December 8, 2008

Analysis Entry on Spot and Follows

My analysis entry on spot and follows concerns the New York Times' coverage of the Mumbai terrorist attack the day after it occurred, and then the day after that.

The first story primarily lays out the facts of the event, as it is still new to the public consciousness. It details the death toll, the number and description of the attackers, and concerns as to how they gained access to Mumbai and why the Indian police department was not better able to stop them.

It also gives detailed descriptions of several of the terrorist acts to give an impression of the situation to the reader. It tells of several completely random shootings by the terrorists, including a man closing up his shop a half block away from the sieged hotel and a couple coming out to their balcony to celebrate a cricket win.

The second article focuses much more heavily on the effects on world leaders and Indian personnel of the attack.

It begins by announcing that the head of Indian domestic security has resigned in response to the attack. It details his name and discusses the problems in preparation and response to the attack.

The article then turns to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, who said that she will visit the region to ensure stability. It also discusses several theorized links of the terrorist organization with the Pakistani government, a hot topic after the attacks concluded.

The second article is clearly an advance on the first, giving much less basic information and delving into specific consequences and reflections on what occurred, which is assumed to be prior knowledge of the reader.

I do not believe the second story was in response to another news organization, as the Times was the paper that broke the story of the resignation of the security official. The Times also almost immediately ran articles discussing the source of the terrorism, quickly recording several people as thinking that Pakistan was implicated.

Analysis on Numbers Use

My analysis on numbers use concerns an article in the Star Tribune about the Senate recount between Democrat Al Franken and Republican Norm Coleman.

The reporter uses numbers in several different ways. First, he provides the percent of the ballots that have been counted: 99. This number comes from the Secretary of State's totals on his website. The reporter explains that although the recount is more or less over, the percent counted remains at 99 percent because 133 ballots are missing from a precinct in northeast Minneapolis.

The reporter's use of numbers here is clear in explaining the percent and its cause.

The article next delves into the topic of the vote differential between Coleman, who is winning, and Franken. It says that Coleman leads Franken by 236 votes, according to Star Tribune tabulation. It also calculates that this lead is 36 votes larger than the differential between the candidates going into the statewide recount.

Although these numbers are helpful in understanding the general state of the race, there is one aspect I find troubleing. The article does not explain what "Star Tribune tabulations" means, and I do not understand why they would be any different than the Secretary of State's tabulations. This should be expounded upon.

Lastly, the article says the campaigns have each agreed to withdraw "over 600 challenged ballots." This is helpful to see that the campaigns are trying to speed up the process of the review board and are apparently working in concert for once.

However, I would like to see official and specific totals of how many votes each campaign is withdrawing. In a race this close, very small numerical differences are very significant.

Analysis on Diversity

My analysis on diversity concerns an article written in the New York Times about the Indian Muslim population's response to the recent terrorist attacks in Mumbai.

The story certainly moves beyond typical racial perspectives and stereotypes; in fact, that is the point of the story.

Through interviews with citizens off the street and a careful analysis of the atmosphere and actions of the Indian Muslim population in the wake of the attacks, the article gives the reader an excellent and in depth perspective on that section of India's population.

The interview with a woman attending a Muslim protest of the terrorists is especially incisive.

“It’s a pity we have to prove ourselves as Indians,? she says, showing the readers the expectations Indian Muslims must bear because of stereotypes already cast on them.

The author also cycles through a variety of signs being held aloft at the protest that express anger and outrage at the attacks in a very true and visceral way.

The combination of the interview and the protest description taught me a lot about the situation with Indian Muslims that I did not know. I learned of the enormous pressure that population is under after the attacks and the courage and determination they are acting with to allay any suspicion that they sympathize with the attackers.

By getting the perspective of someone intensely involved in the movement and making a careful and poignant survey of the circumstances surrounding him, the reporter conveys to the reader a culture and situation completely foreign to him.

Analysis on Records/CAR

I studied the computer assisted reporting done in a joint investigation by the Washington Post and 60 Minutes into cheating on online gambling sites.

This investigation was obviously going to be very computer intensive because its entire concern was computers. But this also complicated matters.

The only evidence or records that reporters could access was electronic, and much of it was hidden. The investigators had to petition shady gambling companies like AbsolutePoker and UltimateBet for information and records.

They employed computer aggregation methods to collect the number of screen names a single cheater may have used, so as to deflect suspicion of cheating. They did this by collecting all of the records of the hands played by certain screen names and then putting them through an algorithm that calculates the probability of certain hand outcomes.

This led the investigators to conclude that certain screen names had to have been cheating, and further investigation through tracking of IP addresses to actual computers confirmed this theory.

One compiled statistic of the reporters determined that the likelihood of one player winning all the hands he had without cheating was comparable to someone winning the Powerball three days in a row.

By looking at complex and scattered records and filtering them through algorithms to expose irregularities, the Washington Post and 60 Minutes turned up several big time poker cheaters.

Dems Pick Up House Seat

Republicans lost a House seat in Columbus, OH, over a month after the election as counting ended Sunday, the New York Times reported.

Democrat Mary Jo Kilroy defeated Republican Steve Stivers in the 15th District, which includes Columbus, Ohio's capital and most populous city.

Kilroy won by a little more than 2,000 votes after incumbent Representative Deborah Pryce, a Republican, announced in August 2007 that she was vacating the seat.

Although Kilroy was down 594 votes when officials began counting provisional ballots, she amassed enough to take the lead and avoid triggering an automatic recount out of the 300,000 votes cast.

Stivers conceded victory shortly after the results were released.

With Ms. Kilroy’s victory, Democrats will hold 256 seats in the House and Republicans 177. Races in Louisiana and Virginia have yet to be decided.

Gun Nuts Scared of Obama

Gun sales have been been up markedly in the couple months preceding President-elect Barack Obama's election and the months after, gun salesmen said.

A gun show in Stillwater Armory posted a stern looking picture of Obama at its entrance with the quotation, ''Barack Obama: Enemy of your gun rights."

"It's the Obama effect," said Joel Rosenberg, a gun law expert who teaches a gun course for people who want permits to carry handguns.

Rosenberg's course is full for the first time all year, even though the trend for renewals of carry permits has been down in Minnesota, the Star Tribune reported.

"Obama is the first president or presidential candidate who has been on the board of an antigun group [the Joyce Foundation]," said Rosenberg. "Folks are talking as if this Jan. 20 is the day that changes everything. He has said he favors 'common sense' laws, and for a lot of gun people, that's not very good."

Several gun sellers refused to give their last names but voiced support to the idea that Obama will come down hard on guns.

Glenn had a table at the Stillwater show where he was selling semiautomatic rifles, the type of gun many think Obama is most likely to ban.

"I fully expect to be out of business soon," he said. "Right now my objective is to get my business loan paid down. If I can get out of this business without bankruptcy, that's about the best I can expect."

The semiautomatic rifle (which has been used in almost all of the most deadly school shootings in the U.S.) is the only gun which Obama has indicated he may ban.

Gas Hits Five Year Low

U.S. gas prices hit a five year low in the last two weeks after falling 22 cents during the period, according to a national survey released Sunday.

Oil industry analyst Trilby Lundberg said the average price of regular gasoline in the U.S. was $1.75 a gallon on Friday, the Star Tribune reported.

For the same period, mid-grade gas averaged $1.90 a gallon and premium gas averaged $2.02 a gallon.

Gas prices have fallen precipitously from their all-time high on July 11, 2008, when they averaged $4.11 nationwide.

Current prices are the lowest since March 2004, Lundberg said.

Especially fortunate was Cheyenne, Wyo, which averaged $1.46 a gallon. The highest rate in the continental U.S. were in Long Island, which averaged $2.10 a gallon.

Riots in Greece Continue

Riots in Athens and other Greek cities continued for a second day on Sunday after police killed a 15-year-old boy, the New York Times reported.

Police also announced that two police officers had been arrested for their role in the boy's killing.

Riots began Saturday night after a clash between police and left-leaning youth in the Exarchia neighborhood of central Athens resulted in the death of the 15-year-old.

As news of the killing spread, hundreds of people took to the streets, throwing rocks at police and burning cars, shops, and businesses.

The rioting spread outside Athens on Sunday, reaching Greece's second most populous city, Thessaloniki, as well as a city on the island of Crete.

A police spokesman said dozens of policemen had been injured, while at least six protesters had been arrested for looting.

It was still unclear as of Sunday night whether police would move into the state university, an action that was barred after a 1973 incident in which tanks rammed the gates of the school in an attempt to quash resistance to the ruling miltary junta.

At least one block had been shut down after masked youth torched a French car dealership, which led to further fires of surrounding businesses.

Obama Says Economy Will Worsen

President-elect Barack Obama said the economy will likely get worse before it gets better Sunday, but pledged a recovery plan "equal to the task ahead.?

Vowing to stage a vast public works program to create green jobs and integrate new technologies, Obama acknowledged the current failed state of the economy, the New York Times reported.

This is a big problem, and it’s going to get worse," Obama said.

Obama also commented on the ongoing saga of whether the big three automobile companies will be bailed out.

"I think Congress is doing exactly the right thing by asking for a conditions-based assistance package that holds the auto industry’s feet to the fire," he said.

Obama offered damning criticisms of the companies, saying they had made “repeated, strategic mistakes,? but that “I don’t think it’s an option to simply allow it to collapse.?

In general though, Obama promised a mantra of stricter regulation of the troubled financial sector.

“As part of our economic recovery package, what you will see coming out of my administration right at the center,? he said, “is a strong set of new financial regulations, in which banks, ratings agencies, mortgage brokers, a whole bunch of folks start having to be much more accountable and behave much more responsibly.?

He also said he was disappointed that the current administration is such a bunch of hacks.

December 1, 2008

Auto Companies to Make Second Pitch

Executives from the big three auto companies will return to Congress this week to make a final pitch to Congress for $25 billion in federal aid to sustain their struggling companies, the New York Times reported.

Yet, in stark contrast to last week's congressional hearings, the companies will no longer present a united front.

Instead, the executive of each company will make an individual plea based on the conditions of his business for federal help.

General Motors, the largest of the three companies, is expected to present a plan for drastic shrinking of its operations including shutting down factories and reducing the number of models it sells, according to people familiar with the company's deliberations.

G.M. is also predicted to suggest a delay of the company's payment to the $7 billion retirement fund for salaried employees.

Ford Motors enters the hearings in very different, and better conditions. Because it is already along the way to converting its lineup of cars to be fuel efficient and has a larger reserve of cash on hand, Ford does not have to propose cuts of the magnitude of G.M.

However, the company is likely to request money to be used only in the event that it uses up all of its funds.

"Our position is different," Ford's executive chairman, William C. Ford Jr., said in a recent interview. "Our position is what we'd like to have is access to a line of credit if we need it. And we hope not to need it."

Chrysler comes into the talks in the worst shape of the three automakers. Because it is privately owned, the public does not know the full extent of Chrysler's financial troubles, but it has indicated that it has already looked into filing for bankruptcy.

Chrysler is likely to suggest a merger with another company to ensure its long term health.

Chrysler's merger negotiations with G.M. broke down in November when G.M. decided it needed to focus on its own financial problems.


A Really, Really, Really Bad Decision

Two Iowa adults had drunken sex in a Metrodome bathroom during the Minnesota vs. Iowa college football game last week, the Star Tribune reported.

A crowd cheered on the Lois Feldman, 38, of Carroll, Iowa, and M. Walsh, 26, of Linden, Iowa, who had apparently never met.

Walsh was released to his girlfriend, but Feldman was in considerably worse shape, facing the ire of her husband and three children.

Both were taken into police custody and cited for indecent conduct before being released.

"It's ruined my life," Feldman told the Des Moines Register.

"I don't know what happened," Feldman told the Register. "But I don't deny that it did happen, because, obviously, there are police reports."

Feldman was fired from her job as an administrator at an assisted living center upon her return.

Both had been drinking, and Feldman claims she has no memory of the event and found Walsh's identity only by reading about the story in the paper.

November 30, 2008

Analysis Entry on Obituaries

The obituary on George M. Docherty written November 29, 2008 in the Star Tribune follows most but not all of the standard features for a hard news obituary.

The first paragraph definitely follows form, listing his full name, the significant accomplishment that led him to be a notable person (he is credited with pushing the government to include the phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance), and his age.

This lead works well, orienting the reader to the story immediately and providing the most important facts about Docherty right off the bat.

The report cites his wife, Sue Docherty and an Associated Press article on Docherty from 2004 in which he talks about his inspiration to include the phrase in the Pledge of Allegiance.

It is not an entirely typical obituary though. Perhaps due to the short length of the article, the reporter does not offer the typical chronology of Docherty's life that would normally appear near the end of the article. The article focuses almost entirely on the story of Docherty's quest to change the Pledge.

The obituary also ends talking about the Pledge of Allegiance, conspicuously leaving out the members of the family Docherty is survived by, usually a staple of a news obituary.

The article resembles a straight news article more closely than an obituary in this sense, leaving out several regular obituary features in favor of describing Docherty's newsworthy accomplishments.

Overall, the obituary reads nicely and is by no means a bad article, it just strays from the usual formula for news obituaries.

Analysis Entry on Event Coverage

My analysis entry on event coverage concerns a long-running holiday theater event at the Bryant Lake Bowl advanced by the Pioneer Press.

The article is certainly more than a simple listing of the event, as it provides interviews, background, and projections for this year's production.

The article, focused on the annual theater production "Silent Night Fever," begins with a creative introduction listing several juxtapositions like "peanut butter without jelly?" and finishing by telling the reader that "Silent Night Fever" will have to go forward this year without its traditional star Grant Richey.

The article then gives the reader a sense of what the production will do in Richey's absence, describing an alternate beginning in which Richey - whose character in the show is named Martini - joins the cast via a live satellite feed from Wasilla, AK.

The article features several quotes from co-creator Judy Heneghan, who says Richey "has good days and bad days, and today was a bad day."

It concludes by sizing up the production in general terms, saying it certainly lacks something without Richey but still manages to provide the entertainment it always has.

As any proper advance would do, it concludes with a listing of the dates, times, place, and price of the event.

Analysis entry on meeting/press conference

My analysis entry on meetings and press conferences concerns Barack Obama’s reaction to the terrorist attack in Mumbai, India.

I looked at two different documents, 1) the press release issued by Obama after the attack which includes only his remarks on the event and 2) a story in the Dallas Daily News focusing on the press release.

The press release from Obama is very straight-forward, first expressing Obama’s and his wife Michelle’s condolences to the victims of the attack. The release then gives a few sentences asserting that the terrorists have not and will not bring down India’s democracy and assuring people that Obama and world leaders will maintain their aggressive pursuit of terrorism.

It concludes with a short remark about how “There is one president at a time? and Obama will support President Bush in his actions going forward.

The Daily News article presents several contrasts. First, it contains no direct quotes from the press release. It paraphrases Obama throughout, beginning with saying that Obama wanted to "express condolences to the victims of the Mumbai terrorist attacks."

It also includes background information on the terrorist attacks to orient anyone not familiar with the story. Right after paraphrasing Obama's immediate reaction, the article says that the attack was India's deadliest in 15 years, a fact not included in Obama's press release.

The article sporadically paraphrases Obama, noting his determination to quell terrorism and his insistence that there is only one president at a time in the third and fifth paragraphs respectively.

The rest of the article gives background on the event, including reaction of India's Prime Minister and the death tolls from the terrorist attack.

The article ends in a broader sense by detailing Obama's schedule going forward.

Obama, Bush Clash Over Safety Regulation

The Labor Department is rushing to complete a new rule that would make it more difficult for the government to regulate toxic substances and hazardous waste in the workplace - a rule that president-elect Barack Obama strongly opposes.

The law details that the government should act only on "industry-by-industry evidence" and hand down no broad safety regulations for the dangerous substances, the New York Times reports.

Put more simply, the proposal would add another hurdle to the already lengthy process the government must go through to enact regulations to protect workers from hazardous waste materials.

The problems that already exist have led to numerous injuries to workers, according to industry sources.

The Labor Department proposal is one of several highly contentious rules the Bush administration plans to issue as Bush's term winds down, addressing issues including abortion, auto safety and the environment.

A new president can unilaterally reverse executive orders issued by his predecessors, as Mr. Bush and President Bill Clinton did in selected cases. But it is much more difficult for a new president to revoke or alter final regulations put in place by a predecessor.