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August 2, 2007

Other bridges have also collapsed

Along with the I-35W river bridge collapse, there have been three other major bridge and overpass collapses this year in the U.S.

The 35W bridge was 40 years old when it collapsed Aug. 1. The day before, an overpass in Oroville, California collapsed and crushed a delivery truck and severely injuring a construction worker who fell. In April, a section of freeway that directed traffic off the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge collapsed. A gasoline tanker had tipped over and caught fire right before the bridge collapsed.

As Minnesota and the rest of the world takes in the recent events, stories of other bridges collapsing resurface. Fox 12 in Oregon covered the story and listed the number of bridge collapses from 1980-2007. While the 35W bridge collapse is tragic, it is certainly not a new story for the world as many of them have collapsed during the past couple decades.

In dealing with the issue, the Oregon site questioned whether or not Portland would be ready if a bridge collapsed there.

A New York site covered a bridge collapse years ago that killed 10 people near Amsterdam, New York.

A similar story was also written on a website called The Age about a Montreal overpass that collapsed in 2006.

Over the past couple hours, news agencies have covered the most recent bridge collapse, those it affected as well as other similar situations that have occurred in other areas throughout the world. The coverage is all very similar, talking about the tragic situations but finding a news story that reports a solution proves rather difficult.

I-35W Bridge Collapse

Just after 6 p.m. Aug. 1, the I-35W bridge crossing the Mississippi River collapsed sending the bridge and cars down in to the river and along the shoreline.

It has been determined there are four confirmed deaths at this time and as many as 80 people injured. There are also still 20-30 people missing at this time.

Rescue efforts continued until late evening Thursday, trying to recover those who had not been able to climb out on their own. Efforts on Thursday are now recovery efforts as those involved say they do not expect to find anyone alive.

Structural engineers as well as government officials have been called out to begin investigating the collapse. At this time, the Department of Homeland Security has concluded it was not terrorism but a structural issue. This comes after a 2002 report from the University of Minnesota that reported problems with the bridge. A 2005 report given by the Minnesota Department of Transportation did not report the same issues.

At 10 a.m. Thursday, Governor Tim Pawlenty and Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak gave a press conference along with other local, state and federal government officials discussing the event and what steps will be taken from here on out.

The coverage for this event was widespread and very complete as it was on almost every news website and channel available. There were reports on news websites in Australia, England and throughout the U.S. Even sources that most Americans would consider unlikely, such as Al Jazeera, covered the story as it was updated.

The BBC also covered the story, pulling pictures from the Associated Press and updating their story every time new information was available. The story was also covered by CNN, the Star Tribune, the New York Times. Each story reported essentially the same information although some report more deaths then others. This is most likely due to proximity. Australia has a smaller chance of reporting the correct number of deaths because they most likely do not have a reporter right at the scene.

July 17, 2007

Gunman killed at Colorado governor's office

A gunman who declared "I am the emporor" was shot and killed by a state trooper Monday when he refused to put down his gun, officials said.

The man, who is currently unidentified, walked into the reception area of Gov. Bill Ritter's office and was escorted out before he pulled out a gun. He said "I am the emperor and I'm here to take over state government" and refused to put down his gun. He was then shot by the state trooper.

CNN and USA Today reported the incident. CNN wrote the article more like a feature than hard news while USA Today stuck to the normal hard news form.

The CNN story made it easier to visualize the scene from the governor's eyes by providing more detail. The story also interviewed a woman who may have rented the man a tuxedo earlier on in the day. This version of the story was easier to read and much more interesting than the USA Today story, which simply stuck to a typical news story structure.

USA Today did not include many sensory details and did not seem to provide as much information even though the stories may have been the same length.

July 12, 2007

Threat of al Qaeda high

New government analysis concludes that al Qaeda is the strongest it has been since September 11, 2001, said a senior government official who had seen the analysis.

While al Qaeda has regained strength and remained safe in the tribal areas of Pakistan, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said it was not at that level although the "level of intent on the part of the enemy remains very high."

Top intelligence analysts told Congress Wednesday that the terrorist group's activities have increased as they settled into remote areas of Pakistan.

Recently, counterterrorism authorities said they were concerned about the risk of another attack in the United States and that terror plots like those in Britain have them very alert.

Reuters focused its story on MIchael Chertoff and his outlook on al Qaeda while CNN focused on what the report said according to officials. By reading both stories, a more complete picture of the situation is drawn. Simply reading one of these stories leaves a person with a one-sided issue that doesn't explain the opinions of enough people. This particular issue highlights the importance of getting news from multiple sources instead of focusing on one.

June 25, 2007

Supreme Court limits student free speech

The U.S. Supreme Court limited student free speech Wednesday when it ruled against a student who opened a banner that read "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" at a 2002 school event in Juneau, Alaska.

Joseph Frederick said he opened the banner as a prank to get himself on television while his school was watching the Winter Olympic torch relay pass by.

Frederick was suspended for 10 days after the incident because school officials said the banner promoted illegal drug use.

With a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court ruled that schools have the right to limit free speech when it is viewed as promoting illegal drug use.

The ruling, which was the first case in 20 years dealing with student free speech, was backed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the American Center for Law and Justice as well as many conservative groups who fear the ruling would allow schools to limit students' rights to express religious views, especially those on abortion and homosexuality.

Covered by the British Broadcasting Corporation, Reuters and the Star Tribune, coverage of the ruling was very complete in the media.

One of the more interesting points was the difference in coverage between the local paper and the two larger news services. The local paper focused more on the student as a person, giving background information about his life since the event as well as plenty of direct quotes from him.

The two national news services focused more on the ruling and the message from the Supreme Court.

Between the two larger news services, Reuters seemed to be the most objective as it included quotations from both liberal and conservative justices.

June 21, 2007

Bush vetoes stem cell bill

The debate over embryonic stem cell research continued to rage Wednesday as President Bush vetoed a bill that would have expanded federally funded embryonic stem cell research.

The issue has been in the news often since Bush first restricted funding for embryonic stem cell research to current cells where embryos have already been destroyed. This is the second bill Bush has vetoed that would have lifted restrictions on embryonic stem cell research. The first veto came when the Republicans introduced a similar measure last year.

Both the Senate and the House of Representatives would need a two thirds vote in order to override the veto and make the bill law although Democrats were skeptical and said they did not think they would get enough support. This most recent veto will also most likely push the issue into the 2008 presidential campaigns.

Embryonic stem cell research is constantly a source of debate. The stem cells are of interest to scientists because they have the potential to give rise to any type of cell or tissue and possibly treat diseases.Critics claim it is morally wrong to destoy human embryos to derive stem cells. Advocates point out that the embryos used are left over from fertility treatments and are destined to be destroyed anyway.

Bush pointed out that scientists reported in tests with mice that progress had been made in research considering other ways of deriving stem cells. Scientists cautioned that this was not guaranteed and urged passage of the bill.

The coverage of the recently vetoed bill was covered by both the New York Times and Reuters. The New York Times gave more background for the debate that has raged over stem cell research so the reader is more informed about previous events and what led up to this most recent veto. The New York Times story also gives the responses of possible presidential candidates so the reader knows where some of them stand on the issue.

Reuters gave more direct quotations in the story, so the reader knew what each side was saying about the issue but it lacked in amount of background material.

June 13, 2007

Gun control bill passed in The House

The House Wednesday passed a bill that, if enacted into law, would improve state reporting to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System in order to stop gun purchase by people who are not allowed to possess firearms.

This bill, which was passed on a voice vote, could become the first major federal gun control bill passed since 1994. Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., and Rep Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y. drafted the bill with the help of the National Rifle Association.

The legislation comes in response to the Virginia Tech attack in April. Va. Tech student Seung Hui-Cho killed himself and 32 others. He had been ordered to undergo mental treatment and should not have been allowed to buy the two guns he used for the shooting, however his records were never passed on to the background check system.

Currently, legislation states that anyone found to be mentally defective cannot possess a gun. The legislation also prohibits felons, fugitives, drug addicts and wife beaters from purchasing firearms.

According to Reuters, certain laws and restraints have deterred states from fully reporting these records to the NICS.

Both Reuters and USA Today reported on the number of states currently providing mental records to the NICS. Reuters reported that number to be 23 states while USA Today, who attributed their information to Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, reported that number to be 22.

The new bill would improve these numbers by requiring states to share disqualifying records with the NICS database. It also provides $250 million in funding to help states meet goals outlined in the bill and imposes penalties for states failing to meet these goals.

In order for the bill to be enacted into law, the Senate must approve it. USA Today reported that Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said the chances of Senate passing the bill were "very strong."

The bill can be viewed here.

The two different news stories both reported essentially the same basic information on the new bill, however USA Today was more thorough with quotations from senators and legislators as well as background information to help the reader understand the story. Reuters' story was more basic but still covered the important details of the story and got the point across effectively.