May 4, 2008

Computer Assisted Reporting

"On the Trail of Cindy McKay." Narrative by Justin Fenton. The Baltimore Sun. May 1, 2008.

Cindy McKay who "was convicted in April 2008 of secretly stealing thousands of dollars from her boyfriend and stabbing him to death before his body was found burning along an Anne Arundel County road." A career criminal, McKay stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from employers and family over the course of more than 20 years. Two of McKay's sons were also implicated in the 2006 murder of her boyfriend, according to The Baltimore Times.

The Baltimore Times use computer-assisted to tell a series of stories on Mckay. An example of the papers use of CPR can be found on their website. A map with a combination of pictures and a timeline was used to comment and provide a visual on the life of McKay and her travel throughout the US over time. In addition links to information is provided through each overlay on the map, and sound bites are given.

The map uses a multitude of information and requires a solid understanding of CPR. It is complicated and combines Mckay's biographical, geographical, reported and documented aspects of her life.

Such CPR needs expertise and understanding of overlaying maps, journalistic investigation, and the synthesisizing of materials.

April 13, 2008


"In the Projects, Hope and Hard Knocks." By Emily Brady for the New York Times.

This article printed in the New York Times Sunday which focused on the Cypress Hill area in the projects of New York.

The article opened with - "IN 1991, the high crime rate at the Cypress Hills Houses in East New York, Brooklyn, made it the perfect setting for Mayor David Dinkins to announce a crackdown on illegal guns. It was a little too perfect, in fact. As the mayor spoke, shots rang out a block and a half away. People in the crowd screamed, some started to run and others ducked for cover. No one was injured, but the story added another chapter to the rough reputation of Cypress Hills."

The point of the article was to move passed the stereotype and expored what is whas like to live in Cypress Hill from the perspective of members of the community like the mayor, as senior citizen, a mother, and a teenage boy.

"Everybody wants to live in a good neighborhood,? the article reported Efrain Garcia, a 19-year-old who lives in Cypress Hill said. “It’s the American Dream,? he said.

This quote, along with a number of others help bring character to the story and move past the satistics and danger that plague the projects.

In addition, the story gives descriptions of the characters and the enviorment, allowing the reader to visualize the story and connect to it.

April 6, 2008


"Obama’s Support Softens in Poll, Suggesting a Peak Has Passed" By Adam Nagourney and Megan Thee for the New York Times.

In an article Friday the New York Times reported Senator Barack Obama’s support among Democrats nationally has softened over the last month, particularly among men and upper-income voters, as voters have taken a slightly less positive view of him than they did after his burst of victories in February, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll. The article used alot of numbers from the poll data to tell the story in a straight forward an direct fashion.

An example paragraph from the article:
"Mr. Obama’s lead among men has disappeared during that period. In February, 67 percent of men wanted the party to nominate him compared with 28 percent for Mrs. Clinton. Now 47 percent back him, compared with 42 percent for her, a difference within the poll’s margin of error. Similarly, his lead has shrunk among whites, voters making more than $50,000 annually and voters under age 45."

Multiple numbers are used within this paragraph but they all support a similar context and work to tell a clear story. In my opinion the use of numbers is easy to grasp, however I could see how some would have difficulty. It may have been beneficial to break the information into seperate paragraphs and set a maximum of numbers used in a paragraph at two.

For example the paragraph could instead read, "Obama's lead among men has dissapeared during that period. Since February Obama's has lost men in his party's support by 20 percentage points, while Clinton has gained almost as much in support.

Now 47 percent back him, compared with 42 percent for her, a difference within the poll’s margin of error.

Similarly, his lead has shrunk among whites, voters making more than $50,000 annually and voters under age 45."

Overall, the numbers are used effectively, and without the exact results the reporters were given it is unclear how much number crunching was involved, but it appears their was good math reporting being done.

All numbers appear to be taken from the poll. No outside sources appear to have been used.

March 30, 2008


Dirth Pran, "Killing Field's Photographer, Dies at 65. Douglas Martin for the New York Times.

The lead: Dith Pran, a photojournalist for The New York Times whose gruesome ordeal in the killing fields of Cambodia was re-created in a 1984 movie that gave him an eminence he tenaciously used to press for his people’s rights, died on Sunday at a hospital in New Brunswick, N.J. He was 65 and lived in Woodbridge, N.J.

The cause was pancreatic cancer, which had spread, said his friend Sydney H. Schanberg.

This reporter uses a typical news lead. The lead first gives the name of the deceased, gives a notable description of him and what he meant to the community, and when and where he died. The second sentence gives his age. For this particular example the reporter chose to include his hometown, as well, which is not necessary in the lead.

The second sentence fits the standard format because it gives how he died and attrubutes the information to its source.

The obituary uses frieds, but mostly his collegues as sources to give perspective into his achievements and the ttype of man he was.

The obituary is different than a resume because it puts into perspective what he did for the community, not just the statistics of his life.

March 2, 2008

Meeting/Press conference analysis

In a press conference Wendesday Governor Tim Pawlenty named Robert Bly as Minnesota's first poet laureate. The AP reported this story and I found the article on KSTP website.

The press release for the announcement, released by the Governor was rather detailed and gave information about Robert Bly's history and importance, as well as detail about what the honor means, qualifications required and a brief history.

The article was less detailed than the press release but both mentioned his play "Peer Gynt," being shown at the Guthrie Theator in Minneapolis. In fact, all the information from the article seemed to have been taken directly from the news release.

However, the reporter chose to narrow the information to what was most likely considered the news worthy elements. It is a very straight forward report.

In my opinion, the piece would have greater benefits if the reporter had taken the information from the press release and extended on the information given about Blye. A angle that gave personality to the poet would have been a better read.

February 24, 2008

Spot and Follows

The Star Tribune has printed multiple stories on the bus crash in Southern Minnesota which resulted in 4 student's deaths.

The Associated Press released stories similar to the Star Tribune's. Although it was a local story it since it was also given national coverage. AP reported initially on the tragedy and also did follow ups, including a follow up on the woman charged with four counts of criminal vehicular homicide and two lesser charges, for hitting the bus after she failed to stop at a stop sign.

The Star Tribune printed a similar follow up. However, the Tribune followed up the story today in an opinion piece on how the bus tragedy has turned into a political tragedy.

The Tribune's story on the woman charged in relation to the bus crash, focused on the information surrounding the woman and the consequences she would face. This was a follow up to the original story, which focused on the details of the crash and the student's family and friends mourning.

The original story's lead focuses on the tragedy of the deaths, while the first follow up story's lead focuses on the mystery surrounding the woman involved.

The opinion piece advanced both leads by putting the tragedy into perspective locally. It combines the leads of the first and second story and shows the implications they have.

February 16, 2008

News Structure

US Marines in Japan Investigate 4 Servicemen Over Alleged Rape of Japanese Woman. By Chisaki Watanbe, Associated Press

The first paragraph of the article is a traditional lead. it reads "U.S. military authorities held preliminary hearings Friday to determine whether four Marines who had been charged with raping a Japanese woman last year should be court-martialed." this lead gives the who- the US authorities, the what- held preliminary hearings, the when- Friday, the why- allegedly raped a Japanese woman, and the byline answers where- Japan.

The second paragraph then expands on the lead; it explains the details of when the servicemen were charged. Then the paragraphs go on to explain first the details of the hearings, and then goes on to explain in an important paragraph why the story is significant- "The case at Iwakuni, which was initiated quietly after Japanese authorities dropped charges against the four, was taking place as anger rose on the southern island of Okinawa over the arrest this week of another serviceman on suspicion of raping a 14-year-old girl."

Next the report gives the U.S. militaries response followed by a chronological telling of the story, followed by general information and additional details of a related crime.

The ordering is rather effective and well done (as would be expected from an AP report). However, If I were to write the story I would have included the details of the alleged rape earlier in the story including the information that the woman had agreed to have sex with one of the men, but then the 3 men joined, and all 4 raped her. The details of the rape to me seem important to the case because they reveal the alleged charges.

February 9, 2008


One Injured in Plymouth Fire, 50 Forced Out Of Their Homes. Mara H. Gottfried (Pioneer Press)

Only one source is attributed in this story. The source used is the Plymouth Fire Chief Richard Kline. Since he is the only source he is attributed throughout the whole story.

There is no attribution to the people. In my opinion the story would be much stronger if instead of using just an official source it had used the victims as sources as well. Since 50 is a substantial amount of individuals to be forced out of their homes I believe the public would be interested in their personal stories and how they were affected.

Since there is only one source it seem redundant to use "Kline said" and "he said" as often as the story did. It is unnecessary to attribute after every sentence.

February 3, 2008


Boy, 15, charged with murder in killing of parents, 2 younger brothers in Baltimore suburb

By KASEY JONES , Associated Press
Last update: February 3, 2008 - 7:49 PM

COCKEYSVILLE, Md. - A 15-year-old boy fatally shot his parents and two younger brothers as they slept, then spent more than 12 hours with friends before returning home and calling 911 to report that his father was dead, police said Sunday...

A lead is a simple clear statement consisting of the first paragraph or two when using the inverted pyramid in a news story. Straigt-news leads are often made up of the six basic questions- who? what? when? where? why? how? (or so what?, and what's next?)

The lead used in this article by the Star Tribune is a immediate-identification lead. The most important information hits the eye first, in this case it is that a "15-year-old boy fatally shot his parents..." The first information revealed is who, followed by what. Since the boy is a teenager and it was his own parents he killed, it is important to what makes this story unique and news worthy. It highlights the novelty of the story. The lead is effective because it gets straight to the facts on why this story matters or 'so what?' It is a straight-news lead.

The lead answers who?,what?, when?, and how?

It answer's who? in a general way by using the boy's age as a descriptive tool. Since the boy is not well-known, his age causes more of an impact and interest.

What? is answered descriptively. "Fatally shot" gives the specifics of the murder. We know from the lead the boy did not just murder his parents; it tells us the way he killed his family.

The lead becomes even more specifics by continuing to give details of how he killed his family - while they were sleeping- and who he killed - his parents and two younger brothers. However, it does not give specifics on the names of the victim. The lead gives their relation to the boy instead. Again, this is because the fact it was his family creates more intrigue than their specific names would.

When? is answered specifically by when police released information - Sunday - and by when the boy reported the murder -after spending more than 12 hours with friends.

Where? and why? are not answered in the lead.

Where? is answered in the first sentence of the second paragraph. ("Police went to their suburban Baltimore home and later charged Nicholas Waggoner Browning after he admitted to the slayings, Baltimore County Police spokesman Bill Toohey said"). The information was deemed important but not necessary to the lead.

Why? is not answered until the fourth paragraph. ("The teen had not been getting along with his father, police said"). Since it was not answered until later in the story, the reporter made the decision that the why? was not as important to the story as the other factors were.