April 30, 2007

Tanker Near Oakland Explodes

New York Times article: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/29/us/29cnd-collapse.html?ref=us

Los Angeles Times article: http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-collapse042907,1,1914284.story?coll=la-headlines-california

Summary: A gasoline tanker crashed and errupted in flames earlier today, the intense heat melting through a large segment of a busy Bay Area freeway interchange and causing it to collapse on a roadway below it.

Both articles had hard news leads and were similar in many aspects. However, the New York TImes aritcles tacks this useful bit of information at the end of its lead: " probably complicating the lives of thousands of Bay Area commuters for months to come."

Both articles proceed to relate the facts behind the incident in much of the same order, noting the amount of gasoline that ignited, time of the accident, and potentially unsafe driving (speeding) surrounding the explosion. The L.A. and N.Y. Times also provide a brief historical overview of prior accidents which occured near the area involved, and consider the implications on viewers' commutes.

In the only notable difference between the articles, the New York Times provides a brief paragraph on the escape of the driver and his condition, providing it with a slight edge in coverage.


April 29, 2007

Shock Over Historical Society's Sale of Sapphire

Article from the Star Tribune can be found here: http://www.startribune.com/462/story/1150984.html

Article from the Pioneer Press can be found here: http://www.twincities.com/allheadlines/ci_5768660

Summary: A rare sapphire put up for auction by the Minnesota Historical Society netted more than $3 million earlier this week, delighting and surprising officials.

Both stories used a delayed leads, which matched the content of the story. While the Star Tribune mentioned the selling price of the sapphire in the second paragraph, the same information was contained in the Pioneer Press headline, allowing the latter lead more freedom. The $3.04 million figure isn't mentioned until the 5th line in their story.

Both articles also are quick to point out officials' surprise over the large sum collected by the sapphire, using anecdotes of $80,000 expected bids or then generous estimations of a $300,000 windfall.

Overall, the Pioneer Press gets a slight edge in coverage of this event, due to their more creative lead, and inclusion of some information not covered by the longer Tribune piece, such as: "The gem was the centerpiece of a $2,200 diamond- and sapphire-encrusted necklace bought by Hill on Dec. 24, 1886, from a vendor identified in Hill's receipts as Randel, Baremore Billings. The industrialist - who built the Great Northern and Northern Pacific railways and became one of the wealthiest Americans of his century - gave the necklace to his wife, Mary."

Distressing Findings for U.S. Rebuilding Efforts in Iraq

New York Times article: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/29/world/middleeast/29reconstruct.html?pagewanted=1&ref=world

Washington Post article: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/28/AR2007042801319.html

Summary: Federal Inspectors assessment of seven of eight recent reconstruction projects financed by the United States in Iraq have fallen into disrepair due to inproper maintenance, raising questions about the claims of rebuilding success made by Bush administration.

The glaring difference in leads between the Times and Post articles immediately caught my attention. The latter goes into great detail about the situation reported on Sunday: "In a troubling sign for the American-financed rebuilding program in Iraq, inspectors for a federal oversight agency have found that in a sampling of eight projects that the United States had declared successes, seven were no longer operating as designed because of plumbing and electrical failures, lack of proper maintenance, apparent looting and expensive equipment that lay idle"

In comparison, the Post lead seems almost vague: "Inspections of eight facilities that were rehabilitated or built as part of U.S. reconstruction efforts in Iraq revealed problems with maintenance that suggest some such projects may not function as long or as well as planned, according to a federal oversight agency."

The New York TImes article also waits until much later in the piece to mention the specific agency conducting the inspections, giving priority to exploring the dichotomy the report suggests in claims previously expressed by the United States. The Washington Post mentions the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction in its second paragraph.

The coverage of the Washington Post article also seems to lay the blame for the downtrodden conditions at the seven projects at the feet of Iraqi maintenance practices. While the New York Times also notes that hospital workers contributed to the rotting of floors by using too much water to clean them, it takes a more objective view in
assigning responsibility.

Ultimately, the New York Times provides the most comprehensive and balanced coverage of the situation, utilizing clearer and more well-rounded reporting, with better attributions and wider prespectives concerning this topic.

April 11, 2007

Story Idea #4

It is approaching nearly 2 years since the The I-394 MnPASS Express Lanes were opened. The first of its kind in Minnesota, MnPASS allowed solo drivers to pay a fee for usage of the road's high occupancy vehicle lane. How has MnPass performed in Mn/DOT's goal of easing congestion and managing rush hour traffic flow? Are there any plans to establish new MnPass lanes on other roads in the state?

Sources:
Lee Munich, Humphrey Institute Director of State and Local Policy Program: (612) 626-6800
Lucy Kender, Mn/DOT Communications Director: (651) 366-4266
Bob McFarlin,Assistant to the Commissioner Transportation Policy and Public Affairs: (651) 366-4806

Story Idea #2

Against the statistical backdrop that homicide is the leading cause of death for people between the ages of 15 and 25 in Minneapolis, the city's Youth Violence Prevention Committee held its first formal meeting today a little over a week ago. Whlie the 30-member committee will spend the next four months compiling information for a report to be released in July, what is being done in the mean time to combat the rising rates of violent crime in
Minneapolis? What makes the pending research more revolutionary than previous fact-finding attempts, and how will it benefit the city? Is the MYVPC simply bureaucratic gloss?

Sources:

Cam Gordon, City Council and Committee Member, 612-673-2202

Karen Kelley-Ariwoola, Vice President of Community Philanthropy for The Minneapolis Foundation, Committee Co-Chair, 612-672-3878

R.T. Rybak, Mayor of Minneapolis and Comittee Member, 612-335-6000

April 9, 2007

Second Gonzales Aide Resigns

New York Times article: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/07/washington/07goodling.html?ref=washington

Washington Post article: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/06/AR2007040600512.html


Summary: Former Senior Counselor for Roberto Gonzales Monica Goodling became the latest high-ranking Justice Deparmtent offical to resign in the light of controversy over the firing of eight U.S. attorneys.

Both papers used hard news leads very similar in content, emphasizing yet another casualty in the on-going debate over the conduct of the U.S. firings.

One of the notable differences between the two articles stemmed from their explanation over Ms. Goodling's refusal to testify in front of a Senate Judiciary Committee investigating the firings of the attorneys. The Washington Post simply states that: "The departure of Monica M. Goodling, 33, comes two weeks after she first refused to answer questions from Congress about the firings, invoking her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination." The New York Post goes more in-depth, explaining how Goodling "notified the Senate Judiciary Committee through her lawyer on March 26 that she would invoke her constitutional right not to testify in the panel’s inquiry about the dismissals — not because she had anything to hide, the lawyer said, but because she did not expect fair treatment in the current climate of political hostility." I felt the Post article called the integrity of Ms. Goodling's character into greater question, especially in conjuction with their assertion of sinking morale in U.S. attorney officies.

Ultimately, I thought the Washington Post article provided better coverage of the event because the body of its article had more comprehensive information surrounding Gonzales' actions and the political manuvering occuring in both parties.


Bail and New Details Released For U Players Accused of Rape

Star Tribune article can be found here: http://www.startribune.com/467/story/1106913.html

Pioneer Press article can be found here: http://www.startribune.com/467/story/1106913.html

Summary: Three University of Minnesota Football players suspected of rape had their bail set to $100,000 Sunday.

Both leads from each article utilized the same concise, hard news leads, and stated that the three players were still awaiting formal charges. The body of both articles also employed a pyramid style structure.

I thought that the Pioneer Press article was ultimately stronger, because it placed information such as, "The reported rape occurred sometime between 10:30 p.m. Tuesday and 9 a.m. Wednesday, according to a police report, though it wasn't immediately clear where," higher in the article than their Minneapolis peer. Since many of the details surrounding the rape case are still foggy, the placing of the limited factual information on-hand towards the beginning of the Press article gave it the upper hand.

U.S. Fails to Prevent North Korean Arms Shipment

New York Times article: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/08/world/africa/08ethiopia.html?ref=world

Washingotn Post article: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/07/AR2007040701365.html

Summary: Administration officials acknowledged that they allowed a North Korean arms shipment to go through to Ethiopia, three months after pressuring the United Nations to enact strict sanctions on North Korea as a result of its nuclear test.

I thought the Washington Post lead was somewhat unclear and confusing: "The United States did not act to prevent a recent shipment of arms from North Korea to Ethiopia, even though sketchy intelligence indicated the delivery might violate a U.N. Security Council resolution restricting North Korean arms sales, Bush administration officials said yesterday." The words "sketchy intelligence" and "might violate" were vague enough to make me wonder if the news value and importance of the event were sufficient.

On the other hand, the New York Times lead: "Three months after the United States successfully pressed the United Nations to impose strict sanctions on North Korea because of the country’s nuclear test, Bush administration officials allowed Ethiopia to complete a secret arms purchase from the North, in what appears to be a violation of the restrictions, according to senior American officials." proved to be much less timid and much clearer. The inclusion of seemingly contrasting actions taken by the government helps the lead greatly.

The primary challenge of this article was explaining the reasoning behind administration officials decision to let the shipment through to Ethiopia. While the Post spent time analyzing the breakdown in communication between varying bureaucratic levels, the New York Times focused on detailing Ethiopia's previous reliance on North Korean arms, and how that reliance affected the outcome. The Times also encompassed the view of a key Ethiopian offical, who stated that, 'we know we need to transition to different customers, but we just can’t do that overnight.'

Overall, the depth of coverage and information present in the New York Times article made the article superior to its Washington Post counterpart.

April 2, 2007

Record Funds for Clinton

New York Times article can be found here: http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/04/01/campaign-cash-clinton-at-26-million/

Los Angeles Times article can be found here: http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-fundraising2apr02,1,7126590.story?coll=la-headlines-nation

Summary: Senator Hiliary Rodham Clinton announced Sunday that her presidental primary campaign has raised $26 million in three months, three times as much as the previous record for a Democratic primary at this stage.

Both articles utilized the same concise, hard-news leads which stated the significance of the $26 million raised by Clinton and were quite similar.

The body of both articles took markedly different approaches. The NY Times article devoted fairly lengthy paragraphs to a variety of points, such as the amount raised raised by other candidates, and the strategy behind the timing of Clinton's release of information. In contrast, the LA Times coverage only briefly touched on the significance behind the numbers, noting Senator Barack Obama's decision to keep his numbers quiet and differences between the primary and general election.

Overall, the New York Times article clearly provided better context and coverage of Senator Clinton's record breaking performance. It did this by providing background information on important perspectives, "In an example of the art of disclosing fundraising figures, Senator Clinton’s campaign declined to disclose how much of the $26 million had been raised for the Democratic primary campaign account and how much for ithe general election, " and supporting it with the importance of such actions, "Under campaign finance laws, a donor can contribute up to $2300 to a primary campaign and, if they chose, up to an additional $2300 for the general election." The Los Angeles Times article merely stated fact without exploring why the facts were newsworthy.

April 1, 2007

Bush Demands Release of British "hostages"

Article from the Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/03/31/AR2007033100198.html

Article from the Los Angeles Times: http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/middleeast/la-033107sailors,1,1641034.story?coll=la-middleeast

Summary: In the aftermath of a meeting with the Brazilian President, President Bush called the imprisonment of 15 British sailors as "inexcusable" and demanded the "hostages" be released at Camp David Saturday.

The lead from the Washington Post was concise and covered all the newsworthy aspects of Bush's statements, basically summarizing the president's position and giving a brief overview the sailors' capture alongside Bush's previous silence.

The following paragraphs in the Post article utilized a few telling direct quotes from the president which enhanced the flow of the article and did a good job of fleshing out the reasoning behind the president's position. The attribution also served as a nice segueway into background and context over British and Iranian manuevering over the fate of the sailors the past week.

The AP article lead was very succinct: "President Bush yesterday said Iran's capture of 15 British sailors and marines was "inexcusable" and called for Iran to "give back the hostages" immediately and unconditionally." I thought the lead was lacked some of the context of the Post article, but it still got the point across clearly and quickly.

Overall, the Post article dealt with the challenges in this issue better by delving into the background to a much greater extent, allowing the reader to attain a fuller grasp of the story while maintaining the impact of the presiden't comments.

March 30, 2007

Story Idea #5

2006 witnessed a notable recession in the U.S. housing market, with dramatic increases in rates of foreclosure and vacancy in comparison to prior years. Minnesota is already lagging behind its neighbors in affordable housing; Rental and homeowner costs are higher, vacany rates are lower, and home prices have increased at a faster rate than surrounding states. Specifically, what is the Minneapolis Public Housing Authority doing to combat this distressing trend in the state's largest city.

Sources:

1. Denise P. Eloundou-- Program Coordinator at the Housing Resource Center-Northeast, 612-378-7985.

2. Cora McCorvey-- Minneapolis Public Housing Authority Executive Director, 612-342-1439.

3. Susan Seel--Assistant to the Executive Director, 612-342-1418.


March 26, 2007

State Guardsman Dies in Iraq

Pioneer Press article can be found here: http://www.twincities.com/localnews/ci_5515504

Star Tribune article: http://www.startribune.com/462/story/1077920.html

Summary: Minnesota National Guard Sgt. Greg Riewer, 28, died from injuries sustained from a roadside explosive device Friday. Three members of his unit were also injured, one seriously.

The biggest challenge I saw in this article was balancing the factual coverage of the soldier's death alongside the profile himself and his family's reaction. The Pioneer Press article clearly concentrated on the emotional effect of the soldier's death on his parents, while the Star Tribune article was built primarily on fact and background.

Despite lacking information such as "Riewer, 28, is the 12th member of the Minnesota National Guard to die in Iraq. About 2,700 Minnesota Guard members are serving there," present in the Tribune article, I think the coverage by the Pioneer Press produced a stronger overall article. The quotes gathered by the author from the victim's parents Iadded a greater degree of humanization to the piece and allowed the audience to empathize with the family.

March 25, 2007

U.N. tightens sanctions on Iran

Article from the New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/25/world/middleeast/25sanctions.html?ref=world

Article from the Washington Post can be found here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/03/24/AR2007032400576.html

Summary: The United Nations Secruity Council voted unanimously 15-0 Saturday to ban all Iranian arms exports and freeze the assets of individuals/entities linked to Iran's nuclear power program.

I thought the differences in lead between the two articles made it difficult to discern which was more effective. For example, the Washington Post lead gave specific details on the impact of the sanctions: "The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously Saturday to approve a resolution that bans all Iranian arms exports and freezes some of the financial assets of 28 Iranian individuals and entities linked to Iran's military and nuclear agencies." However, the New York Times lead chose to emphasize the motivation behind the Security Council's actions:: "The United Nations Security Council unanimously agreed Saturday to impose new, more stringent sanctions to press Iran to suspend uranium enrichment and rejoin negotiations over its nuclear program." Ultimately, the Post lead is more sucessful because it conveys the importance of the sanctions themselves, which is more newsworthy and informative.

The body of both articles both reflected the challenges faced by both authors in capturing the varying motives and attitudes harbored by the voting countries and Iran which lead to the sanctions. The Post article delays mention of the reasoning behind the sanctions until the third paragraph, choosing instead to frame the decision against the backdrop of Iran's detainment of British saliors. While the Times article also mentions that development, they dropped that element to the 6th paragraph, focusing instead on tensions between the West and Middle East, and voicing the concern that Iran has been supplying arms to Iraq. Notably, both articles also adressed the delicate manuevering that occured because of concern from South Africa, Indonesia, and Qatar over the objective of the sanctions.

Ultimately, the New York Times article did a better job of addressing the challenges presented in this issue and more thoroughly examined the various perspectives expressed by different countries before and after the sanctions.

March 23, 2007

Story Idea #3

Although information has not been released for March of 2007 as of yet, the number of rapes reported in the city of Minneapolis declined from 74 for the months of January and February of 2006 to 41 over the same time period this year, a drop of over 40 percent. How have Minneapolis Police Department efforts and implementation of their five key initatives contributed to such a decrease, if at all?

Timothy Dolan, Chief of Police, 612-673-3787
Val Wurster, Deputy Chief of the Investivations Bureau, 612-673-2853
Shannon McDorough, 4th Precinct Crime Prevention Specialist, 612-673-2853

March 9, 2007

Puppy Killer Receives Workhouse Sentence

"A St. Paul man who snapped the necks of 10 puppies last summer has been barred from owning or possessing pets for at least two years."
Article from the Star Tribune can be found here: http://www.twincities.com/mld/twincities/news/local/16864306.htm

Article from the Pioneer Press: http://www.twincities.com/mld/twincities/news/local/16864306.htm

The Star Tribune used a hard news lead and summarized the most significant points of the story concisely. I thought that considering the content of the story, the deicison to use an inverted paragraph was wise. It allowed the author to stay away from sentientalism and simply report the facts.

The Pioneer Press article began with the delayed lead: "A convicted puppy killer who agreed as part of his punishment never to own pets again didn't wind up with a lifetime ban after all." While I liked that the author emphasized the leniency of the sentence, I preferred the Tribune lead because it delivered the facts quicker.

Ultimately, I thought the Pionner Press article was more in-depth and contained better reporting. Information such as: " Despite a plea from Carter's fiancee, Leary refused Thursday to lift a no-contact order barring Carter from communicating with his fiancee until he undergoes treatment." and a clear description of what spurred the pet killer's actions were lacking from the Tribune version. Especially in a story like this, those are vital details.