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Analysis: Computer Assisted Reporting

The Boston Globe used computer assisted reporting in their investigative series on executive pay in Massachusetts firms.

The story compared two sets of documents: reports on salaries, bonuses, and other pay executives received from companies, and reports on the same information from firms.

The kind of software needed to analyze this information was a program that could compare two sets of data from two different documents by finding the relationship between the two numbers. The reporter needed to be able to enter the information needed from the documents into the software program and then be able to interpret the results. The reporter found that the companies in question made some small and some huge errors in reporting executive pay, often times hugely misrepresenting the salaries.

Analysis: Diversity

I talked with Ali, a friend and student at the U of M, about the Daily's story about the Somalian sex-ring scandal. Ali worked closely with on a project with a local organization focusing on out reach to the Somali community. Ali spent a lot of time interviewing members of this Twin Cities group.

Ali and I found some problems with the article. While the article seems to be sensitive to the community, there are some voices left out. The story includes one spokesperson, executive director of the Somali Justice Advocacy Center, but other Somali voices are left out. We felt that if the article would include some other Somali voices, rather than just an official, it would add depth to its claims about the group.

Yet, Ali said a lot of what the reporter says in the story falls in line with what she has found out about the community (many in the community traveling over with one parent, many young men becoming involved in crime). She also says it would be hard for a reporter to get a lot of Somali sources. In her experience, the community is extremely cautious with the "mainstream" media.

Still, I would not categorize the article in any way racist. It is missing the voice of everyday people, the people that inhabit the community.

Analysis: Numbers

The New York Times' story of banks lending money to assist in lawsuits with hopes of potential earnings uses numbers in a clear, easy way.

First, the story is not about the numbers, rather, it uses the numbers to assist the point that's being made. The story also clarifies the numbers it uses (for example, an interest rate is explained by given the amount of money per month that it garners).

The story does not follow the rule of limiting naming number amounts to two per paragraph, yet the numbers don't bog down the story. The money amounts are always put in a context, i.e. what the bank loaned and what their profit was.

The numbers also serve to tell a larger point about the story, which is that this new trend in lending has led to abuses. The story tells the reader, with numbers, what the importance of the situation is.

Analysis: Obituaries

The New York Times obituary of actress Jill Clayburgh is an example of the death of a notable figure in the community becoming a focused news story with a classic structure.

The Times uses its own archives as a source to chronicle Clayburgh's life and career- drawing on interviews the paper did with Clayburgh herself as well as reviews of the actress' films.

The article begins with the standard Times obituary lead, then into the cause of death, then the claim to fame section, then the chronology of the life, and lastly the survivors.

The Times focuses heavily on Clayburgh's portrayals of modern women, citing her performance in "An Unmarried Women" as an example near the top. The article focuses mostly on her work as an actress, the role she is known in the community for. Yet, the article does not read as a resume listing the actress' work but rather an examination of how she accomplished her craft and what critics and audiences felt about her work.

Analysis: Speeches/Meeting

The Oct. 23 press conference of Wikileaks, a website specializing in "leaked" information, receieved a lot of attention from the media, in which the website detailed instances of death and torture found in classified documents.

Wikileaks released what the organization calls "the largest classified military leak in history," thousands of classified documents detailing the Iraq war, including instances of torture. Wikileaks detailed its information and plan for the press conference in a press release on their website.

CNN covered the reaction to the press conference.

Whereas the press release merely details the information found in the documents that Wikileaks planned on releasing, the news story places that information and the press conference itself in context. It presents varying opinions on the website's decision, reactions to the press conference, and, specifically, reactions to the information presented at the press conference. In other words, in the news story, the press conference becomes not just about the information it presents, but about how the information fits into a larger picture. The news story steps outside the world of the press release and fits it into context.

Analysis: Multimedia

The Pioneer Press and the Star Tribune have comprehensive multimedia sections that are created and maintained by journalists as well as containing a lot of user input.

The Pioneer Press' "Media Cafe" contains photographs, videos, podcasts, and interactive multimedia features. The photograph section is basically comprised of various slideshows that aid the telling of the story, like tours of different facilities and series of profiles. The video section is separated into "local" and "national," but also has a user submitted portion. Writing accompanies almost every piece of multimedia, whether it be in the captions to the photographs or the descriptions to the videos.

The Star Tribune has many of the same features as The Pioneer Press in its multimedia section, as well as a special area called "NewsBreak," a news web series. All of the wriitng that accompanies the multimedia features is very concise and general, providing just enough information for the piece of media to be effective.

Analysis: Spot and Follow

The New York Times' coverage of Liu Xiaobo's winning of the Nobel Peace Prize and the arrest of his wife is an example of major developments in an event driving the release of multiple news stories on the same topic.

The New York Times first published an article focusing on the Nobel Committee's announcement that Xiaobo, an imprisoned Chinese dissident, had won the prize. The article starts with that news bit as the lead and provides context to Liu's situation and the Chinese government's reaction.

Toward the end of the story, the article mentions that Liu's wife was led away by authorities on Saturday.

Two days later, the New York Times has a follow up story, this time with the wife at the forefront. Liu's wife has become the news, therefore it is her detainment that becomes the lead. The article still goes on to describe Liu and put his Nobel win in context of the political climate in China, but the main focus is on what has developed in the story. In other words, a major event drove a major restructuring of this story.

Analysis: Star Tribune's Coverage of Wally the Beer Man

While the Star Tribune's story about Wally the Beer Man's new "gig" has a quick witted tone about it, its structure still allows the article to tell a complete news story.

The lead has a more upbeat and creative language than a hard news lead, yet it gives the reader a complete picture of what is new: Wally's new job at Sneaky Pete's.

Bringing in a quote from the bar's manager is an effective way of putting the story in context while providing the reader with an idea of the politics behind this event: the manager's quote speaks to Sneaky Pete's excitement as well as the incident which led to Wally's new job in the first place.

The quote gives the article a nice starting off point to place the news in a broader context: Wally's permanent suspension from his longtime job as a beer hawker at Minnesota Twins games.

The reporter brings in this backstory AFTER the NEWS has been fully reported.

The article ends by bringing the story back to Wally's current situation, providing a quote by Wally that looks forward to his new job, the original subject of the news piece.

Analysis: Attribution

Attribution is utilized in the Pioneer Press' report of a St. Paul shooting in a professional way, while the Star Tribune fails to clearly name their sources for the same story.

Although the Star Tribune infers that their information comes from a spokesperson from the St. Paul police, the article fails to name a source or directly state "according to police." While the reader can assume that is the source, the article does not have the same professional style that the story for the Pioneer Press contains.

The Pioneer Press first states in the lead that their information comes from the police. In the second paragraph, the story provides the name of the spokesman for the police. In the next paragraphs, the report can refer back to that source, providing clarity and reliability to the story.

Analysis: Lead for Star Tribune's road rage story

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Although the lead for the Star Tribune's story about the sentencing of a Centerville man for a road rage incident definitely summarizes the news and includes important information of the who, what, and when, I feel that the lead also contains more information than is necessary.

The news, of course, is that the man was sentenced to more than seven years in prison, and that is the information that hits the reader's eye first. Yet, the lead goes on to state a play-by-play of the crime he was convicted for, a part of the lead that could be condensed.

This description of the crime could be placed in the second or third paragraph to provide more detail and context to the news, which is the man's conviction. Something as simple as "A Centerville man was sentenced Friday to more than seven years in prison for running a woman down in a parking lot," or "A Centerville man was sentenced Friday to more than seven years in prison for involvement in a road rage attack," would be sufficient.

These leads still give an interest to the story, and would still move a reader to continue to the second or third paragraphs where the full description of the crime can be given.

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