September 2007 Archives

By the Knife

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The first article, a short, typical crime report on a Pittsburgh robbery, reported that two women robbed a gas station with a samurai sword and dagger in hand.  After tying up but otherwise not harming the clerk, the women took cash and lottery tickets from the gas station.  The robbery took place Saturday morning, and the article was posted an updated Saturday evening on thepittsburghchannel.com.  Because "police investigating the alleged robbery but do not have any persons of interest identified," this crime would fall under the "unsolved or not arrested" portion of the "entry into the system" segment of the US criminal justice system.

 

The feature story I read pertained to the murder of actor Kelsey Grammer's sister in 1975.  Grammer's 18 year-old sister was beaten, rapped, and then stabbed to death by a man that attempted, but failed, to rob the Red Lobster where she worked.  Although this story was published on crimelibrary.com in early September and discussed crime over 30 years old, the news hook is that Freddie Lee Glenn, the convicted killer, is set for a parole hearing early next year.  Unlike my other article, this story covers a convicted suspect who has progressed much further through the criminal justice system.  He would be classified as part of the final "corrections" segment, about to enter the "parole" subset.  From there, he will either leave the system or go through "revocation."

 

Unlike the shorter artilce, this feature story covers much more backround information of the convicted killer and the victim. However, I think the reporter made a misktake when he wandered into a discussin Kelsey's life and profession.  Also, his use of opinionaed phrases and drawn-out transitions. 

Harsh Realities of Crime Reporting

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Although I thought the majority of this chapter on covering crime was informative and useful, I thought some of the advice featured in the "At the Scene" section was a little devoid of basic, human decency and consideration for others.  Although the author advises to, "Try to avoid the wolfpack mentality that many of us have adopted. We'll get our information, quotes and sound bites if we exhibit a little patience." Only a few paragraphs later she says that "wolfpack journalism is a reality on major stories, so you should try to get as much as possible out of that kind of interview."

These and other tidbits of advice offered in this section made me question how far journalists are really encouraged to push the envelope in terms of interviewing the grieving and reporting the details of the latest breaking crime story.  Furthermore, what toll does a regular assignment to the crime beat take on new reporters, since they are the ones most often assigned to this demanding aspect of journalism.  Is the adoption of the "wolfpack" mentality unavoidable, as the author alludes to?  And if so, is it a reasonable sacrifice to make? 

What kind of person does the profession turn you into when a reporter must be reminded that the victims of crimes will likely be visibly upset and that "though we have deadlines, victims or their families have quite a bit to do, too"?

 

During my reading, I found an interesting tie between a topic covered in Chapter 3 and the general area of Journalese covered in Chapter 5.  The Ch. 3 section titled "Try Writing 'Visually'" says a reporter can avoid writing ineffective leads by "being specific and concrete" and that "a clever phrase, a touch of humor, and an ironic contrast help."  This seemed like good advice for a newbie like me, who often really feels what the book calls "The Agony of Square One." 

However, this advice was somewhat complicated by the discussion of Journalese in Chapter 5.  I could easily see my attempts at being clever or humorous down-spiral into a bad case of Journalese, by relying on "particular catchwords and cliches" and generalizing words and phrases like "called for/on" and "concern(ed)."  Reading these chapters together in one assignment helped me clearly see that skills helpful in writing a catchy and effective lead can, if overused, do more harm than good in the body of an article. 

 

 

During my reading, I found an interesting tie between a topic covered in Chapter 3 and the general area of Journalese covered in Chapter 5.  The Ch. 3 section titled "Try Writing 'Visually'" says a reporter can avoid writing ineffective leads by "being specific and concrete" and that "a clever phrase, a touch of humor, and an ironic contrast help."  This seemed like good advice for a newbie like me, who often really feels what the book calls "The Agony of Square One." 

However, this advice was somewhat complicated by the discussion of Journalese in Chapter 5.  I could easily see my attempts at being clever or humorous down-spiral into a bad case of Journalese, by relying on "particular catchwords and cliches" and generalizing words and phrases like "called for/on" and "concern(ed)."  Reading these chapters together in one assignment helped me clearly see that skills helpful in writing a catchy and effective lead can, if overused, do more harm than good in the body of an article. 

 

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The other crime article I chose to read covered the death of five South African students.  The students were killed when their vehicle, which was taking them to school, crashed earlier today. 

An important quote from this article discussed the state of the driver, after explaining the death of the five students and the serious injury of the other three students on board.  The article reads, "The 26-year-old driver of the vehicle was discharged from hospital and detained at the Petrus Steyn police station.  Police were investigating charges of culpable homicide."  Without adding any bias or libel, the reporter alludes to some suspicion surrounding a seemingly tragic, but simple, accident. 

Because this article came from a strictly online publication, the South African Independent Online, I also think it is a testament to the timeliness of online news, which is practically unattainable by even the most current print publications. 

see the original assignment page

testing

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