Monday, May 3, 2010

The Post of Shame

This is the highly esteemed Dr. Hunter, showing how ashamed he is of the following errors from He is too appalled to even say, "Woof."


May 3, 2010:

"West Valley police say Josh Powell is they only person they's looking at, but they are not calling him a suspect in his wife's disappearance. They say they have no physical evidence of foul play."

--From this article. No, this isn't a quote from a source in the story. CNN must not be doing "they's" editing as well as they ought to... CNN later fixed "they" error about three hours after the original post.


May 18, 2010:

"Calling law enforcement accounts 'absurd,' a Michigan attorney sued police Tuesday in the death of 7-year-old girl killed during a raid in Detroit."

--From this article. The problem I have with this sentence is that there should be either an "a" or a "the" in front of 7-year-old. Something so simple really ate me up inside.


June 1, 2010:

"Shortly after midnight on May 22, Kibuishi arrived at the Herr's home, where she was shot and killed by Wozniak, police said."

--From this article. Did Kibuishi arrive at Herr's home, or the home? Pick one, CNN.


June 5, 2010:

"With his family by his side at his Colorado Springs home, Haggard is expected to a make 'surprise groundbreaking' announcement, according to a news statement Tuesday."

--From this article. Sounds like "a" trouble to me.


June 10, 2010:

"Van der Sloot, who was twice arrested in connection with the disappearance of Alabama teen Natalee Holloway in Aruba in 2005."

--From this article. Van der Sloot was arrested. Duh.


June 10, 2010:

"'This is one of the worst social networking sites that we've encountered.,' Cuomo said at a news conference in New York City."
"In a statement sent to CNN, Tagged General Counsel Louis Willacy the company was working 'closely and cooperatively' with Cuomo's office to come to a quick resolution 'in the best interest of our members' safety.'"

--Both from the same article. I can't believe there's a period in the first quote, and I'm giggling since CNN left out the "said" in the next graph.


June 12, 1010:

"Anthony Alvarez, 36, had been holding authorities at bay since Tuesday." (Photo caption)
"Reporters on the scene said the operation began with a 'flash-bang' designed to disorient the suspect, identified as Anthony Alvarez, 26." (Supporting Graph)

--From this article. Someone didn't double check...


March 25, 2010 (Found by Mallory on June 12)

"During the six hour standoff police tried all they could to get him out of his house. They first called him on a phone, then used a loudspeaker and finally brought in the tear gas. Still, he still wouldn't budge."

--From this article. Still, CNN still didn't double check.


June 14, 2010:

"The only other inmate in the area is alleged Colombian hit man Hugo Trujillo Ospina. The two have spent some time together in a common area where there is a television set and weights made of out of broomsticks and soda bottles, authorities said."

--From this article. Just pick one: "made of broomsticks" or "made out of broomsticks." You can't have both, CNN.


June 16, 2010:

"Police said after the initial shooting, Wolfe drove from to her grandparents' home in Hempstead, about four miles away, where she had an argument with her grandfather 'about insurance papers.' When Wolfe's 56-year-old uncle intervened, he was shot multiple times and killed, police said."

--From this article. Icky mistake.


June 19, 2010:

"Slayton said he was shocked by the FBI visit because until then he didn't know about Jaycee was his daughter."

--From this article. Slayton didn't know about Jaycee, or Slayton didn't know Jaycee was his daughter.


June 19, 2010:

"But Mississippi's courts have been slow to deliver justice for in the deaths of Bertha Tardy, the store's owner, and employees Carmen Rigby, Robert Golden and Derrick "Bobo" Stewart."

--From this article. The courts have been slow to deliver justice for the deaths, or in the deaths.

June 21, 2010:

"Authorities have labeled the case a criminal investigation, On Friday, they released a flier seeking information on Kyron's stepmother."

--From this article. We just need a period, please, to end the first thought. Not a comma.


June 21, 2010:

"Redding had a role in a 2005 independent film and had also taken courses at an area college. She also worked part-time at a tapas bar in Venice."

--From this article. I don't think we need the word "also" two times to understand that she had a lot of activities.

June 21, 2010:

"Daves could not be reached for comment Monday. But in his affidavit, in addition to saying that Wright nearly caused a collision, Daves wrote that ' (the) defendant stopped in the ER entrance and jumped out and ran.'"

--From this article. No space before the beginning of the quote, please.


June 22, 2010:

"A nutrition watchdog group is threatening to sue McDonald's if the fast-food giant won't stop using toys to to lure children to its Happy Meals ."

--From this article. Two errors! Sheesh!


June 23, 2o1o:

"Meanwhile, a judge was expected decide on the legality of van der Sloot's incarceration Wednesday, his lawyer said."

--From this article. Expected to decide.


June 24, 2010:

"'At this point, the police bureau does not consider this an ongoing investigation unless new evidence is received in the case, said Wednesday's police statement."

--From this article. There was only one quote mark. Was it legitimately a quote, or a paraphrase? Regardless, there needed to be proper quotations, if necessary.


Hunter is not amused.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Whoa, Wait, What? Where's the News?

On April 13, 2010, the Iowa City Press-Citizen online posted an article entitled, "Robbery, home invasion reported." Obviously, the story was about recent robberies and home invasions in Iowa City. The problem with this article was that the story was not really news, or rather news in the form the Press-Citizen provided.

First of all, when I read the headline, I was confused. Isn't a robbery and a "home invasion" ultimately the same thing? Just to double check, I checked Basically, to sum it up, a "home invasion" occurs when a burglary takes place "while the residents are at home;" and a "robbery" usually involves violence of some form during the burglary. I understand the slight difference; however, the headline doesn't really give me a story. A home invasion and a robbery aren't particularly uncommon things in Iowa City. There really isn't an angle. Maybe a headline that took a more investigative approach would have been better. If this following statement is true, something along the lines of, "Police: Robberies highest in decade," or something that really gives readers more information than just "Robbery, home invasion reported." This is more of a statement than a news headline or story in itself. This would have been better suited to a little blurb on a police blogger.

When it comes to the actual story and information, the article was a bit dry. The information is interesting, but the reporter didn't seem to do any work to get it. The article reads like a police report because it just says what allegedly happened. The reporter did no crafting to this article--it read like word vomit. It was strictly informational and therefore heavy and boring. Even with a story about robberies, a reporter can still frame the story in an interesting way to keep readers reading. Reporters need to do their jobs so that readers can do theirs, i.e. reporters need to do some reporting, rather than vomit up information given to them.

Along with this, the article has no interviews or quotes, not even from officers. The story obviously came from a police report or something. If this information was given to me as a reporter, I'd have found it interesting--so interesting that I wouldn't just vomit up the information, I'd attempt to actually report on these incidents. Interview people, see if there's a real pattern, go deeper than the obvious. There is no real news value because no reporting was done by the "reporter."

Editorially speaking, I want to know why the races of the robbers were included. I could see it being important if officers are still looking for the suspects. But in all of the robbery examples, the reporter notes the suspects' races, but he does not elaborate on the alleged victims' races. There were also photos attached to this story. The last robbery example gave the alleged suspect's name, though the reporter declined to give his race. This is important because the previously mentioned suspects were described in detail.

All-in-all, this story was really disappointing. I wish the reporter had actually done some reporting before this article was published online.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Please Permanently Prohibit Perpetually Preposterous Headlines

The focus of this short blog entry concerns publications that rely on alliteration as their form of creativity in their headlines. On April 6, 2010, an online publication called published an article about panhandling in Madison, Wis. I was not overly impressed with the story, perhaps due-in-part to the story's headline: "Peace Park Poses Panhandling Problem." I think the real problem wasn't the panhandling, it was how the p's were handled in the headline.

Along these lines, the Cedar Rapids Gazette posted an article online on April 5 that ironically also used the alliteration of p's. Entitled, "Man charged for prostitution, porn and pot," the short story focused on one man who showed nude photos to a 15-year-old male, attempted to trade money for sexual acts with the boy and also provided marijuana to him on several occasions. The problem with this story was the fact that the real focus of the story was scrambled by the headline. According to the article, the man was arrested for these things because the child was 15. The wording of the headline makes it seem that the man was charged for prostitution, porn and pot. Although this is true, the focus should have been on the fact that the man did these things to and for a child. This becomes lost by the writer's alliteration headline.

Both articles attempted to be quirky in their headlines by highlighting the harsh p sound. The problem therein lies. "Peace Park Poses Panhandling Problem" is too much alliteration for the headline because of the harsh p sound. A person probably couldn't say this headline aloud without laughing or pausing for breath somewhere. At least the man charged with "prostitution, porn and pot" headline flows nicely, or at least better than the other.

I have no problem with alliteration; I use it quite frequently. The problem I have with it, however, occurs when writers force alliteration. If a person uses it, it should flow and add to the story's overall effect. It shouldn't hinder the reader's comprehension of the story or the story's effectiveness.

So, in conclusion:

Dear "writers,"

Please permanently prohibit further use of preposterous problematic alliteration from your headlines. You make my ears bleed. On behalf of the people of my country... refrain!

Thank you,
Mallory Cole

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Resurrecting Road-Kill, Take One

On March, 26, 2010, posted a very short, comical story about a man who unsuccessfully attempted to revive a dead opossum in Pennsylvania. Apparently, the man was heavily intoxicated at the time. Donald J. Wolfe, 55, is to be charged with one count of public drunkenness.

The tone of CNN's article is meant to be humorous. Unfortunately, the humor was a bit dry. The tale is hilarious; the delivery...not so much.

The headline reads, "Police report attempt to revive flattened opossum." A person has to read this line several times before they understand the meaning, or at least that's what I had to do. I know the headline is meant to read that police reported this incident; however, with the words "police" and "report," I think of an official "police report." I was confused and thought the headline was mistyped. The headline writer should have been more clear. Also, considering the context of the story, the headline could have been more clever to ensure readers understood the hilarity of the situation immediately--something that lets readers know a drunk man made a fool of himself by trying to "save" some road-kill. That's what makes the story funny. Since CNN did not fully write to the hilarity of the situation, something such as "Man charged with public drunkenness after unsuccessfully attempting to revive a road-killed opossum," would have gotten the story across right away. Or to simplify: "Man charged after attempting roadkill resurrection."

The first graphs says, "A Pennsylvania man attempted to resuscitate 'a road-killed opossum,' state police say." A reader might imagine this to refer to a kind man who hit an animal and tried to save it! How nice!

But the next graph reads, "But this was one possum who wasn't playing possum -- the ugly creature remained dead." Obviously the creature was dead; where's the surprise? The first graph already called it ROAD-KILL. The writer's attempt to be humorous was short-lived. I understand the writer wanted to play off the old saying of "playing opossum," in which a being pretends to be dead in order to stay alive. Perhaps if this idea had been incorporated into the headline or the first graphs, the outcome would have been better.

Readers don't find out WHY the man attempted to revive the dead animal until the third graph. "Troopers responding to the scene in Oliver Township on Thursday determined that Donald J. Wolfe, 55, of Brookville, was drunk, according to the police report." Funny, right? Not exactly--the "drunk" part is buried in the sentence. The general rule-of-thumb is to write the 5 W's (who, what, where, when and why) in the first graph. And since the story is about a drunk man who tried to revive road-kill, the "why" is important. The "why" is the story.

The story, as customary with most CNN articles, includes a "STORY HIGHLIGHTS" section to the left of the story. The problem with this is that it gives the whole story. It contains the three sentences that sum up the story, which has only eight sentences itself.

One of the most intriguing questions concerning this tale is HOW the man tried to save this creature. The only thing that would complete the hilarious tone is that he tried to give the dead opossum mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. That would complete the story. Unfortunately for readers, the article does not say how the man attempted the revival of the animal. "It was not immediately clear how he endeavored to restore the possum's life," CNN says. Did CNN not ask anyone? Right before this sentence, CNN says that according to police, "Several witnesses observed Wolfe's failed resurrection of the flattened marsupial." People saw the man doing it, which is why police were alerted in the first place. Where's the reporting?

CNN also says that they were unable to reach the arresting officer or the man for comment. Reporters are taught to GO to people if they don't answer the phone. Come on, CNN, really?

CNN ended the story by saying the man will be charged with public drunkenness. This is important, I think. Maybe headline or first graph worthy. Even if CNN still chose to use this information to be in the last graph, they could have added something about the unfortunate opossum too. This would bring the story fully back to the funny part about the whole thing. "Wolfe will be charged with one charge of public drunkenness, police said. The opossum will be removed from the road." Something along those lines would have been a better ending to the story.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

When the Watchdog Sleeps

On March 11, 2010, The Cedar Rapids Gazette posted an article about a man who was sentenced to 10 years in prison for sexually abusing a 4-year-old girl last summer. Daryl Bentley, 26, pleaded guilty. According to The Gazette, Bentley pleaded guilty to third-degree sexual abuse in a plea agreement, though he was originally charged with second-degree sexual abuse.

Watchdog journalism is down the toilet and needs to come back up. Reporters don't necessarily need to rake the muck, but they definitely need to let people know all the facts all the time.

The Gazette reported that Bentley sexually abused the little girl on June 17, 2009, while the girl was left in the care of Bentley's girlfriend. Bentley lived with his girlfriend, and when she left for a "brief time" that day, Bentley sexually abused the girl.

The article also reports that Bentley is related to two other pedophiles who are currently in jail: one with a life sentence, the other a 100-year federal prison sentence and another 25 years. Convicted child killer Roger Bentley kidnapped and murdered a 10-year-old girl in 2005, and Roger's brother James Bentley took pornographic photos of the girl and a 1-year-old girl in 2003. He also was convicted of sexually abusing the 10-year-old.

The information in this article is disturbing because of the crimes; however, the fact that information was absent from the story is also disturbing. I don't understand why no information was given about Daryl Bentley's girlfriend. Shouldn't she be held partially accountable for what happened to the little girl? The Gazette gives absolutely no information about her: no age, no name, no quotes, no reaction--nothing.

I also don't understand why the only quote in the article came from the assistant Linn County attorney. The article mentions that family members of the girl were "in favor" of the plea agreement to avoid "further harm" to the child. I want quotes from the family members. The article also says no victim impact statements were given at the sentencing and Bentley didn't speak. I think these facts are significant; I want a quote from Bentley's lawyer about why he didn't speak.

I want to know how Bentley acted during the sentencing--how did he react, respond, present himself. Even if The Gazette reporter wasn't there, the reporter could have asked people who were. The reporter simply reported the basic facts and did not dig deeper into the story.

The information about his pedophile relatives was a nice addition, and I think that information could have been used in the first or second graphs of the article, rather than the ending.

And P.S., with all of the Gazette's resources, could they not have used a better photograph? I mean, really? I didn't even want to put it on MY blog because it is so awful.

All-in-all, I think it's a sad story for many reasons. I think many people's actions led to the abuse of the little girl and more people should have been aware of the circumstances at the time. More people than Bentley should be held accountable to what happened to her.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Local Paper Copies, Doesn't Cover Conviction

On Tuesday, March 2, 2010, Mark Becker was convicted of killing small-town football coach Ed Thomas in June 2009. The jury announced its decision around 10:30 a.m. and the Iowa City Press-Citizen updated its Web site with the information in a story posted sometime that morning. The strange thing about this posting: it is not from the Press-Citizen; it is an Associated Press story.

This struck me as odd for several reasons. The case is a big deal, considering it's been covered by ESPN, The Huffington Post and CNN, along with other publications in the state of Iowa, of course. A person would think an Iowa City newspaper would have published something about it on their own, not relying instead on an AP story. Not writing it themselves is lazy. Even though the Press-Citizen isn't as close to Allison (where the trial was held) or Aplington/Parkersburg (where the shooting occurred) as other news organizations, it certainly is in the same state. Why wouldn't they cover it? Making a few phone calls to get the story is better than giving readers a story that some other publication wrote. The story was written well, obviously, since it's from the AP, but the Press-Citizen definitely should have written their own story covering the jury's decision and conviction.

Also, there were no photos to go along with the article. How does a publication not have a photo to go along with a big trial's results? That is lazy and lacking.

The Cedar-Rapids Gazette is merely 30 minutes or so north of Iowa City, and they not only covered and wrote about the trial themselves, they did all this. They trumped the Press-Citizen over about five times. The Gazette has "updates," multiple reaction videos and photos, as well as the conviction story on the same Web page. Creative coverage is always better than copied coverage.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A Good Wife: Kills Husband, Still Files His Taxes

On Feb. 18, 2010, a Web site representing television news station KRQE published an article that recounted the story of the Albuquerque woman who killed her husband in 2002, buried his body, then filed for taxes in 2006 in his name. Ultimately, the story was written very poorly, and is the worst I have seen in a while for several reasons.

First of all, the headline is somewhat confusing. "DA: Ex killed husband and did his taxes," it says. I read this as being humorous. It seems to imply that she was so used to filing for their taxes as a family that she still did it for him even after he was dead. The headline made it seem like the authorities thought it was a funny, rather than a sober announcement.

Also, the story is written in a very confusing manner. The lead reads, "The woman who admitted to shooting her husband and then burying his body deep in the ground is now charged with filing his taxes and cashing in on the return." When I first read this, I had several questions: when did she actually kill him, when did she admit to killing him, was there a trial, shouldn't she be in jail, when was his body found, how did she have access to file for taxes if she's in jail? The rather ambiguous lead left so many unanswered questions. So, I figured I was originally too impatient with the story, so I continued to read in hopes of having my questions answered.

Surprise! They were not answered.

"Ellen Snyder admits she shot and buried her husband Michael in 2002," the second graph says. "In 2006, prosecutors said she needed him again for his money."

The third graph continues. "Since the body was unearthed two weeks ago at his former home in the northeast heights, Snyder's secrets have surfaced with him," it says.

Okay, wait, what? The writing doesn't clear up any information. She admitted to killing him and burying him--cool, I understand that. But prosecutors say she needed him for money in 2006. Was this during her trial in 2006 that this was said? She needed his money in 2006? Or the prosecutors said this in 2006?

Now in the next graph the writer tries to get cutesy: "Synder's secrets have surfaced with him." Good try at alliteration, but the affect is lost because the message is unclear. Which "Snyder" had secrets? So the body was unearthed two weeks ago? Where? Who found it? How did they find it in the first place? And really, shouldn't she be in jail?

The story continues, talking about a trial and a grand jury, the woman's money problems, etc.

"Snyder's son admitted to police he wrapped his step-father’s body in plastic the morning of the murder and then helped his mother bury the body two days later," the story says toward the bottom. "He has cooperated with police, so at this time he is not being charged."

The story then ends by saying, "Snyder, 50, is still in jail on a $1 million bond."

Now, shouldn't this stuff have been placed more toward the top of the story? The fact that the woman's son helped to wrap up the dead man is pretty important information. The fact that he's not being charged is important. And the fact that the woman is in jail on a $1 million bond is crucial, I think.

Ultimately, what I have gotten from this story after thinking it over several times is that the woman killed her "abusive" husband and with the help of her son buried him somewhere in 2002. That was that and apparently no one cared or noticed or whatever. But somehow people knew he was dead. Then in 2006, she filed for taxes in his name, which is how people discovered she had killed him? I don't really know what's going on in this story.

The story does appear to come from a television news station in the Albuquerque area, which is where the crime was committed. There is an accompanying video, but I did not watch it. If there is a written story with a video, that story should be written well. Most likely, this story is well-known in the area and therefore the station had covered the case previously. The additional charges of tax fraud she faces now is the "news" this time. But, the station should have linked this story to the previous ones, so that outside readers could learn more. I found this story originally from under their "U.S." tab. Because of this, I would think the Albuquerque television news station would provide outside readers with additional information if they're interested enough to click the link. The news station should be more aware of this, for future reference.

Here is a Web video of a previous story about the woman from the same television news station:

If you are interested in reading more about this case, here is a much better and more detailed story, from a different news station. This was written before the other, and before the newer tax information. It does, however, fill in some of the gaps that other story lacked.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A "Baby" Behind Bars: Robbery Turned to Murder

Recently, a 17-year-old male was charged with the murder of the 64-year-old Iowa City landlord whose death was in the news last fall because of the unanswered questions left behind. John Versypt was killed in early October and the case turned into an ongoing investigation. Local newspapers covered the murder throughout the past few months as new information was discovered. Almost four months later, someone has finally been charged with the murder, and two local publications (The Cedar Rapids Gazette and the Iowa City Press-Citizen) wrote about the young man arrested.

Interestingly, both articles describe the murder suspect in a way that highlights his young age in juxtaposition with the crime. The Gazette describes the suspect in the lead as a "17-year-old boy." Easily, the article could have read "A 17-year-old has been charged with first-degree murder...," omitting the "boy." The Gazette's decision to refer to him as a "boy" shows how they probably are highlighting his young age. The Press-Citizen, on the other hand, does not call him a boy directly. Instead, they include a quote from the landlord's widow near the lead at the top of the article, in which she calls the boy "a baby."

Both articles include either a photo (the Press-Citizen) or multiple photos (The Gazette) of the accused murderer. These photos make him look young, which, of course, he is. Not only do the lead paragraphs paint a picture of a young "baby" "boy," but so do the photos. Here are two photos that especially show a young, mischievous-looking man:


The Gazette

Aside from the representations of the suspect in both articles, on the whole, again, I think the Press-Citizen had the better article because it had more information about the case, including quotes from police and the murder victim's wife.


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

IC Counselor's Case in Court

The Cedar Rapids Gazette and the Iowa City Press-Citizen recently published a story about an accused Iowa City molester and his trial. As a quick recap of this case story, a former elementary school guidance counselor is accused of inappropriately touching a boy who was then 10 years old in 2004. According to both stories from The Gazette and the Press-Citizen, the boy was regularly visiting the guidance counselor because of his introverted personality. Specifically on two occasions, the boy said the counselor touched him and muffled his voice with a stuffed animal. The boy did not report the 2004 incidents until five years after they allegedly occurred. The counselor denies the accusations. The trial is underway and is expected to end this week.

Editorially speaking, I actually enjoyed the Press-Citizen’s story much better than The Gazette’s because it was more thorough and detailed. Both stories were an update concerning the trial, along with background information, but the Press-Citizen did a better job giving more background information that really completed the story. For example, both stories took a different approach in the lead: The Gazette said the case is in the hands of the jury, while the Press-Citizen referenced what the boy said at the trial concerning the 2004 incident. Ultimately, I liked the Press-Citizen’s version better because it actually taught me something. Obviously the case is in the hands of the jury, but since I did not attend the trial, it was nice to learn that at the trial, the boy said he "didn't know how to react" to the 2004 incidents at the time. But aside from the stories themselves, there was definitely something strange about the photos chosen by the publications to represent the trial.

Matthew Holst/Press-Citizen

Brian Ray/The Gazette

Mallory Cole/Edited Gazette Photo

A strange thing I found was basically the exact same photo on both Web site stories, with different photographers in the caption. The use of both newspapers to use a very similar photo is interesting for several reasons. It is very strange that both used the same photo. Comparing the two, they look almost exactly the same, perhaps edited to look different. The lighting is different, but that can be changed simply by editing the photo on the computer. The cropping is virtually the same as well. The focus in the photos are a bit different concerning the background's visibility.

It's a bit odd that out of all the photos that could have been taken by the photographers during the trial, both took this exact shot (supposing the photos are indeed shot by the two photographers from different newspapers). Why not use a file photo? Why not use a mug shot of the suspect? How ironic that both photos are almost the exact same photo? If the photos are different because they were indeed taken by different photographers, how strange is it that the photos were taken at the exact same time (which you can tell by looking at the body movement and facial expressions) and then used for both newspapers?

So, for fun, I edited my own version of The Gazette's photo to make it look more like the Press-Citizen's photo. I did it in a few minutes on my computer with regular photo editing software that usually comes standard. I couldn't make the photo look exactly like the Press-Citizen's, but the editing options are numerous if a person does try to claim another person's photo as their own by editing it.

Either there’s definitely something “fishy” going on there, or it’s a coincidence. What do y'all think?

UPDATE: The defendant was found guilty. His sentencing is scheduled for later.