street Journal used numbers to write a story about Japan's economy. According to the article, Japan is in great debt. For instance, economists estimate that Japan's GDP ratio could reach 200% by next year and 300% in the next decade. Economists from the Economic Planning Association said that the economy grew 2.5%, up slightly from 2.3% in the prior period.

In just a few paragraphs, there are a lot of numbers, particularly percentages. This is overwhelming, because I did not completely understand what these percentages meant. The reporter could have used numbers more effectively by explaining the context of the numbers.

The reporter sourced numbers from Masaaki Kanno, a J.P. Morgan Chase economist, and from the Economic Planning Association. Not all numbers were sourced. Many statistics were vaguely attributed to "economists."

Obituary: Fantasy Illustrator Dies at 73

The New York Times wrote an obituary about Don Ivan Punchatz, a fantasy artist famous for his surrealism and influential illustrations. Since the New York Times wrote it, the obituary was written using the classic New York Times formula. The lead begins with Punchatz's name, includes something notable about him, and then lists the age when he died. It is effective, because it tells readers why Punchatz's death is newsworthy by describing something unique about him and by informing us about how he contributed to society. Punchatz's son, Gregor, is sourced, along with Ray Bradbury, whose books Punchatz sometimes illustrated. One of Punchatz's apprentices, Gary Panter, is also sourced.

Contrary to a resume, the obituary does not list all of Punchatz's accomplishments, nor all of his personality characteristics. It is impossible to capture the entire essence of a person. Therefore, the reporter focuses on only one aspect of Punchatz, which was his role as a fantasy artist. The reporter delves deeper into Punchatz's personality through this one unique characteristic while providing readers with a "snap shot" of who Punchatz was through his art.

Press Conference: Gates Presses Nato on Afghan Commitment

In the press release, Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates urged NATO forces to support the troop increase in Afghanistan at the Yongsan Garrison in Seoul, South Korea Wednesday. During his speech, he emphasized the Republic of Korea's alliance with the United States, and how the ROK should support the U.S. as a contributor to global security and peace. The press release also touched on the ROK's military policies, nuclear weapons and ROK military history.

However, in the news story, journalist Thom Shanker emphasized the Republic of Korea's role in aiding the United States in a troop increase in Afghanistan. He wrote the article in the context of the U.S. and the "Afghan commitment" rather than focusing on the ROK's military and history. Shanker chose to craft his story like this so that it would be more relevant to an American audience.
Both the New York Times and The Wall Street Journal use various multimedia to enhance the reader's experience. They include pictures with many of their top articles so that readers can get a visual of what the stories are going to be about. Videos and slide shows are used to summarize or supplement news. Videos supplement an article and sometimes even tell the story better than print media. They can engage readers better by providing colors, flashy images and sound. Also, reader's often get tired of reading, and would rather watch a video or go through a slide show to obtain news.

At the bottom of the articles there are also places where readers can comment on the story. This makes the reading experience interactive and more interesting. Readers feel like they have a voice. There are also links within articles that readers can click on. This way they can get more thorough information about the issue, information that a typical print news story wouldn't be able to offer.

Copy writing accompanies multimedia. Copy writing is brief, to the point and is only a couple sentences long. It describes what is happening in the multimedia, such as what is happening in a picture that is part of a slide show. It should be written like a lead in that it captures the action of the news in the multimedia while engaging the reader. It should reveal the who, what, when, why, where and how.

Spot and Follows: 2 Dead at Arizona Sweat Lodge

The lead in the first version of the story provides the basic information of what happened: people became sick and two people died in a sweat lodge in Arizona. It is the same way throughout the rest of the article. Readers are given general information, such as where the incident took place, how many people died or became ill and what authorities are doing about it. Specific details, such as the names of victims or the causes of death, were not mentioned. A brief cultural background of sweat lodges was provided for readers who did not know what they were.

The second story advanced the news by providing more detail and by answering readers' questions. The lead revealed the identities of the two people who died after using the sauna, whereas the first story did not include identities. A list of specific illnesses suffered by other users of the sauna was also discussed. In addition, the second story delved into how police were responding to the situation. Readers also obtain more background information about James Ray, the man who led the retreat and who is under suspicion of criminal activity. Unlike the first article, no sweat lodge history was provided. In its place were detailed accounts of the activities that took place at the retreat, such as events that may have caused the deaths and illnesses.
The reporter began the story with the most important facts. The first six paragraphs described the main points of the case, informing the reader of the basic who, what, when, where and why.

After these first paragraphs of basic information--the inverted pyramid structure--the writer described the story in more detail. However, it was not told chronologically, because the story included two different cases involving the same man, both occurring during different times. Thus, the reporter chose to write in a "kabob" style rather than a "martini glass" format. The reporter incorporated various aspects of the news story by clustering several pieces of information together. Thus, the whole story could be told without confusing the reader and without focusing on only one event.

The writer could have structured the story in the martini glass style by solely focusing on the chronology of the 2001 case. Also, she could have written in the inverted pyramid style and refrained from giving much detail. That way the reader gets the basic summary of the most important information rather than all the details found in a martini glass or kabob style. 

Attribution: St. Paul College is Locked Down

The reporters utilized several sources for this story, all of them from people. Four students, St. Paul College spokesman, Jim Stumne and police spokesman, Sergeant Paul Schnell were interviewed.

The article began and ended with Stumne's and Schnell's statements as a way to tell the basic, "hard news" parts of the story. They were both reliable sources with the right credentials, and reinforced the credibility of the story. These sources also kept the reader focused on the most important aspects of the story. The students' testimonies were included as a way to describe the emotions and thoughts that they experienced during the lockdown. Readers got a different, more personal perspective of what happened.

Afterwards, however, the writers attributed Stumne and Schnell to close out the story and to bring readers back to the main points of the article. This set up of attribution was very effective, because it allowed readers to get the facts as well as the more personal perspectives of the people impacted by the lockdown.


The Lead: Charges Against Gen. Vang Pao Dropped

The lead was not written in the usual straight-forward hard news fashion. Rather, it was more descriptive and emotional. The journalists who wrote this story did not want the reader to have a clear-cut summary of what happened, because the lead did not tell you the what, the when, the how, nor the why. It provided a physical description of General Vang Pao, details which were not usually found in hard news leads

This was a unique style, yet an effective one that kept readers reading. The audience could not skim quickly over the first paragraph for a summary of the article's contents, because the writers intentionally omitted the information that readers sought. This drew them in and forced them to keep reading past the first few sentences. By describing the general's physical features and his reaction to his newly declared freedom, the journalists made Vang Pao human. He was not just a news story anymore. The descriptions triggered feelings of empathy as well as curiosity. Readers could better relate to Vang Pao, and therefore they cared more about what happened.

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