April 29, 2007

Shock Over Historical Society's Sale of Sapphire

Article from the Star Tribune can be found here:

Article from the Pioneer Press can be found here:

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."

April 9, 2007

Bail and New Details Released For U Players Accused of Rape

Star Tribune article can be found here:

Pioneer Press article can be found here:

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.

March 26, 2007

State Guardsman Dies in Iraq

Pioneer Press article can be found here:

Star Tribune article:

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 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:

Article from the Pioneer Press:

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.

February 5, 2007

Teacher Accused of Molestation

An article by the Pioneer Press, "Two girls allege fondling at art class," talks about the arrest of an art teacher who used to give private lessons at the University of Minnesota after two woman came forward and accused him of sexually touching them from 1999 and 2001.

The lead used by the author in this story is generic and uses a passive verb in its first sentence. The rest of the article is comprised mainly of fact and reads of little more than a collection of hard news.

The Star Tribune lead focused the impact of the story in its lead by noting the suspect was a Falcon Heights man and displaying that his victims were children.

While both of the articles were short, the one by the Pioneer Press version contained slightly more information and covered both sides of the story, and included a quote from the principal of the school where the suspect taught who stated he was a good teacher that had never received any prior complaints.

January 29, 2007

Man Responsible For Death Receives 1-Year Sentence

Summary: The family of a St. Paul man expressed outrage after a judge sentenced the man responsible for his death to one year in jail Friday. Feon Stone, 21, admitted to fatally punching Chris Beck, 29, in exchange for a plea deal that lowered the charges against him from murder to manslaughter. Beck confronted Stone outside his brother's house on Aug. 23 after a realtive informed him someone was trying to break in. He later died of head injuries sustained in the ensuring fight.

The article by the Star Tribune used a hard news lead and maintained a surpinsingly dispassionate tone considering the content. While the story contained the necessary facts, it also paid great attention to the response of family members to the verdict. The author stresses the departure from state sentencing guideines for manslaughter in this case; normal procedure calls for a seven-year sentence. Paul Gustavson highlights the frustration of the victim's family and difficulty of securing a desirable verdict with a quote from Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner:

It certainly is unusual for us to enter into a plea agreement that is substantially different than their expectations. The reality of this case, though, is that there was a signifiant risk that [Stone] would be acquitted in a trial. Then he would have no consequences.

The same story covered by the Pioneer Press utilized a markedly different approach. Instead of a hard news lead, the author starts with a one word quote from the victim's mother. I felt it was a compelling way to introduce a story and prompt the reader to continue reading. A major difference between the coverage of the Star Tribune and Pioneer Press was the latter's inclination to use direct quotes, instead of simply using the author to relay a statement. For example, both articles contained the words, "Life is cheap in Minnesota." However, it only appeared as a direct quote in the Pioneer Press. While a minor difference, it imparted a more visceral feeling and allowed me to sympathise with the victim's family more easily. Both leads emphasize the distress of family members in response to the verdict, so the ability to extract emotion from the reader benefits the coverage in this case.

Overall, the Pioneer Press did a better job than the Star Tribune in almost every way. The Pioneer Press version even contained useful information lacking from the Tribune edition; Stone is already credited for 157 days in custody. An apology by Stone is also absent from the Star Tribune article.