St. Lawrence University has been increasingly attacked by “phishing emails,” which attempt to garner personal information by tricking individuals. The repercussions of the phishing, however, have magnified across St. Lawrence, affecting both those who have responded and those who have not responded to the phishing emails.

Rhett Thatcher, manager of St. Lawrence’s server group at IT, believes that the primary targets and victims of phishing emails have been students. However, he adds that there is not one group of students more prone to reply. “Responses were fairly evenly distributed amongst all class years,” he said.

Within the last month, Information Technology (IT) confirmed that at least 48 individual email accounts were compromised after their owners gave out personal information. The perpetrators of this attack then used the compromised accounts to send out almost half a million spam emails.

Phishing involves using a fake website to lure people into willingly giving out personal information, such as passwords and social security numbers. Phishing is commonly confused with hacking. Hacking, however, involves bypassing security systems to get the same personal information.

John Johnston, a senior at St. Lawrence University, owned one of the 48 email accounts that was compromised. According to Johnston, the aftermath of the phishing emails was primarily just an annoyance. “Only thing that happened was a bunch of emails were sent out, no serious problems,” he said. Johnston does contest, however, that he did not give out his password, and he is unsure of why his account was targeted.

Clare Kelly, a sophomore at St. Lawrence University, is another victim of the phishing scandal. While Kelly’s email account was not directly compromised, the phishing caused her to miss out on a job opportunity. “I knew that the spam emails were trying to convince students to accept a ridiculous job offer—something like 300 dollars a day,” said Kelly. “So, when I got an email about a real potential summer internship, I deleted it thinking it was spam. I didn’t want to be tricked.”

 Thatcher, however, believes that there is a simple solution to the phishing: “Never send your password via email and never click a link in an email and provide your password.” He believes that the more people who fall into the phisher’s trap, the more phishing emails St. Lawrence will receive. “It only takes one user replying to one email to wreak havoc,” he said.

 Cameron June’14 and Kate Lagios ‘14 are eager for the phishing to stop. June says, “I’m tired of continuously getting spam emails or emails about spam. They get sent to my phone, and I feel like I never stop buzzing.” Lagios added, “I understand that it is a serious problem and we need to be informed, but I’m just hoping it stops sooner than later.”

Thatcher guarantees that phishing is not simply a St. Lawrence problem. He acknowledges that universities are the most common targets, but hopes that can help IT solve the issue sooner. “We’re all learning from each other in developing ways to effectively combat this issue,” he said.

A group of faculty is proposing to add a sustainability requirement to St. Lawrence’s distribution requirements. Proponents hope to expose St. Lawrence students to the interdependence of humans and the natural system. Simultaneously, advocates of the sustainability requirement believe that a course focused on sustainability will help St. Lawrence create a cohesive marketing image for future students.

“Just as we believe that every student should have exposure to a humanities and social science course,”said Mary Hussmann, a professor in the English Department, “we believe that everyone should have a sustainability course.”   Hussmann acknowledged not only that the school has adopted the Climate Action Plan and the sustainability requirement would be a great way to support it, but also that the university advertises location and outdoors and the sustainability requirement would be a great way to supplement those marketing tools. The St. Lawrence website even advertises the school as “an ideal location.”

In fact, the implementation of a sustainability requirement has been suggested before. Eve Stoddard, a professor in the Global Studies department, was part of a group that previously attempted to execute a sustainability course. In response to the recession, Stoddard’s group was trying to “brand St. Lawrence,” while creating a more conducive learning environment. According to Stoddard, sustainability “seems like something that students at St. Lawrence are committed to.” She believes that a focus on sustainability would be an intriguing way to attract students.

After a faculty caucus, however, Stoddard’s movement came to a halt. “I think a lot of faculty members want to have fewer requirements,” she said. She also added that many believed St. Lawrence did not have the resources to fulfill the requirement. For example, the faculty seems concerned that there would not be enough teachers qualified to teach the courses. It is important to note, however, that while both proposals contain sustainability requirements, they are not identical.

According to Hussmann, the sustainability component could now be fulfilled in a plethora of departments, meaning it would not be extremely difficult for students to complete the distribution or for the school to afford the distribution. In fact, Hussmann struggled to think of any department that could not incorporate a course that would fulfill the requirement. Even without sustainability as a distribution requirement, over 60 percent of students have taken a course that would fill the potential obligation.

Robert Thacker, an academic advisor, echoes the idea that a sustainability requirement would be rather easy to fulfill. He concludes that the only distribution requirement that is particularly difficult for students to fulfill is arts and expression. According to Thacker, “AEX has become a bottleneck,” meaning when students want to accomplish their AEX requirement, they have trouble finding the course.  He concludes that a sustainability course would not have the same problem, as sustainability is more interdisciplinary.

The implementation of a sustainability course is far from definite. The faculty still needs to vote on the plan, and they might reject it. Even if it is passed, it would have to get approved by the state. Therefore the earliest a sustainability requirement could possibly be added to the distribution requirements would be the fall of 2013. According to Thacker, for that to happen “the stars would have to align.”

The St. Lawrence Admissions Office mailed out the last enrollment decisions on Friday, March 16, marking the conclusion of the first year of its new admissions policy. The Policy was enacted to reduce the University’s deficit. The long-term implications of the new policy, which will ultimately admit more students, particularly more full-tuition students, are controversial. While the Admissions Office claims to be devoted to the integrity of St. Lawrence, some members of the community have raised concerns that the policy could inhibit students’ learning and living environment.

Jeff Rickey, vice president and dean of admissions & financial aid, claims that the Admission’s Office had “no trouble meeting—or exceeding—the quality of students [they] wanted.” Statistically, the mean GPA of admitted students is the same as it was a year ago. The average class rank and mean SAT/ACT test scores of admitted students are greater this year than last year. Rickey does acknowledge, however, that these are the statistics of accepted students, not enrolled students. Therefore, the statistics might not effectively represent the quality of students that will decide to come to St. Lawrence.

Despite the rising test scores, many remain apprehensive about the influx of new students, claiming they will overcrowd the community. Fred Exoo, chair of the Admissions and Financial Aid Committee, fears that the new policy will increase the number of students in the classroom and create a lack of community space. “It is easier to teach and learn in smaller classes,” Exoo said. “As the number of admitted students grows, there is less opportunity for small classes.” He added: “The lack of lounges and public space causes problems that are antisocial.”

While Exoo recognizes the gravity of these possibilities, the prospect of diverting back to what he refers to as “the poison ten” is worse. This term refers to the late 80s and early 90s, when the University was tuition desperate and willing to admit full pay students that would not normally qualify. Exoo hypothesizes that the University accepted a portion of these full-pay students despite the fact that they were not morally adequate, which helped create a culture of superiority, where the fraternity system “ran things on sexist and elitist values.” During this time, it was not uncommon for students “to trash fraternity houses, the campus and other students.”

Unlike during “the poison ten,” the Admission’s Office claims that it is unwilling to accept morally bankrupt individuals—regardless of the potential economic profit. “Because we do a holistic review, we look for signs of character and civility,” Rickey said. “We would never knowingly admit a student we know to be problematic to the University.”

Exoo expressed that some potential effects of the admissions policy could have been avoided if the school was willing to cut the budget, rather than accepting more students in an attempt to get more tuition. Widespread budget cutting, however, was rejected quickly—before extensive debate of what would be cut. Even as increased admission has been unable to completely stop the deficit, St. Lawrence chose to raise the tuition instead of undertaking massive budget cuts.

Failure to cut the budget and rising tuitions are not a St. Lawrence phenomenon. Don Soifer, from the Lexington Institute, asserts that budget ambiguity is a major public policy issue. “We have seen the tuition growth in particular, but have little information about the changes in the budget,” he said. While he does not believe in big government, Soifer contends that the government has a responsibility to ensure clarity. “Subject those who increase their tuition to increase transparency in their budget as well,” he argues.

The idea that government should interfere with tuition, however, is not a universal idea. George Leef, from The Pope Center, believes that the government should have no influence over college and university politics. He refers to previous government interference as one of the “greatest national mistakes.”

Specifically at St. Lawrence, however, the consequences of the new policy will show with time, as the plan cumulates the number of students each year. “It is still early in the game,” Exoo said. “We just finished the first year of a four year plan.”

With the recent increase in gasoline prices, the Keystone XL Pipeline has become a prominent political issue, which has accentuated the differences in conservative and liberal perspectives on how the pipeline will affect gasoline prices, the job market, and the environment. According to conservatives, the 1,700-mile pipeline from Alberta, Canada, to Texas refineries, would create job security and decrease gasoline prices, while having little impact on the environment. According to liberals the pipeline is not guaranteed to sufficiently change the job market or gasoline prices, but the pipeline will have significant environmental impacts.

Nicolas Loris, a conservative Herbert and Joyce Morgan Fellow at The Heritage Foundation, contends that after a three-year review conducted by the Department of State, it is apparent that “the Keystone XL Pipeline poses no significant threat.” According to Loris, environmental activists’ “relentless opposition” has exaggerated the risks associated with the implementation of the pipeline. Loris does, however, acknowledge that, “with any environmental project, there are some risks.”

Loris believes the risks associated with the pipeline are minimal enough to be outweighed by the significant advantages of Keystone XL are worth its construction. Loris believes that one of the noteworthy advantages to building the pipeline is the effect the pipeline will have on gas prices. He argues, “The best way to combat rising oil prices is to raise the supply.” Currently, he suggests that most effective way to raise the supply is through the completion of the Keystone XL Pipeline. Loris does not believe, however, that the pipeline will always be the most efficient way to create energy: “I will happily switch over, when biofuels become competitive in the market. For now, oil is the most economical.”

The other major upside of building the pipeline, according to Loris, is the jobs the pipeline will create. “It is wrong to only look at how many jobs would be created,” he said. “Whether 500 or 5000 jobs are created, the increase in jobs will add value to our society. I think it is important to consider the value added.”

Conversely, Daniel J. Weiss, a liberal Senior Fellow and Director of Climate Strategy at the Center for American Progess, contends that there are significant environmental risks associated with the implementation of the pipeline: “There are two elements of KXL that are risky.  First, its route through Nebraska is undetermined.  It is unclear how far it will be from either the Ogallala Aquifer or the Missouri River.  A pipeline spill could harm either of these two water resources that are vital for agriculture.   The second is that the pipeline would enable oil sands production to double, which would produce significantly more carbon dioxide pollution.”

Weiss also believes that the implementation of the pipeline would not significantly affect the price of gasoline. While Weiss acknowledges that the pipeline would create around 6,000 jobs, he does not believe that is a sufficient reason to risk environmental catastrophe, adding, “It will not enhance our energy security since there is no guarantee that the refined products made from the oil sands shipped through the pipeline will be sold in the U.S. instead of exported.”

Alison Walter, secretary of the Environmental Action Organization, also opposes the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline. Like Daniel Weiss, Walter believes the extensive environmental risks of the pipeline outweigh the potential economic gains. Walter adds that insufficient knowledge contributes to the support of construction saying, “I think that the majority of the people who support the pipeline believe that it will create a significant amount of new jobs and lower fuel prices. From the evidence that I have seen, both of these claims are false. I find it hard to believe that oil companies would be supporting the construction of the pipeline if it would lower domestic fuel prices, as it would decrease their profit and they don’t want to lose money.”

The contradicting viewpoints of conservatives and liberals stem from their conflicting political interests. While the liberals’ voting base is filled with environmentalists, the conservatives’ voting base consists of large business—many oil businesses would benefit from the implementation of the pipeline. There has still been no final decision regarding the pipeline.

Public speeches and meetings are vital aspects of journalism, as “many news stories report what important or interesting people say in speeches or the actions people take at public meetings” (Bender et al. 323). Journalists, however, only report on the most newsworthy speeches and meetings. In fact, many news organizations publish two stories on important public speeches and meetings: one story before and one after. The story that airs before the meeting is called an advance story, while the news story that airs after the meeting is called a follow story (Bender et al. 323).

            Michelle Luo’s article, “Top Obama Adviser to Appear at ‘Super PAC’ Meeting,” is an example of an advance story, as Luo reported on the ‘Super PAC’ meeting before it occurred. Like all advance stories, Luo’s article emphasizes what will happen, when and where it will happen, and who will be involved (Bender et al. 324). First, Luo addresses when the meeting will happen, recognizing in her introduction that the meeting will occur on Friday night. To answer what will happen, Luo acknowledges that the event is to raise money for President Obama’s campaign, stating that “Democrats gird for a financial arms race against powerful independent groups on the right” Then, later in her article, Luo addresses where it will happen and who will be involved: “The meeting in the Bay Area is for Priorities USA Action, a super PAC set up by Mr. Obama’s former aides.” Similarly, Luo answers other crucial questions in her advance story, such as the event’s sponsor: “It is being organized by Steve Westly, a venture capitalist and major fund-raiser for the Obama campaign in both 2008 and 2012.”

            Perhaps the most successful aspect of Luo’s story, however, is the effectiveness of her lead: “The leads for advance stories should emphasize what is important and unusual, not just the fact that someone has scheduled a speech or meeting” (Bender et al. 324). Luo’s lead acknowledges the most unusual part of the Super PAC meeting, which is that David Plouffe, one of Obama’s political advisors, will attend.

            Ashley Parker’s article, “Romney Trying to Recast Wealth to Be Seen as Asset,” however, is a follow story, as the Parker conveys important information about Mitt Romney’s public speech in Idaho Falls, Ohio a day after the event. Although Romney’s speech included many major topics, Parker decided to emphasize one—how Romney addressed his wealth—and address others—such as gas prices and employment—later in the story. Parker is not the only journalist to utilize this structure, as the structure is a common solution to addressing complex speeches: “If a speech or meeting involves several major topics, select the one or two most important topics and summarize them in the lead. Summarize the remaining topics (rarely more than two or three) in the second and third paragraphs” (Bender et al. 326).

            Similarly, Helen Cooper’s article, “Obama Revs Up Oratory, Reminding Autoworkers of Bailout,” is a follow story, as the article conveys information about a speech President Obama had already given. Although some leads that are written about speeches can be “so broad they contain no news,” Cooper successfully “[emphasizes] the most newsworthy information” in her lead (Bender et al. 327):  “President Obama channeled his 2008 campaign persona on Tuesday, using an energetic speech before the United Auto Workers conference to remind Michigan on primary day that he helped save the auto industry with a controversial bailout even as Mitt Romney was calling for the leading car companies to seek bankruptcy.”

            The main difference between Cooper’s article and Parker’s article is that the speech Cooper was covering only had one major topic, while the speech that Parker was covering had many. This meant that Cooper could implement a different writing style then Parker: “If a speech or meeting involves one major topic and several minor topics, begin with the major topic and, after thoroughly reporting it, use bullets or numbers to introduce summaries of the minor topics in the story’s final paragraphs” (Bender et al. 326).

            While all three of the reporters utilized different writing styles, each reporter effectively kept their “readers in mind, clarifying issues so that readers can understand how events will affect them and their neighborhood, city or state” (Bender et al. 331).Within each story, the reporters addressed the broader implications of the speeches and meetings.

Using Quotations

February 27, 2012 | | 365 Comments

Journalists must provide information to a wide audience, while continuing to be coherent and interesting. To effectively do this, journalists utilize different writing styles—the inverted-pyramid, the hourglass, the focus, and the narrative—depending on the story. While introductory students are commonly taught to rely on the inverted pyramid, as it allows them to decipher between what is and what is not newsworthy, experts utilize all four styles of writing.

The New York Times staff is credited for its ability to write a successful news story, as the staff can interest readers by presenting information effectively. Three articles, written on Sunday, February 19, 2012, convey The New York Times’ ability to grasp readers’ attention and present information. The three articles also utilize dissimilar bodies to present the information, showing how stories can be presented differently.

Kevin Sack utilizes the focus style in his article, “60 Lives, 80 Kidneys, All Linked.” In the focus style, a reporter “begins with a lead that focuses on a specific individual, situation, or anecdote and uses that to illustrate a larger problem” (Bender et al. 214). That is exactly what Sack does, as he opens his story by examining the actions of Rick Ruzzamenti: “Rick Ruzzamenti admits to being a tad impulsive. He traded his Catholicism for Buddhism in a revelatory flash. He married a Vietnamese woman he had only just met. And then a year ago, he decided in an instant to donate his left kidney to a stranger.”

Then, in the nut graph, where the journalist states the “central point of the story and how the lead illustrates that point,” Sack identifies Ruzzamenti’s role in what became a domino effect of transplants, as kidneys were donated to various people across the country (Bender et all 211). In the body, Stack identifies the central point of the story, which is simply the medical significance of implementing such a large exchange of surgeries and the technological advancement that made it possible. Finally, in the kicker, which is the section that “brings the story to a conclusion,” Stack once again refers to Ruzzamenti, as it points out that Ruzzamenti’s kidney now resides in New Jersey, when originally it resided in California.

Conversely, Michael D. Shear utilizes the inverted-pyramid style of writing in his article, “Rising Gas Prices Give G.O.P. Issue to Attack Obama.” The inverted pyramid allows reporters to “arrange information in descending order of importance or newsworthiness” (Bender et al. 203). In the opening paragraph, also known as the lead, Shear addresses the most important aspect of his story: “Rising gasoline prices, trumpeted in foot-tall numbers on street corners across the country, are causing concern among advisers to President Obama that a budding sense of economic optimism could be undermined just as he heads into the general election.” By the end of his story, however, Shear refers to less news worthy information from years earlier: “In the spring of 2010, debt crises in Europe, slowing stimulus spending and weakness in the housing market brought an abrupt halt to a brief turnaround in the United States economy.”

Shear’s use of he inverted-pyramid has some advantage, as it “allows someone to stop reading a story after only one or two paragraphs yet still learn the newest, most newsworthy and most important facts” (Bender et al. 204). However, there are also many problems with the inverted style, as it can be difficult to follow, redundant, and “discourages [reporters] from trying new styles” (Bender et al. 204).

Steven Erlanger, on the other hand, utilizes the hourglass style in his article “Iran Suspends Shipments of Oil to Britain and France.” The hourglass story combines the best aspects of the inverted pyramid style and the narrative styles, as the hourglass story has three parts: “an inverted pyramid top that summarizes the most newsworthy information, a turn or pivot paragraph and a narrative” (210). Erlanger starts by discussing the impact of suspending shipments of oil to Britain and France, as it is the most relevant and newsworthy information. However, Erlanger then utilizes a pivot paragraph to begin discussing the history of Iran’s relationship with both countries: “Britain, France and Germany are also the European nations negotiating with Iran on its nuclear program in the talks that also include the United States, Russia and China, and are chaired by the European Union policy chief, Catherine Ashton.” The most important aspect of an hourglass story is the effective use of a pivot paragraph, which Erlanger seems to have mastered. Lastly, Eranger presents the story in chronological order, examining the history of the three countries, in the narrative.

 

 

Writing the Body

February 19, 2012 | | 46 Comments

Journalists must provide information to a wide audience, while continuing to be coherent and interesting. To effectively do this, journalists utilize different writing styles—the inverted-pyramid, the hourglass, the focus, and the narrative—depending on the story. While introductory students are commonly taught to rely on the inverted pyramid, as it allows them to decipher between what is and what is not newsworthy, experts utilize all four styles of writing.

The New York Times staff is credited for its ability to write a successful news story, as the staff can interest readers by presenting information effectively. Three articles, written on Sunday, February 19, 2012, convey The New York Times’ ability to grasp readers’ attention and present information. The three articles also utilize dissimilar bodies to present the information, showing how stories can be presented differently.

Kevin Sack utilizes the focus style in his article, “60 Lives, 80 Kidneys, All Linked.” In the focus style, a reporter “begins with a lead that focuses on a specific individual, situation, or anecdote and uses that to illustrate a larger problem” (Bender et al. 214). That is exactly what Sack does, as he opens his story by examining the actions of Rick Ruzzamenti: “Rick Ruzzamenti admits to being a tad impulsive. He traded his Catholicism for Buddhism in a revelatory flash. He married a Vietnamese woman he had only just met. And then a year ago, he decided in an instant to donate his left kidney to a stranger.”

Then, in the nut graph, where the journalist states the “central point of the story and how the lead illustrates that point,” Sack identifies Ruzzamenti’s role in what became a domino effect of transplants, as kidneys were donated to various people across the country (Bender et all 211). In the body, Stack identifies the central point of the story, which is simply the medical significance of implementing such a large exchange of surgeries and the technological advancement that made it possible. Finally, in the kicker, which is the section that “brings the story to a conclusion,” Stack once again refers to Ruzzamenti, as it points out that Ruzzamenti’s kidney now resides in New Jersey, when originally it resided in California.

Conversely, Michael D. Shear utilizes the inverted-pyramid style of writing in his article, “Rising Gas Prices Give G.O.P. Issue to Attack Obama.” The inverted pyramid allows reporters to “arrange information in descending order of importance or newsworthiness” (Bender et al. 203). In the opening paragraph, also known as the lead, Shear addresses the most important aspect of his story: “Rising gasoline prices, trumpeted in foot-tall numbers on street corners across the country, are causing concern among advisers to President Obama that a budding sense of economic optimism could be undermined just as he heads into the general election.” By the end of his story, however, Shear refers to less news worthy information from years earlier: “In the spring of 2010, debt crises in Europe, slowing stimulus spending and weakness in the housing market brought an abrupt halt to a brief turnaround in the United States economy.”

Shear’s use of he inverted-pyramid has some advantage, as it “allows someone to stop reading a story after only one or two paragraphs yet still learn the newest, most newsworthy and most important facts” (Bender et al. 204). However, there are also many problems with the inverted style, as it can be difficult to follow, redundant, and “discourages [reporters] from trying new styles” (Bender et al. 204).

Steven Erlanger, on the other hand, utilizes the hourglass style in his article “Iran Suspends Shipments of Oil to Britain and France.” The hourglass story combines the best aspects of the inverted pyramid style and the narrative styles, as the hourglass story has three parts: “an inverted pyramid top that summarizes the most newsworthy information, a turn or pivot paragraph and a narrative” (210). Erlanger starts by discussing the impact of suspending shipments of oil to Britain and France, as it is the most relevant and newsworthy information. However, Erlanger then utilizes a pivot paragraph to begin discussing the history of Iran’s relationship with both countries: “Britain, France and Germany are also the European nations negotiating with Iran on its nuclear program in the talks that also include the United States, Russia and China, and are chaired by the European Union policy chief, Catherine Ashton.” The most important aspect of an hourglass story is the effective use of a pivot paragraph, which Erlanger seems to have mastered. Lastly, Eranger presents the story in chronological order, examining the history of the three countries, in the narrative.

The Lead

February 12, 2012 | | 87 Comments

Journalists have the daunting task of capturing readers’ attention, while maintaining credibility. To effectively do this, journalists present the most interesting and newsworthy aspects of the story in the first paragraph or two, which is commonly referred to as “the lead” (Bender et al. 148). A well-written lead presents the central point of the article, but it does “not hide the subject with unnecessary or misleading words and phrases” (Bender et al. 148). There are multiple methods, however, for writing an effective lead. While every story must answer who, how, where, why, when and what in the regards to the story, “the lead should answer only the one or two questions that are most interesting, newsworthy, and unusual” (Bender et al. 148). The journalists, therefore, have the freedom to decide what belongs in the lead, making every lead a little different.

The New York Times staff is renowned for its ability to write an effective lead, as the staff can interest readers, while presenting the most central point of the news story. Three articles, written on Sunday, February 12, 2012, convey The New York Times’ ability to grasp readers and present information. The three articles also illustrate different styles for introducing news stories—as each writer utilizes a different type of lead.

Katharine Q. Seelye utilizes the immediate identification lead in her article, “After Three Losses, Romney Edges Past Paul in Maine.” The immediate-identification lead immediately answers who partook in the story (Bender et al. 149). Seelye employs the immediate-identification lead not only because the subject of her story, Mitt Romney, is important and well known, but also because knowing the name of the main subject is vital in understanding the significance of the story.

Seelye’s lead says, “Mitt Romney averted embarrassment on Saturday when he was declared the winner of a presidential straw poll in Maine’s nonbinding caucuses.” If Seelye had utilized the delayed-identification lead, her introduction would have read something like “A republican frontrunner averted embarrassment.” Journalists use the delayed-identification lead when “the main subjects are not as important as what those people did or what happened to them” (Bender et al. 149). However, in this case, the main subject is a vital aspect of the story, making the immediate-identification lead appropriate.

It is interesting to note, however, that Seelye does not use active voice in her lead when she says, “he was declared the winner.” While Reporting for the Media says journalists should use “strong, active and descriptive verbs rather than passive ones,” Seelye seems to believe passive voice is useful in her lead. Seelye does, however, keep her lead concise. Seelye’s lead is 20 words, while the book suggests that an average lead should be 18 to 20 words (Bender et al. 152).

Liam Stick and Neil MacFarquhar, however, lead their article, “Arab League Requests U.N. Peacekeepers for Syria,” with what is called a “blind lead.” Blind leads “hold back details so that the reporter can get to the central point of the article more quickly” (Bender et al. 150). While Stick and MacFarquhar’s article quickly states that members of the Arab League wanted the United Nations to “send a peacekeeping mission to Syria,” and members of the Arab League want “Arab nations to sever diplomatic relations with the country in an effort to pressure it to end violence there,” the article avoids mentioning who said what. Rather, the Stick and MacFarquhar address that later in the article in the “catchall graf.” A catchall graf “usually follows the blind lead to identify sources and answers questions created by the lead” (Bender et al. 150). The reason Stick and MacFarquhar utilize the blind lead is because the “who” is not as important as the “what” and “where.”

Similarly, utilizing the blind lead in Stick and MacFarquhar’s article helps the writers stay fairly concise, as they can avoid long introductory clauses. This is important because long introductory clauses “clutter leads, burying the news amid a jumble of less significant details” (Bender et al. 151).

Rod Nordland, however, utilizes a completely different lead in his article “Risks of Afghan War Shift From Soldiers to Contractors.” While the previous two articles utilized some variation of a basic or “hard lead,” Nordland utilizes an alternative lead, also referred to as a “soft lead.” His article begins with an anecdote: “Even dying is being outsourced here. This is a war where traditional military jobs, from mess hall cooks to base guards and convoy drivers, have increasingly been shifted to the private sector.” Later in his article, he goes on to discuss his central point—the deaths of contractors who work as diplomats body guards. This type of introduction, commonly referred to as a “buried” or “delayed” lead, allows Nordland to “surprise [his] readers with an unusual twist” (Bender et al. 186).

While alternative leads, like the one Nordland uses, are very interesting, they are also very controversial. Proponents believe “whether the lead works is what matters, not whether it is hard or soft” (Bender et al. 185). Critics, on the other hand, believe that “soft leads are too long and fail to emphasize the news” (185).

Reporting Simply

February 5, 2012 | | 31 Comments

Thomas Jefferson, a founding father, believed newspapers were a vital aspect of democracy—he even considered them potentially more important than democracy itself. He did specify, however, that every man “must be capable of reading them”. With that being said, journalists have the very difficult job of making complex news stories comprehendible for a wide audience, while simultaneously avoiding offensive stereotypes. Reporting for the Media describes this task as telling a story “providing facts in a clear and concise manner using simple language” (65). Although this may seem easy, it is actually an art form, mastered by successful journalists.

The New York Times staff is famous for their ability to convey a wide array of information in an effective, and relatively simple manner. It is important to note, however, that The New York Times’ articles are not as simplistic as other news sources’ articles, as The New York Times appeals to a “more specialized and better educated audience” (68). Still, the complex information in The New York Times is simplified for the benefit of a large audience.

Three articles, written on Sunday, February 5, 2012, display The New York Times’ ability to create efficient and simple stories. Nate Silver’s article, One Test Left for Mitt Romney: The Midwest, shows how vital the Midwest is in Mitt Romney’s campaign, without including complicated election laws. Rather, the article presents the main point by saying, “Imagine that Mr. Romney were to lose both states. That would make him zero for three in the nation’s most important swing region”. Similarly, the story conveys the potential impact the Midwest could have on the Republican primary by addressing the influence it could have on Rick Santorum’s campaign: “Imagine, moreover, that Mr. Santorum wins both Minnesota and Missouri. That could revive his campaign, especially given that he also took Iowa”. Although the mathematical calculations and possible repercussions of the primary are quite difficult to explain, Silver represents the most important aspects of the story. The longest sentence of the article is 23 words, and most of the sentences are actually much shorter.

Not only is the article simple, it is also relatively unbiased. Rather than arguing who should win, Silver argues the potential outcomes of every situation. He also presents the information from a very intellectual standpoint, based on polls and statistical odds. As we have learned in class, however, every article has some bias. This article is no exception. The article conveys the odds and impact of Mitt Romney losing before it shows what will happen if Mitt Romney wins. Considering not every reader will make it to the end of the article, the idea of Mitt Romney losing will resonate with more readers than the idea of Romney winning.

Similarly, David Kirkpatrick presents a complex international issue between the United States and Egypt in his article, 19 Americans in Egypt Face Trial in Inquiry Over Funding. In his opening paragraph, Kirkpatrick gives a brief background on the information he will talk about throughout his article. Very quickly, however, Kirkpatrick begins to explore his main idea, as “Reporters who fail to identify a central point for a story or who lose sight of that central point risk writing stories that are incoherent and incomplete” (67). Kirkpatrick presents the main point through the words of Hillary Clinton: ““We are very clear that there are problems that arise from this situation that can impact all the rest of our relationship with Egypt”. By using this quote, Kirkpatrick is able to present the impact in a simplistic way so that a majority of his audience can understand the events’ implications. Similarly, by presenting Clinton’s quote, Kirkpatrick runs little risk of showing bias.

Similarly, Alan Feuer’s article, Homeless Families, Cloaked in Normality, conveys how the life of the poor is not as obvious as it was in the 1980s. His main point is articulated in one sentence: “Unlike in the 1980s, when the crisis was defined by AIDS patients or men who slept on church steps, these days it has become more likely that a seemingly ordinary family, rushing about on public transportation with Elmo bags and video games, could be without a home.” Although it is a rather long sentence, which conflicts with an aspect of simplicity mentioned in the Reporting for the Media, it has very simple language, making it easy to follow—and much of the story is written with shorter sentences. Feuer is not one of those writers that “overwrite when seeking drama or impact” (69). Rather, he uses simple language to display the changing economic situation in America.

Most importantly, however, Feuer does a good job of avoiding stereotypical “-isms”. It is evident in the picture that the family he is describing is black, however, he never mentions it in his story—most likely because it would not add anything to the context of his article. Similarly, he does not convey poor people are lazy, as the families he is following all have jobs or are in school.

What Is Newsworthy?

January 29, 2012 | | 1,180 Comments

Mainstream media is a complex institution comprised of delicate rules to preserve quality, credibility, and relevance. Utilizing six fundamental requirements for every news story—timeliness, impact, prominence, proximity, unusualness, and conflict or controversy—journalists hope to compile informative, interesting, and—most importantly—objective stories. The New York Times, a prominent source of information for affluent Americans, seems to have successfully adapted these six tools, which is evident in their ability to set the agenda—commonly referred to as The New York Times effect. As shown in Page One: Inside the New York Times other news sources seem to mimic the information selected to be in The New York Times.

Three articles, published on January 28, 2012, convey the New York Times’ ability to successfully decipher what is—and conversely, what is not—news worthy, as well as their ability to objectively present potentially partisan issues. Jim Rutenburg and Jeff Zeleny’s article, The Calculations That Led Romney to the Warpath, is a prime example, as the article fulfills all six prerequisites to being newsworthy and portrays a potentially partisan subject without bias. Timeliness, the first requirement of a creditable news article, is strongly evident, as the story was published in the midst of the Republican primary, and contained minimal information on the South Carolina primary—the reason behind Romney’s decision. Similarly, impact and prominence are both extremely evident, as the story affects—either directly or indirectly—all American readers, and is based on a well-known politician. Proximity is also apparent, as the story “hits home” with a multitude of readers concerned about the 2012 elections. Simultaneously, it is an appealing story because of its unusualness and controversy—it is rare to understand the thought process during a controversy from such a prominent politician.

More importantly, however, the article is able to present the heated topic of negative advertising from a purely factual standpoint, limiting any bias in the article. Rather than examining the context or quality of Romney’s attacks on Gingrich, the article examines the tactical decisions behind the argument. Therefore, the article is able to effectively convey the fact that Romney released attacks, without engraining an opinion in the reader.

The New York Times’ ability to present, in a nonbiased manner, issues that fulfill all six prerequisites to being newsworthy does not only apply to American news. Ken Maguire’s article, In Cradle of Games, a New Olympic Trial: Debt, demonstrates this, as it effectively reports information from Greece. While clearly fulfilling timeliness, as it was published at the heart of the financial crisis in Greece, the article more subtly fulfills impact and prominence, as the future of the Greek economy will have a strong impact on the world. The journalist is perhaps most cunning, however, in his ability to make the article “hit home.” By portraying the financial struggles through Olympic athletes, everyday Americans are able to relate to the subject. As mentioned in Reporting for the Media, “Proximity may be psychological. Two individuals separated by thousands of miles but sharing a characteristic or an interest may want to know about each other.” Lastly, the article is unusual and controversial, as an economic scandal like the one is Greece is almost unprecedented—the only Greek financial crisis that rivals the current crisis was during the Great Depression.

Similarly, the article remains impartial, as it does not make judgments on how either the athletes or the government should react. Instead, the article presents both sides of the story: while the article shows that the government simply does not have the monetary funds to allocate more resources to athletics, it also shows the athletes disappointment.

Lastly, political and economic news are not the only things considered newsworthy, which is exemplified by Matt Flegenheimer’s article, For Some Vassar Applicants, Joy Then Misery as College Corrects Mistake. Printed less than 24 hours after the event, the subject clearly fulfills timeliness. The article more also fulfills impact and prominence, as the release of inaccurate acceptance letters clearly took a toll on the 72 students who received them. When it comes to proximity, anyone who has been through the college process can relate to the potential heartbreak of an inaccurate acceptance, although most cannot say they have experienced one—fulfilling the requirement that the article be unusual and a controversy. However, the article does represent both sides to the story, as it conveys the mechanical error and the students’ disappointment.

After analyzing the three articles, it is not hard to understand why The New York Times is one of the most prominent news sources. It can effectively appeal to readers, while simultaneously keeping credibility. After years of practice, the editors The New York Times can answer one of the hardest questions: what is news? It has mastered the difficult—albeit rewarding—art.