September 2009 Archives

Spot the Hard News

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I guess that this exercise shows you that while it is a good idea to follow all of the rules for news writing, there are situations that call for a different approach to news reporting.  While not hard news, these topics are worth covering.  More along the lines of human interest pieces, these news articles bring a greater understanding of an on-going issue to the reader, rather than reporting on a single event.

For the article about the Golden Gate park layoffs, a hard news story of the layoffs featuring only the facts and statistics about the problems facing the San Fransisco Recreation and Parks department would be unremarkable, and probably relegated to the back pages of the newspaper.  However, by showing how the layoff will effect different members of the department, the article allows the reader look beyond the numbers, and gives them the chance to learn more about an issue they would have never have been fully informed of by a hard news article.

Crime Pays, for news writers at least.

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I thought that the most interesting part of this reading on crime reporting was the "Why report crime?" section.  It was nice to have a more in-depth explanation about why crime is reported, beyond the normal adage "If it bleeds, it leads".  While crime is often grim, people do need to be aware of what is happening around them.

I thought it was also informative how the author of the article broke down the types of crime reports into types such as new, unusual, or significant.  Crime it's self is not very significant, since there are many minor laws people break on a daily basis, often without even realizing they are doing so.  Understanding what crime stories are worth writing is more important than how well the actual article is written.

The Art of the Crime Report

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While maybe not related directly to the project, I thought that I might know of two of the alleged assailants in these two articles.  The person in the "Would-be robbery victim fights back" article matches the description of a mallrat I would see over the summer.  I don't know who he is, but I would always see him sneaking into the movie theater, and he tried to ask my friends to buy him beer a few times.  He always wore a bandana, and the crime scene from incident is literally a stones throw from where I would see him.  From the picture given in the story, the 20 year-old male suspect in the enslavement case looks like a person who went to my high school.  He would regularly wear women's "hip-hugger" jeans, use clown make-up to paint a beard on his face, and he would growl at anyone who would walk past him.

But I was very impressed with the "Would-be robbery victim fights back" article.  I find that there is a subtle art to writing crime reports.  While they may seem mundane or uninspired at times, it takes a talented writer to balance all of the criteria needed for a proper news article with the limited amount of information given.  This article satisfied all of the requirements, along with being entertaining.  The author of the article applied the inverted pyramid style, the 5 W's (and one H), presented the story in an unbiased fashion, and kept it at a short 8 paragraphs in length.  The tone was still professional, but the author still managed to present the story in a way that you could visualize the incident occurring.  Many times with crime/accident reports, the article contains little more than a short description of the incident ("An unidentified man was shot") with the result ("He is in stable condition").  I felt that the other story was hard to follow, but there was a lot of information that didn't really make all that much sense to begin with, and the author had to include much of what was covered from before.  I guess this would be an example of when it would be beneficial to a talented news writer to have less information to write an article with.

Portfolio 1:

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Blogging for me has been a mixed experience so far.  I feel that blogging is useful for promoting discussion, in and out of class, and it is a great medium for sharing ideas.  But it is very time consuming to write on original blog, comment on someone else's blog, comment on people who have commented on your blog, and then comment on people who commented on the comments you left on other people's blogs.  I understand Dr. Jerz's sink-or-swim approach to blogging (and his class in general), but it has been a little hard to adjust to spending more time on blogging than I do for any of the work I do in any of my other classes.  While so far this has been a difficult experience, I believe that my experience with blogging overall has been a positive one, and I feel that I have a better understanding of news writing because of blogging.  I'm getting the hang of this blogging stuff in general too.


For the Coverage section, I responded to the human-interest article we read about Dr. Suess in Human Interest Gives us a Rare Glipse into the Human Condition, and how the article we read

For In-Depth section, in Technology and News: From Gutenberg to Google, I brought in my experiences as an audio engineer, as well as relevant information about an article I read outside of class, to the discussion about news layout.

For the Interaction section, I wrote a blog about writing at The Setonian, When Playing by The Rules Will Get You Far, which was commented on by one of my editors at the paper.

For the Discussion section, one of my blogs, "A man was killed on Friday, Police said he died on Friday," started a small discussion about repetition in News articles.

Most of the blogs I posted were done before class, but my article for Timeliness is the article I wrote the furthest before the deadline, "A man was killed on Friday, Police said he died on Friday."


            For The Comment Primo, I was the first to write a comment on April Minerd's blog entry Bite-sized News, that started a small discussion about bus plunge stories in the age of internet news.

            For The Comment Informative, I commented on Jessica Krehlik's blog entry Crunch Time News.  She had mentioned that she and other classmates of ours had never heard of a bus plunge story before, and I offered my thoughts on the possible reasons for that.

            For The Comment Grande, I commented on Kaitlin Monier's blog entry, Differences in plunging buses.  I talked about the reasons why some bus plunge stories take priority over other ones.


Bus Plunge: Illness or a Symptom?  I felt I analyzed the assignment for this blog entry better than I did for my other articles, and I brought some interesting insights into the discussion (although no one commented on it).

-Andrew Wichrowski

Commas, and when to use them, or when not to.

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Writing sentences that are too long has been a problem of mine for over a decade.  In elementary school, I can remember that I was obsessed with commas, often writing whole paragraphs as one sentence.  As I later learned the fundamentals of when to use commas, I would often write sentences that were (technically) grammatically correct, but would have upwards of 7 to 8 commas.  While today I still write sentences with many commas, I generally try to limit the commas I use for the news articles I write.

While Chapter 4 was insightful as far as in how to effectively use commas in news writing, I felt that the author should have focused a more of the chapter on why not to use too many commas.  Cappon mentioned that shorter sentences can be more effective, but didn't elaborate much.  Most newspapers have a goal of writing articles in an 8th grade reading level, and excessive use of commas often defeats that purpose.  It is also important that the writer of the news article make sure that what they are writing is completely factual.  Writing sentences that are too long often increases the chances that something you write will be misconstrued, as well as put the reader to sleep.

Original Assignment

"A man was killed on Friday. Police officals said he died on Friday."

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The most interesting section I read in Chapter 3 was "Pitfalls of Attribution".  Cappon talked about how authors of news articles will often make the mistake of repeating information, most often restating the lead in the second and third paragraphs.  The reason I found it interesting was because I was thinking of this problem in my writing the night before when I was completing the fictional accident report.

With the information that was given, I thought it would be best to keep the story as short as possible.  If it were a real-life situation, since the incident was very insignificant, a longer story might draw ire from either the victim or Cairo Transport (or both).  But in my efforts to stream-line my article, I noticed that I repeated some information from paragraph to paragraph.  While I can't think of any particular time when I made as bad of a mistake as some of the examples provided in the chapter, it is something I can recall being a problem in my writing in the past.  Details like making sure that you don't repeat information are what set apart the more talented writers from the adequate, and this article has made me take a look at how I can improve my writing.

Original Assignment

Student pedestrian struck by car at local college

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Student pedestrian struck by car at local college


Steamsburg, Pa - On the morning of September 14th, a student of Elizabeth Mount College (EMC) was struck and injured by an automobile while walking on campus.


Driver Carl Claushammer, courier for delivery company Cairo Transport, collided with Sharon Pierce, a senior at EMC, as she attempted to cross a roadway near the Alumni Hall campus building at 8:25 a.m.


An ambulance was called to the accident site, and Pierce was treated for her injuries.  She declined to receive further treatment at a local hospital.


Claushammer made an accusation that a package he was in possession of was stolen during the incident, but efforts by campus police to locate the parcel were inconclusive.


Pierce was not using the designated crosswalk near the building at the time of the incident.

Original Assignment

Technology and News: From Gutenberg to Google

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Reading Dr. Jerz's comment about the effect of digital technology on the job of layout editors made me think of an article I read about The Beatles recently.  John Lennon, unsatisfied with the mixes made for Strawberry Fields Forever, had his engineers take a recording from an earlier take in a different key and a different speed, and mix it with a more recent session.  While that was unheard of during that time (not to mention mind-numbingly complex), modern computer DAW recording programs can perform functions like those in as few as two clicks (if they don't do it automatically).


I don't need to explain the effect technology has had on how we live.  As few as 50 years ago, someone like the fictional character Dick Whitman could easily change his name to Donald Draper, without much of a problem.  Now, you can find more information you would ever want to know about someone in a few short keystrokes.  Technology, from graphic design programs to Google, has lead to great leaps and bounds in the effectiveness and ease of news writing.  It is interesting to think how technology will effect how news is written and consumed in the next few years.

Original Assignment

Bus Plunge: Illness or a Symptom?

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The first thing I noticed was how similar all of the bus plunge stories were to each other.  While I still am only going to focus on two stories, I am sure the comparisons between the two stories I chose would still be relevant to most any bus plunge story that occurs in a foreign nation.  But the two stories I chose were "Five children killed in bus crash" (from China) by United Kingdom based Press Association, and "Peru bus crash kills 22, injures 31" (from Peru) by USA Today.


The first thing I found that the stories had in common was their length.  The two stories were only five paragraphs in length, and were around 125 words long.  The paragraphs in "Five children killed in bus crash" were only one sentence in length, while the first and third paragraphs of "Peru bus crash kills 22, injures 31" were two sentences long.  Both stories noted or implied that the accidents were part of a larger problem in those nations.  "Five children killed in bus crash" also contained a grammar error.


Like I mentioned earlier, all of these stories occurred in foreign counties.  I'm sure that a bus careening off of Martin Luther King bridge in St. Louis wouldn't be relegated to a five-paragraph story tucked into the back corner of A14.  I also noticed that most of these bus plunge stories originated from were countries with less developed infrastructures, and that the tragedies were somewhat commonplace.  How are accidents like these handled by the news in places where a bus plunge isn't all that unusual?


And another thing to look at, there were two stories about a person in a bus plunge in a foreign country (who were from the same country as the news organization), that were both over two to three times longer than any of the other bus plunge stories.  "Peru bus crash kills 22, injures 31" only added an extra sentence to the first paragraph to note that "two Dutch tourists and a Colombian" were also killed in the crash covered.

Original Assignment

AP Style Tips: Exercise

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The first sentence should read:

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

The author should include some information more relevant to the article than that she "read the article".  Maybe include a quote to get her reaction.

The second should read:

    "I really appreciate her work ethic and problem-solving ability," said Jameson.

The quote should come first, even better if it is it's own paragraph.  The first part of the sentence should be omitted because it is redundant, and just paraphrases the speaker.  Also include the full name and description of the speaker if this is the first time they are mentioned.

The third sentence should read:

    Although Spunky Inkworthy has only written for the Setonian this year, Lazarus O'Mortigan, Obituaries Editor for the paper, spoke highly of Inkworthy's contributions.

"Although" and "only" might be perceived as biased, but most likely can be included in this situation.  Name first, description second.  Always use last name instead of first name when subsequently referring to a person in the article.

The fourth sentence should read:

    In a telephone conversation with Marian Paroo, Head Librarian at Seton Hill University, Paroo discussed Inkworthy's contributions.

Try to use pronouns as little as possible.

And the last sentence shouldn't be included at all, since it is completely irrelevant, but the proper form would be:

"Here is a quote," said Bill Jones, freshman at Seton Hill University.

Group 1 Reactions: "News and I"

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Group 1 Reactions

Wendy: Wendy made a well-designed PowerPoint presentation for her project.  I liked how she incorporated her personal story about the news coverage of the events on September 11th, 2001, and how it shapes her current perception of the media.

Jen: Jen's take on the news was very interesting, as her experiences with a local newspaper remind us how flawed or inaccurate any type of news coverage can be.

Aja: Aja's presentation was unique in that she broke-down her daily news consumption.

Josie: I thought that it was very creative how Josie wrote a play about her admittedly lacking relationship with the news.

Mike: Mike's presentation was very insightful, that he didn't consider himself as much of a news buff, but shared with us his experiences of being in a foreign country and how being disconnected from world events effected him.

Michelle: I liked how Michelle incorporated many of the recent celebrity news in her presentation.  While many people don't view this as hard news, it often is what is reported on many news stations.

Greta:  I liked Greta's perceptions about newswriting vs. creative writing, and how she wrote a poem about newswriting for ironic effect.

Jeanine: Jeanine made an interesting news article for her project, an interview where she interviews herself about her relationship to the news.

Derek: Derek's project was very flashy, keeping in with the style of television news.

Malcolm: I liked how he talked more in-depth about how the negativity of news affects us all.  Nice Whodini reference too.

Diana: I liked how Diana made comic strips to illustrate how she relates to newspapers.

Assignment: "The News and I"

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For the most part, I find reading, watching, or listening to news enjoyable, but news consumption is something I am rarely able to fit in my day.  I can't honestly say that I don't have the time to read a newspaper or watch T.V., and it's not that I don't stay current with events in our country and from around the world, but I haven't found a news format that fits my needs.  While I do not utilize any particular news sources on a regular basis, I do prefer some formats over other ones available.


By far, my favorite news source is radio, specifically, National Public Radio.  I find that I always feel informed, and even entertained, by the programming on NPR.  Morning Edition is always what I view hard news should be, concise, direct, and unbiased.  All Things Considered is always engaging, and I feel that I always take something away after listening to the show.  NPR was the first news source that got me interested in news, and I am rarely disappointed with the range or the depth of their coverage.  However, the aspects I like about NPR news radio are negated by having to listen to any amount of Jazz or mind-numbingly bland Adult Alternative from the local member stations.


Television is always more convenient than radio, but it always leaves something to be desired.  I find that the 24-hour news channels often focus on a story barely worth mentioning, and spend hours covering it (similar to the comic strip we viewed for the class, A Famous Person Has Died by John Campbell).  There are also very few news programs that attempt to be balanced or unbiased, such as The Rachel Maddow Show, Hannity, Lou Dobbs Tonight, The Daily Show with John Stewart, and Real Time with Bill Maher.  While these shows are often entertaining, and can even offer in-depth coverage of the news, programs available often wantonly blur the lines between opinions and facts.


While I like the idea of print news, I don't particularly like reading newspapers or online news sources.   I feel that the content in the local papers is somewhat lacking, that the articles are longer than necessary, and there is too much bias presented in the opinion sections.  News sites are often confusing, with old and new news mixed together, and it can be hard to read on a computer screen for periods longer than a few minutes.  Online news can also be extremely biased, such as the Drudge Report or The Huffington Post, and it is often easier to find opinion than credible news sources.

When Playing by The Rules Will Get You Far

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Although I admittedly didn't do as well as I could have achieved in my High School newswriting class, I found that what I did learn about writing for newspapers and other publications made a lasting impact me.  When I recently volunteered to contribute an article for Seton Hill's student-run newspaper, The Setonian, I found that I needed little to no refresher to get myself up to speed with newswriting.


The element of newswriting that stuck with me the most (and also turned out to be the most useful) was the inverted pyramid.  While I did need to look-up the five W's and other guidelines, I was able to easily and accurately recall the principals of the inverted pyramid I learned almost half a decade ago.  State all of the most important information in the first sentence, with the most crucial supporting information in the first paragraphs.  Everything else follows, ending with the least important information and quotes at the end of the article, to give the editor(s) the flexibility to chop off the end of the story if they need to make space.  Following these rules, I easily turned my big mess of notes, ideas, and quotes into a fairly concise news article with a minimal amount of room for error.

Human Interest gives us a rare glimpse into the Human Condition

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If you would have said the phrase "Human Interest" to me before I read this chapter, you would not have garnered much of a positive reaction from me.  Dog befriending Duck, Dog befriending Elephant, Dog nurses Kittens, or any other combination of Dogs, Kittens, or any other cute animal that not only barely passes as newsworthy, but also serves as the antithesis of Hard News. However, this chapter introduced me to a less common form of the Human Interest piece, one that actually focuses on human beings.

The example given to us in Chapter 7 is a 1979 article from The Washington Post, entitled "Dr. Seuss: Wild Orchestrator of Plausible Nonsense for Kids".  While I never thought that there was much meaning behind much of the famed author and illustrator's work, this article gives us a look into Dr. Suess's "Plausible Nonsense".  The article opens with a story told by the author about a seemingly inconspicuous pile of turtles that he once drew, that he used to explain Hitler's rise to power in Europe.  The story showed that he not only had a great understanding of culture and society, but that he often put much more meaning in his stories than what was readily apparent.  While it would normally take several hundred pages of a long, drawn-out biography to bring a reader to an understanding of a person like this, this article did so in only a few hundred words.  It is human interest pieces like this that give us a brief, and enjoyable glimpse into (instead of a long, awkward stare at) a person's life.