« October 2007 | Main

November 25, 2007

Suspects re-arrested in Holloway's disappearance

Three men initially arrested after American high school student Natalee Holloway went missing in Aruba in May 2005 have been taken into custody again by Aruban authorities. Now, officials say there is enough evidence to prove Holloway is no longer alive, and that these men are responsible. The case was heavily followed by the media, and has remained a top headline-maker since Holloway disappeared. Again, the arrests have become a top story, and the public is anxious to see what the new evidence is. In a piece from NBC's Today, the story was reported largely from the angle of Joran van der Sloot's attorney. Van der Sloot is the main suspect in Holloway's alleged death, and is charged with involuntary manslaughter -- consistent with accidental, unintentional death -- a point which his legal counsel emphasized. Uniquely, this piece described in greater detail the legal processes and standards of Aruba, where any criminal proceedings would take place, providing a valuable context for the reader now and as the case progresses. In a CNN piece, reporters focused more heavily on case background and the arrest developments. Instead of focusing on the typical "he-said, she-said" nature of cases like this, the story's central aim is to eduate readers about what type of evidence the new arrest-spurring material is likely comprised of. Each story took a twist on the traditional newsy-type angle of this often-sensationalized story, which helped lend credence to its importance in being covered, as opposed to overdoing it, as has been done with this case and others similar to it in the past.

Rock star's home lost in Malibu blaze

Numerous outlets over the weekend covered the resurge of wildfires in the Malibu area of California, but many also focused on one specific loss: that of a Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist's home. Flea, the well-known rocker, lost his multimillion-dollar estate in the fire, and the Los Angeles Times even focused a brief article solely on that material casualty of the fires. In a CNN piece on the fire's upsurge and continual damage, the loss of Flea's home was focused on anecdotally amid hard news reports, including statements from California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and other officials. It seems out of place to have one story of one famous person's house burning in a widespread wildfire. Losses are as yet innumerable, as the fires still rage. The focus on this particular loss was a bit excessive, since it wasn't the only home "burnt to a crisp," as Flea said in a text message to a Los Angeles Times reporter.

November 19, 2007

University of Minnesota-Mankato accident victimes identified

As reported both in the Star Tribune and Pioneer Press, two women returning from a sorority-sponsored night out were struck early Sunday morning by a 17-year-old driver, killing one and "severely" injuring the other. The Star Tribune reported the story as it if was working off an official press release, whereas the Pioneer Press version seemed to offer a more concrete sequence of events, with less left open for debate -- perhaps the Pioneer Press was able to establish contact with officials in the area, and that definitely strengthened the story. The Star Tribune story, it seemed in an effort to make its story more comprehensive, tied the incident back to one less than a month ago in which another student, a woman celebrating her 21st birthday, essentially drank herself to death. The two death in less than a month touching the same campus seems to be the angle the Star Tribune has chosen to take with the story, whereas the Pioneer Press is buying into the newsier approach of straight facts about the incident, at least at this point.

November 18, 2007

Rhodes Scholars selected from large national pool

As reported by the Associated Press and the Star Tribune, awardees were selected for the prestigious Rhodes Scholarships for graduate studies at Oxford University in England. The AP story did a sort of overview of some of the most notable or interesting winners, but it was somewhat localized to Chicago, the AP bureau the story was datelined as. The Star Tribune article focused almost entirely on the two winners from St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn., which boasted its eighth and ninth receipients of the scholarship, which honors outstanding academic and personal achievement. Naturally, the Minnesota paper's story would focus on local winners, but it also seemed to give a more extensive background of the Rhodes Scholarship, something lacking in the AP story, which was essentially several brief, disjointed blurb-type profiles of the award winners. Despite its localization, the Star Tribune article was unexpectedly much more informative and exhaustive.

German school rampage thwarted

In Koeln, Germany, two high-school students were apparently planning to kill many at their school before turning weapons on themselves, both CNN and MSNBC (via the Associated Press) reported. CNN reported the story much more conservatively, attributing nearly everything to German outlets or investigators, whereas the MSNBC/AP story was more detailed, graphic and liberal in its presentation of the so-called "facts." CNN is likely more conservatively reported because its writer pulled together information from other outlets and liaisons in Germany, rather than using its own resources and clout to get exact information straight from the horse's -- or official's -- mouth, like the AP is recognized for doing.

November 11, 2007

One dead, one injured in Minneapolis shooting

After an afternoon barbeque over the weekend, one man is dead and another injured in what is an apparent drive-by shooting. The Minneapolis paper, due to its primary coverage area of Minneapolis, covered the story much more extensively than did its St. Paul counterpart. There was a full article, complete with witness-reported details and numerous sources and information -- including that evidence that could help nab the killer(s) may exist. Conversely, due to its relative remoteness from the site, the Pioneer Press reported in an ultra-succinct way that there had been a shooting, leaving one dead and one injured. Aside from coverage area though, the Minneapolis paper has a definite advantage when it comes to covering its city's crimes in that its cops beat reporter likely has contacts within the police department, as well as a familiarity with the area. This sense of community between the reporter and the area in which the shooting took place allows the reporter to get more information from witnesses and police alike, thus spurring a deep, thoroughly covered story.

Arrest made in St. Paul rape case

Due to the high-profile nature of the rape of a teenage girl in her own home, both local papers granted coverage to the arrest of a suspect. The difference between the two, though, lies in the choice of the Pioneer Press to name the alleged rapist and the Star Tribune's choice to refer to the man only as "the suspect." Based on past knowledge and experience in dealing with these newspapers' policies regarding naming suspects, I know that news-organization policies governed each of these stories. It is the policy of the Star Tribune to not name suspects before definite charges are filed. As of the time of story posting, the man had only been arrested "on suspicion" of being involved. Police said they released arrest information due to the high-profile and "horrific" nature of the case, but that doesn't necessarily warrant the editorial freedom of naming the suspect, though the major Twin Cities newspapers appear to disagree on that point.

November 4, 2007

Homeless man dies in fall from St. Paul bluff

A homeless man was found dead beneath a 60-foot bluff, apparently due to an accidental fall Sunday by homeless outreach volunteers. In both the Minneapolis and St. Paul papers, briefs were written with the so-called "bare bones" of the case. Each includes the man's homeless status, the fact that he fell and where his body was found by whom. There is brief, mostly paraphrased police comment stating there is no suspicion of foul play, but it might be different if the man wasn't homeless. It seems less prominence is given to the story than if the man was, say, a businessman or a recognized community member. The fact that such a story received buried placement and apparently a minimal amount of investigation by reporting, in a sense, dehumanizes the man who died as well as the homeless in general. While it may be more difficult to obtain information about a homeless man than one who wasn't, it seems like the story should garner more attention than it did. Accidental deaths occur often, and typically we hear of them, or at least have a chance to do so when they're given relatively high placement in the news.

Minneapolis murder victim identified

According to both the Star Tribune and Pioneer Press, 21-year-old Andrew Nakao, of Minneapolis, was fatally shot in the chest. There was a distinct disparity in coverage allocated to the event, though, likely based on primary coverage areas of the paper. The shooting, which occured in Minneapolis' Folwell neighborhood, was granted much more prominence with a disporportianately greater amount of information. For instance, that article offered reasoning behind Nakao's death -- that he allegedly confronted his younger brother's bullies and they later shot him. The Pioneer Press merely stated his identity and cause of death, without offering any explanation or context. Again, this difference is likely due to the Star Tribune's primary coverage area of Minneapolis, although by not offering any further information, the Pioneer Press story does little to mollify concerns or address a larger problem that may or may not be present.