September 2009 Archives

Looking at the cover of AM New York (Sept 29, 2009), I noticed that it focused mainly on the picture of taxis in order to demonstrate the problems with traffic (which the featured story is about).  It is colorful, and the bright red letters certainly catch the eye.  However, at the bottom of the cover is an ad for a "Parrot Behavior & Training Workshop."  This seemed very out of place, especially since the main story seemed to be very relate-able to the residents of New York, where as parrot training did not.  Well, I guess if you want to read about traffic AND parrot behavior, pick up an AM New York.

The next cover I looked at was The Times (Sept. 29, 2009).  It displayed a large picture of a woman's eyes looking down and her face covered by cloth.  There is no obvious description as to what this picture relates to.  Underneath is an article about a Jet-ski tragedy.  The jet-ski story does not relate to the picture.  At first glance, I thought the picture was there to add to the story, or that the story was there to explain the picture.  However, I am left seeing an article with a random picture of a woman wearing a veil over her face.

Course Page

Quotes out of context is worse than misquoting

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"Next to getting the actual words right, the most important thing is to keep quotes in context.  Failure usually arise from careless compression that makes a statement appear more empathetic than it is" (Cappon 72).

I found this to be a very important tip to remember.  Being misquoted would be annoying, however it would be more annoying to have the quote taken out of context.  It is important to be aware of how, as a writer, you are portraying someone and it is important to provide a truthful portrayal.  Also, it is important to be aware of jokes.  If a writer included a joke somebody made as a serious statement, it will cause some confusion and could offend people.  At least if someone is misquoted, that is not what they said.  But if someone's quote is taken out of context, they did say it, but were misunderstood.

Continue the discussion here

Tone, minus the opinions

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"[The readers] will be the more readily persuaded the less you resort to emotive words, small injections of opinion, knowing winks and lopsided selection of details" (Cappon 55).

It is strange to analyze tone since it is something that comes naturally while writing.  Since tone does come naturally, it would be easy to include certain opinions through word choice without realizing their impact.  I guess in order to avoid this, several other people should proof the article to be sure it is not including opinionated hints.  Nobody wants to read an article with someone else's interjections, unless it is an opinion column.

Continuing discussion on course page

Writing with a sense of place in journalism too

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After reading the on-the-spot articles, I found the Golden Gate Park layoffs article to be helpful in getting a sense of how these articles are written.  It described the location well and really made it part of the story.  This concept reminds me of writing with a sense of place as well as the topic of Regionalism in Literature.  This writer really focused on where she was and how the problems were affecting that specific area. 

I like that this type of writing doesn't exactly follow the pyramid form that other types of articles do.  It starts with important information in the general beginning, and then dwindles to the end.  The loose-ness gives the writer more freedom when writing the lead.  In the Ethanol IndyCars article, the writer began with an interesting detail to pull the reader in and slowly explained information-- rather than fitting as much as possible into the lead. 

Course page

Two crime articles, both a little pointless

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After reading the crime article Would-be robbery victim fights back, I can't help but pick at a few details.  One of those details is the whole point of the story.  Someone was almost robbed.  But he wasn't and no one was hurt.  For some reason, I can't see this as being newsworthy unless it is a slow news day.  Another problem I had with this article were the random details, such as: Greg O'Neil of Indiana, an employee of the Greensburg Eat-N-Park, was exiting his car, intending to make a deposit, when he was attacked by a man who was hiding at the corner of the building.  Why does the reader need to know exactly where he works?  In my previous entry, I commented on a tip to include the victim.  While including the victim in this story makes it more personal, I can't help but laugh at how random this piece of information is used.  It seems as if they needed information to fill space as quick as possible.

Another crime article, Plea deal reached in Jeanette enslavement, kidnap case, focuses on a crime that happened in 2007.  But why is it news?  The newest information presented in this article is that a plea agreement was reached.  This article uses a lot of space and words to provide such a simple update.  There is also one thing that was confusing about this article.  The lead reads: Three family members charged last month with kidnapping and enslaving a 17-year-old-runaway in Jeannette have reached a tentative plea agreement that includes jail time.  By saying they were charged with kidnapping a 17-year-old girl but not mentioning any date of the happening, the news story makes it seem as if the girl is still seventeen.  Later the story refers to the victim as:  In 2007, Cynthia and Mark Pollard Sr., along with their children, Jonathan, Tabitha and Mark Jr., were charged with kidnapping and enslaving 19-year-old Emily Nicely in Greensburg.  Now she's 19?  The article fails with continuity and the girl's age here.

Continue the discussion

Why do we report crime?

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"Always try to tell a crime story in human terms. Do not concentrate all the time on the police or the criminals. Look at what has happened to the victim. Your readers or listeners are more likely to be victims of crime than they are to be either police officers or criminals" (Crime reporting introduction).  

Sometimes people are so caught up in the crime that they forget that the victim is a real person who, up until the crime, most likely lived a life similar to the readers.  This tip links back to what the source said about reporting crimes.  Why do we report it?  "Readers or listeners often want an explanation of why crimes happen. They ask: 'Could it happen to me?' They may want to know so that they can prevent a similar thing happening to themselves."
To me, this would be the main reason why I would want to hear news about crimes.  Therefore, including what happened to the victim could help people understand how to prevent a crime happening to them.  It seems to go both ways.

More crime reporting tips & discussion here!

Portfolio 1: Starting to learn

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This is a portfolio of the blogs I have so far in my News Writing class.  Going into this class, I figured that writing is writing however you put it.  I learned that my assumption was wrong.  There is a different style to news writing than to writing a piece of fiction or an essay.  That is why many of my blog entries focus on helpful pointers I picked from the reading.  I am still learning how the news is written.

Here is a list of all of the entries I have blogged so far...

Misleading headlines and boring stories... what fun. - In this entry, I discuss a daily newspaper and some of the misleading aspects.
Bloated turkeys and oozing sores: The interesting and the unnecessary - Some stories are interesting while some include unnecessary facts.
Fluff instead of fact, why bother? - News stations show too many video clips and don't provide enough information.
This is one of the many reasons why I turn the TV off - A few points I noticed while watching the 11 PM local news.
Drama, drama, drama- The drama in television news is what keeps it interesting.
Convincingly Real- Response to a fake news cast, The ONN.
Famous people are still human, and profiles can remind us of that - In this entry, I comment on the way the author incorporated the human side of Dr. Seuss in this profile.
Differences in structure create a different focus- Comparing news writing to writing an English essay.
Too happy, but still informative- Reflecting on a profile which exalts the subject a little too much, but still provides a great example for the structure of a profile.
Why are notable people more newsworthy? - Wondering why exactly famous people are newsworthy.  I extend the question to peers to help answer my question.
To make up for the lack of quotes from the dead- Benefits of using quotations in obituaries.
Really? Because I don't care- Response to a profile which included a few too many details.
Clear and Concise- A tip I found helpful to keep writing short and specific.  This way, the news can be more straight forward
Active language adds pizazz!- Benefits of keeping writing active and being a lively writer.
Fixing mistakes- Exercise using the AP style tips and my reflection on it.
Bus plunge in Cuba versus in Timbuktu- The effect a countries name can have on the effectiveness of a bus plunge story.
Differences in plunging buses- Comparing two different bus plunge stories.  One is more newsworthy while the other seems to be more of a filler.
Spice up a lead with unique information- A great tip on writing a lead.  Helpful to get started as well as keeping it interesting.
Only 16 words?!- I thought I would experiment when writing this entry by trying to limit my sentences to being under 16 words.  I also reflect on how 16 words seems like more room than it actually is.
The peanut butter and jelly of pitching  a story- When pitching a story, it is helpful to research more into it to have more information to make a case as well as uncovering interesting facts to give the idea a boost.


Misleading headlines and boring stories... what fun. - In this entry, I discuss a daily newspaper and some of the misleading aspects.
This is one of the many reasons why I turn the TV off - A few points I noticed while watching the 11 PM local news.
Differences in structure create a different focus- Comparing news writing to writing an English essay.
Differences in plunging buses- Comparing two different bus plunge stories.  One is more newsworthy while the other seems to be more of a filler.


Really? Because I don't care- Response to a profile which included a few too many details.
Bus plunge in Cuba versus in Timbuktu- The effect a countries name can have on the effectiveness of a bus plunge story.


Fluff instead of fact, why bother? - News stations show too many video clips and don't provide enough information.
Why are notable people more newsworthy? - Wondering why exactly famous people are newsworthy.  I extend the question to peers to help answer my question.


Fluff instead of fact, why bother? - News stations show too many video clips and don't provide enough information.
Bus plunge in Cuba versus in Timbuktu- The effect a countries name can have on the effectiveness of a bus plunge story.
Really? Because I don't care- Response to a profile which included a few too many details.
Why are notable people more newsworthy? - Wondering why exactly famous people are newsworthy.  I extend the question to peers to help answer my question.


Jen's Blog- Discussing how to portray someone in an obituary
Matt's Blog- Discussing when bus plunges actually are filler
Josie's Blog- Discussing fitting two-parted stories into one lead


Writing shorter paragraphs is harder than it seems- This is just a little blurb I choose to blog.  After writing the accident report, I realized exactly how hard it is to limit paragraphs to one or two sentences.
Student struck by car, package stolen as driver helped student- Accident report I chose to post to my blog.
The News and I- My relationship with the news isn't very strong.
The News and I reflections- Reflections to my peers' presentations about their relationships with the news.
Quote of the day! - A blog entry completely unrelated to the class.  It is a quote I really liked and wanted to share.  Hey, this is the wildcard section, I can post what I want!

Click here to see my classmates' portfolios as well.

The peanut butter and jelly of pitching a story

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"You want to pitch a story about a quirky little diner that is shutting after a short but successful run. It doesn't sound like much of a story -- unless you can say that the diner attracted a large clientele from the city's legal community. Or was the only place where homeless people and business people ate, side by side... Or the owner is closing shop because she is going to take the profits and sail around the world" (How to pitch a story)

Not only is it important to have details when pitching a story, but it is also important to have interesting stories.  What will make the story stand out?  It needs details that are unique.  I would assume that an editor is more likely to use ideas if they are interesting in some way since people are more likely to read stories with an unusual twist.  Therefore, finding the details to a story will uncover unique stories which will create stronger ideas.  Details and interesting points, where can you go wrong with that combo?  It's like a PB&J!

Continue discussion here

Only 16 words?!

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"...aim for an average sentence length of 16 to 17 words" (Cappon 37).

While 16 words seems like a lot of room to work with, it runs out fast.  That past sentence was 16 words (counting the number 16 as a word).  It is even more difficult to write a short sentence that is still packed with information.  Considering it is on average, that does leave space to use more words in some sentences. 

I am attempting to write less than 16 worded sentences in this blog entry.  I am finding difficulty describing my ideas fully.  I have to give credit to those journalists who write such short sentences while including important details.  Especially if they do so in such a short amount of time.

Discussion on course page

Spice up a lead with unique information

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"The real key yo lifting your lead out of the humdrum is to ask yourself what is different about each story" (Cappon 27).

I was interested in this tip for two reasons: 

First, it seems like it would be a good starter to writing a lead.  With the few articles I have written, I found it difficult to choose information to include in the lead.  It was difficult to organize the information into something catchy.  This information from Cappon will be great to use the next time I write an article. 

Another reason I was interested in this tip was because it encourages writing the unusual.  People want to hear news that is out of the ordinary, and including what is unique to a story will appeal to the people want. 

Not to mention this will make an article stand out among the other generic war and disaster stories. 

This link will lead you to more discussion

Writing shorter paragraphs is harder than it seems

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I found that one of the the hardest parts of writing a news article is using shorter paragraphs.  When I wrote an accident report article for Newswriting, I had a lot of difficulty keeping each paragraph to one or two sentences.  The essay writer in me wanted to include longer descriptive paragraphs.  I never would have thought using shorter paragraphs would cause me so much distress. 
Well, maybe I wasn't totally distressed but it was certainly more difficult than I thought it would be. 

Student struck by car, package stolen as driver helped student

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Student struck by car, package stolen as driver helped student

An Elizabeth Mount College (EMC) student was injured when she was hit by a vehicle.  As the driver was checking on the student’s condition, a package was taken from his car.

On Monday, Sept. 14, at 8:45 A.M., Carl Klaushammer, a courier from Cairo Transport, was turning his 2004 Ford Taurus onto the east entrance to Alumni Hall Gallery when he struck pedestrian Sharon Pierce.

Pierce, a fourth year undergraduate student, was exiting Collins Hall when she was struck about fifteen feet north of the crosswalk.  She was treated onsite.

When Klaushammer was checking on Pierce’s condition, a package from his backseat was taken.  An officer spotted a man wearing an EMC hoodie running south on College Drive.

A foot pursuit followed when the man would not comply with the verbal orders to stop.  The man turned east onto Backwater Ave. and disappeared into a wooded lot south of the Chemistry parking lot.

The stolen package was from the Chemistry Department and contained research materials promised to the Pennsylvania State Museum of Antiquities.

Elizabeth Mount College’s Secretary Chief Robert Chase said “Mr. Klaushammer was advised to stay alert when driving through campus and to keep important articles locked in his trunk and Miss Pierce was advised to use the crosswalk.”

Ex-3: Accident Report

Differences in plunging buses

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I found some interesting differences between the 20 die in Nepal bus plunge: police story and the 8 injured as bus plunges into canal story.  Two bus plunge stories that I thought would be similar (apart from the bus aspect of course).  The first article is much more traumatic.  Many people died and were found bodies downstream, many people died, and many were missing.  This event could be newsworthy and not just filler considering the sad outcome.  However, the second bus plunge story works only as a filler.  The title says it all.  Eight people were injured.  Other than that, the context is simply unnecessary information, such as "Police said the Khagrachhari-bound bus carrying about 30 passengers from Chittagong skidded off the road and fell into the canal at Mirerkhil, about 20 kilometres off the port city around 8:30pm" (The Daily Star).  This random information is so specific that it seems as though the reporter was digging for anything to say to fill space. 

Which is why the major difference between these two bus plunge stories is that one is traumatic and actually news worthy while the other is truly just filler.

More bus plunge comparisons

Bus plunge in Cuba versus in Timbuktu

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"It was better when buses plunged in countries with short names," he [Siegal] says. "A bus plunge in Peru was infinitely easier to deal with than a bus plunge in Argentina or Paraguay."  (Bus Plunge Blog).

It makes me laugh that the name of a country can effect the bus plunge story.  To me, a bus plunge is a bus plunge.  To a journalist, a bus plunge can be easier depending on the country.  The small details and preferences demonstrate exactly how unnecessary bus plunge stories are.

Plunge into the continuing discussion

Fixing mistakes

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Assistant News Editor, Anne O'Nymous read the article.

Should be: Assitant News Editor, Anne O'Nymous, read the article.  It was missing a comma after the name.


She was highly appreciated by Jameson for solving the problem. "I really appreciate her work ethic and problem-solving ability," said Jameson.

Repetitive.  The paraphrased bit is the same as the quoted.  To fix this, either remove the quote or remove the paraphrase.


Spunky Inkworthy has only written for The Setonian this year, but Obituaries Editor, Lazarus O'Mortigan, was very complimentary towards Spunky's contributions.

Spunky Inkworthy should be referred to as Inkworthy instead of Spunky.


In a telephone call from Head Librarian Marian Paroo, she discussed Inkworthy's contributions.

Should be: In a telephone call from Head Librarian, Marian Paroo, she discussed...  There should be a comma between "Head librarian" and "Marian Paros"


"Here is a quote", said Bill Jones freshman.

Should be: "Here is a quote," said Bill Jones, a freshman.  It was missing another comma in between "Jones" and "freshman."

Course Page

By doing this exercise and learning about the style tips, I discovered that I had been incorrect when it comes to news writing styles.  I am guilty of capitalized major names and class years.  It seems as if there are more details to news writing than regular writing.  But that could be because I am used to essay writing and creative writing and have never really written news before.

Quote of the Day!

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"And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don't believe in magic will never find it."  -Roald Dahl, The Minpins

Active language adds Pizazz!

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"The language of journalism is active... even if the reporter is not an eyewitness-- which is most of the time-- the writing can be active and lively" (Clark & Scanlon 296).

My favorite part of the reading was the section about the language of journalism being active.  Being a creative writer, I was able to easily connect to this.  My stereotype of news articles is that they are a compilation of facts, blah.  That's boring.  But this idea of making the language active is exciting to me.  Lively writing nearly guarantees keeping the readers attention (and the writer's as well).  It also allows room to be creative... while still being objective of course.

Continue the discussion here!

The News and I reflections

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From our group presentations of our relationship to the news:

Angela used a creative way to explain her relationship to the news.  Her story was especially interesting since her grandfather was in the news. 

Katie wrote a short story about her relationship and has not had a completely positive experience.

Richelle also said that her relationship with the news came from her family, but didn't have a connection with the news until this class.

There were a few journalism majors who did not have any relationship with the news.  For example, Megan is a journalism major who does not love or hate the news.

Matt has no time for the news.  I can relate to this.  With college work and normal work and other activities, it is hard to really keep up with the news.  He also had a creative way of expressing his relationship with the news-- through a monologue.

Ashley is on a need to know basis with the news, which is also relate-able. 

Clear and Concise.

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When being "Short, Familiar" and "Specific," Cappon suggests to "Prefer the short word to the long.  Prefer the familiar word to the fancy.  Prefer the specific word to the abstract.  Use no more words than necessary to make your meaning clear" (Cappon 17).

I found this tip to be especially helpful.  When people read the news, they want straightforward information.  These tips would help with better writing in general as well.  Being specific and clear will convey they idea much better. 

Really? Because I don't care.

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"Dressed in a shin-length charcoal dress and wrapped in a multi-colored scarf, Waters sat in a back room on the second floor of her restaurant and, as she talked about her ongoing love affair with clean, healthy foods, sipped on a Blue Bottle Coffee latte splashed with organic Straus Family cream made 60 miles north of San Francisco" (Profile).

In this profile, the writer went into way too much detail.  First of all, it does not interest me what the lady is wearing.  Second, why is it necessary to describe exactly what she is drinking with the exact kind of cream?  And I really don't care where the cream was made. 

If this detail is used to show, I am getting the impression that the lady is picky, since she is described as drinking such a complex drink.  This impression really isn't a positive one. 

The News and I

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My relationship with the news is not very strong.  I will read the news when something big and important happens, when I am passing time at work, and when I search for the comics in the Sunday paper.  I learned how to write a news story once in middle school, but have never written any since then.

The internet is my main source for news.  If I hear of a big story, I will check online before the television, and the I’ll check the television before the paper.  (The television provides news faster than waiting for the paper).  Hearing a story simply by word of mouth is not informative and is often exaggerated.  For example, I was at Kennywood when it was hit by the major storm several years ago.  The other people at the park kept saying that there were dead bodies everywhere.  This however was not the case.  Upon returning home, my family watched the news to learn only one person had died (internet news was not big at that time).

The other reason why I will read the news is to pass time at work.  Since we receive the newspaper where I work, I sift through the pages on my breaks, checking to see if there are any interesting headlines.  Usually I like to read the weather and the entertainment section before any of the hard news.  On Sundays I glance through the headlines on my way to finding the comics.  A story that would interest me would be a major story or a story that is utterly bizarre.  For instance, finding drugs inside live turkeys is an interesting news story.

When it comes to writing news, I wrote one news story in middle school about the SARS virus (which had much of the scare that swine flu does now).  Other than that, I have had no experience writing news.  It is interesting, however, to find that news will often repeat itself over the years.  Similar things will happen, and the news will react to it the in the same way.  For instance, the SARS virus and Swine flu are closely related like any possible pandemic the news reports.

Although I have never written the news and only read it when I am passing time, I still find it interesting.

To make up for the lack quotes from the dead.

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When  it comes to obituaries, including a several voices is important "Letter: Good way to introduce another voice" (Clark and Scanlan 71).  In an obituary, the writer can write about a persons life.  However, just providing facts will not give the obituary a personal touch.  Quoting family members adds the personal touch and letters do as well.  This is an important time to gather quotes from others because, well, you can't interview the deceased. 

Why are notable people more newsworthy?

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After listening to Dr. Jerz's newsworthy mp3, I wondered why exactly notable people are more newsworthy.  It makes sense that disasters that affect many people are newsworthy and that local events that affect people are as well.  They want to learn about this news in order to be aware of what is happening around them.  However, notable people such as celebrities do not necessarily affect people.  Which is why I wonder what makes them so appealing to the news... any thoughts? 

Too happy, but still informative

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This profile written about Dr. Mimi Silbert was too sentimental for my taste.  It starts out with a shocking statement, "Her following includes ex-convicts, former gang members, heroin and crack addicts and prostitutes."  This began to set the tone for the article about a rehabilitative center for people with troubled pasts.  It would be difficult to work in this field, there would obviously be many troubles that would arise.  However, this profile focuses completely on how unbelievably happy everyone is.  While that is wonderful that these people are turning their lives around, the writer is focusing completely on the bliss which makes everything seem too unrealistic and perfect.  There is a difference between being positive and being overwhelmingly gushy...  

Otherwise, this profile gives me a good sense of how to set up a profile.  Including quotes from others as well as facts.  But quotes seem to work better.

Differences in structure create a different focus

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An inverted pyramid is hard to follow after spending years writing academic essays.  I am used to leading the reader into my essay, providing constantly important information, and then concluding smoothly.  Because I have become accustomed to this kind of writing, the idea of telling the most important information first is intimidating.  How can the writer make the rest of the story interesting if they inform the reader of the most important facts of a story in the first few sentences? 
It must depend on: 1. The reader's interest in the subject, 2. The journalist's ability to write the article in an interesting way, and 3. Both of the above. 

The writer of a news story therefore has to worry about different points than the writer of an essay.  It is interesting how the change of structure can change the focus points of the two different writers.

English Essays vs. News Story
Cynthia Gorney's profile of Dr. Seuss, "Dr. Seuss: Wild Orchestrator of Plausible Nonsense for Kids," not only informs the reader of Dr Seuss, but also accentuates his human nature.  The writer includes small details such as "[he] tried unsuccessfully to sell an alphabet book, and then in 1936 laide out the wonderfully paced mad fantasy of the boy named Marco in And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street... 20 publishers turned it down" and "he is a private, engaging, intensely driven man, with a lean and sharp-nosed look that gives him an air of severity at first" (Clark & Scanlon 169-171).

Being one of the most successful children's author of all time, some may think that his writing came easily to him.  However, the writer of the article points out that he was not immediately successful.  She indicates his struggle, therefore including the human part of Geisel into the profile rather than his famous image.  To add more to the personality of Geisel, Gorney describes how his facial features portray him.  She gives the reader this information so that they can visualize the face behind the brilliant books.

Because Gorney is able to demonstrate the human aspect of Dr. Seuss in her profile, she is able to write a relate-able, inspiring and strong article. 

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