April 2010 Archives

Analysis: Computer-Assisted Reporting

In NICAR's article about the flooding of the Red River in Fargo, multiple computer-assisted reporting techniques are used.
The article is providing resources for covering floods, and uses databases to help cover the flood, localize the story, and allow the reader to see how well-equipped their town is for a flood or other disaster. Tipsheets are also frequently used and cited throughout the article, providing quick and accessible information concerning the flood.
For the article, the writer would need a strong knowledge of databases. They are referenced multiple times, and are crucial for covering floods. Databases such as Storm Events, the National Inventory of Dams and the National Bridge Inventory are relevant resources to the article and the flood coverage.
Besides knowing how to access databases, knowing how to navigate them is crucial as well. They can sometimes be overwhelming, and the writer would need to know which databases to use and how to extract the most important information from them. Knowing how to use them properly will allow the writer to communicate why they are helpful, and explain the importance to the reader.

Driver flashes three young girls in Maplewood

Police are looking for a young man who exposed himself to three 9-year-old girls in Maplewood on Wednesday night, the Star Tribune reported.
The girls were playing in the area of Maple Lane and Standridge Avenue at about 7:30 p.m. when a car pulled beside them. The driver then exposed his penis, and yelled at them to "get in the car", according to police.
The man made no physical contact with the girls or attempt to pursue them any further.
The man is described as in his late teens, white, with curly bands and medium-length brown hair. He also may have some facial hair and a medium build, police said.
He was driving a silver four-door sedan with a black stripe along the side. The brand, model, and license plate number are not known, the Pioneer Press said.
Anyone with information or reports of suspicious activity should call the Ramsey County Emergency Communications Center at 651-767-0640.

Hot air balloon crash kills 2 near Dubai

Two people were killed after a hot air balloon carrying 14 people crashed Sunday morning in the desert in Dubai, the Associated Press reported.
Authorities said the accident happened at 6:45 a.m. near a pair of villages surrounded by farmland and about 45 miles south of Dubai.
At least two other people were injured in the crash, including a ground crew member from Tanzania, who is in serious condition.
The identities of the victims have not been released, but they are of Indian and French nationality, the New York Times said.
The other passengers were taken to a hospital in Al Ain, a nearby oasis city on the border of Oman.
The balloon was operated by Balloon Adventures Emirates, and a representative for the company said a sudden change of wind struck the balloon as it was landing. The balloon took off despite light winds, but gusts picked up greatly after takeoff, forcing an emergency landing.
The company has suspended flights for the coming days, and authorities are investigating the crash.

Oil rig blast in Louisiana leaving behind serious spill

The United States Coast Guard said Saturday that oil is leaking from a damaged well that fed a rig that exploded last week of the coast of Louisiana, the Star Tribune said.
The bad weather in the area has prevented clean-up efforts, and fears of the damage to the area's marine ecosystem have increased.
Officials say the leak could have begun as early as Thursday, only two days after the explosion, the New York Times reported.
The Coast Guard and officials estimate that more than 1,000 barrels of oil has escaped each day. A sheen of oil has grown at alarming rates as well, and now stretches over 20 miles wide and long on Saturday.
The rig could have as much as 700,000 gallons of diesel on board.
BP, which released the rig, has taken the lead in the cleanup and said it has started an oil spill response to clean up the spill.

Six killed in head-on crash near Cambridge

Six people, including three teenagers, were killed in a head-on crash west of Cambridge, the Pioneer Press reported.
The Minnesota State Patrol says one of the drivers, a 16-year-old girl who got her license less than three weeks ago, was hospitalized in serious condition.
According to the partrol, the 16-year-old was driving a car carrying four passengers headed west on Highway 95 when it collided with a sports utility vehicle heading east. No one in the car was wearing seat belts.
A patrol spokesperson said a 15-year-old-girl, two boys, ages 16 and 17 years old, and a 21-year-old man in that car were killed.
The two people who in the other vehicle, an Oldsmobile Bravada, also died and were severely burned, the Star Tribune said.
The crash occurred at 2:40 a.m., and the identities of the victims have not been released. The roads were wet at the time of the crash.

Woman shot dead, husband injured in St. Paul

A woman was shot dead and her husband was shot and seriously injured in a St. Paul home Sunday morning, the Star Tribune reported.
Police said the gunfire happened in the 1700 block of Minnehaha Avenue. The 25-year-old woman was killed and her husband, 27, was seriously wounded with a leg injury. The man was taken to Regions Hospital, where he was treated and released. He was then brought to police headquarters for questioning.
Sergeant Paul Schnell said no further details were known about the circumstances leading to the shooting or who fired the shots.
Police were notified of a suspected burglary around 6:30 a.m., and were informed of the shooting as they were on their way to the house, the Pioneer Press said.
Only the husband and wife were home at the time of the shooting. Schnell said.
"The circumstances of this shooting remain a major focus for investigators," Schnell said. "At this point, we simply do not have enough details to be able to speak with any certainty about the circumstances or the public risk."

Pope meets with abuse victims in Malta

Pope Benedict XVI met privately with a group of victims of sexual abuse by priests in Malta, the BBC reported.
The Pope expressed "shame and sorrow" over their plight, and had tears in his eyes during the emotional meeting.
The meeting took place at the end of the Pope's visit to Malta, and he met with eight Maltese men who said they were molested by priests as youth in the 1980's and 1990's in an orphanage.
"He prayed with them and assured them that the church is doing, and will continue to do, all in its power to investigate allegations," the Vatican said.
The church has recently come under scrutiny over allegations that it covered up sexual abuse of children by priests and failed to punish pedophile priests and removed them from working with children, the New York Times said.
This was the first time the Pope had met with alleged victims since the allegations came out this year.

Larry King to divorce for seventh time

Larry King filed for divorce on Wednesday from his seventh wife, Shawn King, the Associated Press reported.
Larry King filed only hours before Shawn King filed her own petition, citing "irreconcilable differences" as the reason for ending their 13-year marriage.
Larry King's spokesperson, Howard Rubenstein, told People magazine, "his major concern is the welfare of his children, and beyond that he's not going to comment about the divorce."
According to the divorce filing, Larry King is seeking shared custody of their two sons, Cannon, 9, and Chance, 11. He is also asking the court to deny his wife any spousal support. Shawn King is seeking sole custody of the children.
Rumors have circulated that an affair between Larry King and his wife's sisters was the reason behind the split, but Shawn King's sister denied this Wednesday.
The couple married in a hospital room in 1997 shortly before Larry King underwent surgery to clear a clogged blood vessel.

New York teen charged with threatening a school shooting

A 17-year-old boy from Long Island has been charged for threatening to go on a shooting spree at his old high school on the anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre, the New York Times reported.
Nathan Myres, of North Massapequa, was arraigned on a charge of making a terroristic threat on Saturday.
He attended Plainedge High School until he transferred to a special needs program earlier this year.
A teacher heard several students discussing a rumor that was circulating the school that a former student was planning an attack. The teacher told the principal, who in turn called the police.
Detective Lt. Kevin Smith said police have not found any weapons and it is possible Myers was just trying to scare former classmates.
Myers remained in custody Saturday, where his bail was set at $25,000, the Associated Press said.

Shoreview woman arrested for paying to have girlfriend beat

A Shoreview woman has been charged with paying someone to beat her girlfriend, who was killed three years ago, a year before the slaying, the Star Tribune reported.
Dianna M. Siveny, 50, was charged in Wisconsin on Friday with solicitation of substantial battery and being party to criminal damage to a property. She was arrested Friday in Ramsey County and was then held before transferring to Appleton, Wis., where she used to live.
Prosecutors say Siveny and her daughter paid a man $300 in 2006 to attack Lara Plamann, her domestic partner, with a baseball bat.
The man admitted to investigators that he was told to break bones and inflict substantial damage, but did not because another person was at Plamann's home at the time of the planned assault.
Plamann died in October 2007 after she was shot in the head. Her body was found in a shed at the Greenville home she shared with Siveny, the Pioneer Press said.
No charges have been filed against Siveny in connection with Plamann's death, but the investigation is still continuing, according to Outagamie County district attorney Carrie Schneider.

Husband kills wife, then himself in Columbia Heights

A man shot his wife and then himself Saturday afternoon in front of a Columbia Heights restaurant, the Star Tribune reported.
Construction crews nearby heard gunshots around 10 a.m., and police received calls about the shots shortly thereafter.
When police arrived they found two people dead of what appeared to be gunshot wounds. Police described it as a domestic incident, and said it only involved the husband and wife.
The shooting occurred in the parking lot of Asia Chow Mein shortly before it was supposed to open. Police believe they pulled into the parking lot and then killed each other, the Pioneer Press said.
Authorities did not identify the victims Saturday, but they are believed to be Josef and Natalia Tomasovic.
Police said a motive for the incident was unclear but a relative said Natalia had made plans to leave her husband.

Missing journalist found with throat slit

The body of a kidnapped Mexican journalist was found with his throat slit, the Associated Press reported.
Enrique Villicana Palomares, a columnist for the The Voice of Michoacan newspaper, was reported missing by his family last week after not showing up to a writing class he taught.
Federal prosecutors said in a statement his body was found Saturday in Morella after a ransom was demanded. It was unclear whether the ransom was paid.
Investigators did not know if Palomares was targeted because of his job as a journalist, but his family said Palomares had written columns about attacks by armed groups, the New York Times reported.
Palomares is at least the fifth reporter killed in Mexico this year. His employers had notified state authorities a few weeks ago about threats made against him.

Rochester man praised for saving 17 abandoned puppies

A Rochester farmer is being praised for helping save 17 abandoned puppies, the Associated Press reported.
David Distad said he was walking home from visiting his brother Thursday when he noticed several puppies.
He says he saw the young puppies in a culvert, and some were lying on the ground while others were running around.
Upon finding them, he called Paws and Claws Humane Society in Rochester. Rachel Ramin and her manager arrived shortly thereafter, and initially thought the puppies were dead, she told WCCO.
"And we just started wrangling them up, getting down, giving them happy voices, so they weren't scared to come to us, since they didn't know who we were," Ramin said.
The puppies were very thin and hungry, and were brought to the shelter in a car.
The puppies are 2 to 4 months old, and expected to be available for adoption in a week.
Ramin credits Distad for saving the lives of the puppies and finding them when he did.
"It did turn out well. These guys are pretty lucky to be where they're at now," she said.

One killed, several injured in shooting at Oklahoma mall

One teenager died and several people were injured after gunfire broke out inside an Oklahoma shopping mall Saturday, the Associated Press reported.
Five people were taken to a hospital and police sectioned off Arrowhead Mall in downtown Muskogee. The area was particularly busy with people attending the annual Azalea Festival in the city.
It is not known whether the person killed, Jarrod Reed, 17, of Muskogee, was a bystander or one of the several people involved in the shooting, police said. The conditions or identities of the other victims have not been released.
Three people were being sought for questioning as of late Saturday.
Shoppers were told to leave the mall quickly around 4:15 p.m. through an announcement, and several witnesses said they had heard several gunshots inside the mall. Witnesses said people began screaming and a group of men began shooting.
Witnesses told police they thought it was a gunfight, police said. Gunfire was reported in other areas of the city after the mall shooting, but it had not been confirmed, the New York Times said.

Man arrested after standoff with police in Cottage Grove

A 28-year-old man from Cottage Grove was arrested by police after a four-hour standoff with police at his house with a 2-year-old child inside the house, the Star Tribune said.
The girl was not hurt during the standoff and was returned to her mother, according to police.
Cottage Grove police were sent to the 7400 block of 96th Street after 11:30 p.m. Friday night after reports of gunshots were reported. When police arrived, they spotted a man who lived at the home at the back of the house and heard another gunshot.
When police tried to confront the man, he went inside the house, and refused to come out. Police eventually made contact with the other people in the house, and two woman and an infant left the house, but a 2-year-old girl was still inside the house, the Pioneer Press reported.
The Washington County Special Response Team surrounded the house and tried to contact the man. Eventually they obtained an arrest warrant and entered the house around 3:45 a.m. Saturday.
The suspect was taken into custody and booked into the Washington County jail in Stillwater.

Woman dies after rescued from Hugo pond

A Lino Lakes woman died Saturday evening at a local hospital several hours after her SUV plunged into a pond in Washington County, the Star Tribune reported.
Sheriff's deputies were called Saturday afternoon to Oneka Parkway and Frenchman road, where they discovered the car was underwater.
A dive team from Washington County was called in and rescue workers were able to pull Debbie Joy Porterfield, 42, from the Ford Explorer by breaking a passenger window and pulling her out. She was the only passenger in the car.
Porterfield was taken to Regions Hospital in St. Paul. Although she initially had a pulse, she was not breathing on her own, and later died at the hospital, hospital officials said.
The SUV was removed from the pond, and investigators are investigating how the car entered the water, the Pioneer Press said.

Analysis: Numbers

In an article about low numbers of veterans applying for better benefits, numbers are used accurately, effectively, and emphasize the point.
In the lead, they use relational terms, saying that only "a fraction" of veterans have applied for an increase in benefits.
However, from there, they become much more specific. The reporter states that only 921 out of 77,000 veterans have applied for these benefits.
The author also discusses disability ratings in the article. The author makes sure to explain what this is, and what the ratings mean, so as not to confuse the reader. Thus, a rating of under 30 percent disabled with less than 20 years of service receive only a one-time severance payment. Without this explanation, I would have had no idea what this rating meant, or its importance.
The reporter used some math, mainly to calculate percentages throughout the article. Percentages are used often, and effectively emphasize points.
The source of the numbers all come from the Physical Disability Board of Review, and this is stated directly in the article.

Officials fear ship will break apart on Great Barrier Reef

A ship carrying coal in Australia that strayed from its shipping lane was leaking oil on the Great Barrier Reef and was in danger of breaking apart, the Associated Press reported.
The Chinese Shen Neng 1 ran aground on Douglas Shoals, a part of the reef that is protected and where shipping is restricted.
Authorities are scared an oil spill will damage the world's largest coral reef, and a police boat was standing by in case the ship broke apart to evacuate the crew.
Some oil was seen near the ship, which hit the reef at full speed, early Sunday but there was no major oil loss reported, the BBC said.
A salvage contract had been signed, but authorities worry the operation could spill more oil. Other options are being considered, and state authorities were assessing the effect the coal could have on the reef environment if the ship broke before the cargo could be removed.

Four killed, two injured in Los Angeles shooting

Four people died and two were injured at a shooting at a restaurant in North Hollywood, the New York Times reported.
Investigators believe the victims in the shooting at Hot Spot Cafe were targeted, and are investigating the situation.
Los Angeles police responded to an emergency call Saturday afternoon at the mediterranean restaurant but the gunmen had fled by the time they arrived.
A Los Angeles police officer said two people were taken to the hospital, where one died later. A fifth person remains in critical condition, the Associated Press reported.
Police are searching for the gunman, who is described as a 30-year-old male.
"We don't have a crazed gunman running around North Hollywood that presents an immediate threat to public safety, to anyone in their homes or businesses in the area," Deputy Chief Kirk Albanese said. "However, this is also not a random act of violence, this was an intentional act."
A motive for the attack was not known.

Faribault woman still missing after car lands in river

A 20-year-old Faribault woman is still missing in the Cannon River after being swept away, and authorities say hope is fading as rescuers continue to look for her, the Pioneer Press reported.
Brittney Landsverk was a passenger in a car that crashed into the river Friday at 5 a.m. Another passenger in the car managed to pull her out but Landsverk fell back in.
Rescuers searched all day Friday for her, but were forced to stop searching at night. Searching resumed on Saturday, but returned empty handed.
The driver, 21-year-old Mitch Bongers, was in critical condition at a Twin Cities hospital. The other two passengers were not injured, the Star Tribune said.
Rice County Sheriff Richard Cook said rescuers were fighting against a strong current, nearly freezing water temperatures, and a river as deep as 12 feet in some places.

Small plane crashes in Eden Prairie; two injured

A twin-engine airplane crashed Thursday after take-off from Flying Cloud Airport in Eden Prairie, the Pioneer Press reported.
The pilot, Alvin Bites, 56, and passenger, Timothy Jacobson, 58, were rescued from the plane by emergency workers and remained conscious and alert. They were taken to Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis, and were in stable condition as of Thursday night.
The crash occurred around 2:50 p.m., when the Beechcraft plane headed to New Richmond, Wis., ended up partially submerged after landing in a swampy area along the Minnesota River. The plane had just taken off from the airport when it lost power and crash-landed, the Star Tribune said.
The cause of the crash is under investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration, and a spokesperson for the FAA said the plane was owned by a Farmington company.
The plane was said to be in good condition, and it was unclear whether the breezy weather at the time was a factor.

Kowalski's Market recalls some hams

Kowalski's Markets have issued a voluntary recall of some hams that may be contaminated with Listeria, a bacteria that causes flu-like symptoms, the Star Tribune reported.
All hams under the private label "Kowalski's Signature Smoked Ham" with the sell-by date of May 14 have been recalled, according to the grocer's Web site.
The store has also recalled Kowalski's Signature Smoked hams with a sell-by date of April 23 through May 22 as a precaution.
Lorentz Meats, the producer of the hams, believe they have recalled all products in question, and estimate there are no more than 100 hams affected that Kowalski's sold.
Customers who purchased one of the recalled hams can receive a full refund of call 651-755-2400 for a replacement ham delivered by Kowalski's.

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