Today the Star Tribune posted this editorial of American war correspondent Marie Colvin's death. She was killed in Syria yesterday along with French photographer Remi Ochlik. Her death, the result of a Roadside bomb, comes days after the death of New York Times reporter Anthony Shadid, who died due to complications from an asthma attack.

Colvin was a correspondent for Britain's Sunday Times who covered wars all around the world, including Kosovo, Chechnya, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka (where she lost an eye) and around the middle east. Recently she covered much of the Arab Spring uprisings around North Africa. She was in Syria covering the siege of Homs when she was killed.

I find this event to be very important because of who Colvin was. She was, in my mind, the pinnacle of what young journalists like myself should strive to be. She had a commitment to the story that led repeatedly led her into war zones and conflict ridden areas. Even in the days before her death she was doing reports for BBC and CNN.
Colvin had sneaked into the city of Homs only days before using an old smugglers route and was stationed in the heavily shelled Baba Amr district of the city which is home to roughly 28,000. When the majority of western reporters left Homs because of the danger, she chose to stay believing that the attack on Homs was too important for the world not to know about. She displayed all of the qualities that we hope to find in our members of the media.

The reason I wanted to comment on this editorial is twofold. 1) It is the ONLY coverage on her death I could find today on the Strib website. 2) It was written by an editor for the Washington Post, not a member of the Star Tribune.

Now I understand that Colvin had next to nothing to do with the Strib, or Minnesota as a whole for that matter, but she was one of the more important figures in journalism and I am surprised that there is no obituary for her. I don't believe that the Strib loses credibility for not publishing an obituary for her, because she was far from a household name. I do, however, believe that they are remiss for not publishing an obit on someone who was such an important figure from the industry.

With Colvin passed on, I hope that there will be other journalists to take her place soon. The world needs more journalists with the drive, belief in what they are doing of Marie Colvin.
I was planning on writing this post about this weekend's biggest story, the death of Whitney Houston. However, this morning I found this on the website. This is a website focused entirely on high school hockey, and as you can see from the quality of the site, hockey is clearly a very big deal at that level in Minnesota, which is something that is new to me.

This is a little bit strange to me in a couple of ways. As I may have mentioned before, I am from Virginia. Outside of the Washington Capitals, hockey isn't very big in the commonwealth at all. I know people who pay attention to prep basketball and football back home, but that is more related to major college recruiting. This site and the in depth coverage provided by it really speak to the passion for the sport in the area.

The other way that is is interesting to me is that the site is managed by the Star Tribune, which is the major news source in the the area. The major news source in my area is the Washington Post, one of the three premier news papers in the country, and possibly the world. They don't spend very much time covering high school basketball (which is very big in DC, though not on the same level as Minnesota Hockey), much less devote resources to managing an entire website for it.

Ultimately, my point is this; this is one of the areas where a regionally focused newspaper like the Strib hold an advantage over national papers like the Washington Post or New York Times. It's great to have a major paper as your local paper. You get the best coverage on the biggest stories, but the small stories do receive less coverage than they would in a paper like the Strib.

I like the fact that the Strib covers prep hockey. It is the kind of regional news that really appeals to the local markets rather than the national ones. In a sense I wish
I'll admit it. I'll come right out and say it. I have been pretty hard on the Star Tribune for most of my beat posts. I criticized their Superbowl coverage, called their blogs repetitive, and said they didn't provide enough original content in their State of the Union coverage. But it seems the fine men and women of The Strib have gotten high marks from me this week, because I really have nothing to complain about with their photos.

I have commented before how visual the site is. It has graphics and photos for almost every article. But now  that I am finally talking about photos specifically I get to rave on and on about how great my beat is, rather than give my typical "Oh they were pretty good but nothing really spectacular is here."

Looking solely at The Strib's photo galleries, (because I have talked about the photos and graphics in articles in previous blog posts) I was endlessly impressed with the work being done in the Twin Cities.
One gallery in about the violence in Syria particular caught my eye. Obviously the uprisings and violence in the Middle East and North Africa have been a major news story for more than a year now. So when I saw this among the listing of galleries for today I was immediately drawn to it.

Naturally, pictures taken in a war zone have great impact and emotion. One image (shown at the left) caught my eye more than the others, however. The image shows a man carrying a wounded other while another follows them with an assault rifle.

This is a powerful impactful picture. There is a lot going on here. The movement of the picture gives the viewer a sense of urgency.  This coupled with the body obviously gives the picture a very dark mood. The gun and the background grant a sense of place to the image. We see the assault rifle and the trees in the background and we realize that this is a photo being taken in a war zone, but not in a major city. This is just one of a group of very powerful photos.

The Strib has many other very good galleries. They post photos for major local events, such as the Minnesota caucuses, as well as local sports teams' games. In all there were 10 photo galleries posted today alone. I am very very impressed with the photography work in the Strib.

As a Patriots fan it was difficult and frustrating for me to go through and revisit that game. But to be perfectly honest, there wasn't a whole lot of punishment I needed to suffer.

The coverage on the site was good, but nothing truly exceptional. The articles posted about the game offered no exceptional analysis. "Welker should have caught that ball," and "Eli Manning is an Elite quarterback now" were common lines among the writers and bloggers of the site.  I don't want to take anything away from the coverage that the site did have, but you were definitely aware that this was a site catering to a regional market.

The pregame coverage was pretty good as well. There was one article in particular by Dan Wiederer which summed up the leading story heading into the game. The article talked about how winning a Super Bowl validates greatness in a quarterback. This story line was all over the place before the game. Preseason someone asked Eli Manning, the quarterback of the New York Giants, if he considered himself to be an "elite" quarterback. Six months later that question appears to have been answered in the affirmative.

There were also the few articles that come out every year that manage to be both about the Super Bowl, and have absolutely nothing to do with the game.
There were obviously the the articles on the ads were prominent. Everyone enjoyed talking about the overuse of celebrities and how they ruined otherwise funny commercials (see Mark Cuban in the Skechers ad).

People were also talking about musical artist M.I.A. flipping the bird to the camera during the halftime show. You'd think we would have learned our lesson with the Timberlake Janet Jackson incident of 10 years ago. This of course will cement over-the-hill classic rock acts for the next 10 years. Why can't we just get a cool artist like the Black Keys or The Strokes to do the halftime show. They will have no interest in showing their breasts or flipping the bird to create headlines, and the show probably won't be awful.

For a journalism project this semester I have been tasked to work with the Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service. Launched in just last year, the multimedia website partners with the Diederich College of Communication at Marquette University to provide "Professional reporting on local issues in five Milwaukee communities." The communities it services are Lindsay Heights, Clarke Square, and the Layton Boulevard West neighborhoods of Burnham Park, Silver City and Layton Park. You can read all about them here.

Looking around the site I was pretty impressed. Its clean and well organized. I especially like how the For Neighbors section is broken up by area. It keeps the news easy to navigate and easy to find for those who will be interested in a particular neighborhood.

The News tab is not very impressive. It is incredibly bland, only listing articles by date and giving nothing that draws you to a specific article. Really its just difficult to look at.

The tab that is best set up is the For Media tab. All the articles shown have the lead underneath the title giving you a better feel on what the focus of the article is. It also provides photos for every article. This tab is very visually appealing, unlike the completely underwhelming news tab.

Some of the content was disappointing as well. One article in particular about an Elvis Tribute Band at the Domes was particularly surprising. It was the top story on the front page, had an 11 image slide show, but only produced three short paragraphs. The brief focused more on the concert series under which the band was performing than it did the concert, which I felt made the headline misleading.

I may have been pretty harsh here, but after I read the mission statement that said the site provided "Professional Reporting" I expected more full length articles than briefs. I also don't want people to think I am trying to tear down the site. These are my observations after looking around he site for a couple hours. In fact, most of these problems could are probably a result of being understaffed or underfunded. I honestly don't know what their business situation is like so I can't comment on their business practices.

All this being said I am very excited to work for the Neighborhood News Service and look forward to all of you reading my work in the future.


    I'm a native Virginian who traveled to Milwaukee to study Journalism in the Diederich College of Communication at Marquette University. 


    May 2012
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