HOOTS! Convincing words, verbal eloquence, a senatorial visit and reality of hardship

20090210_inq_scasey10-bThe Inquirer successfully prints a New York Times editorial.

See the faces of children who are affected by cuts in state funding.

Senator Casey visits Coatesville.

A well-written article about an Indiana native.

Credible Evidence Against Torture

Sometimes the public is best served when an editor cherry-picks content from another paper rather than relying solely on editorials submitted directly to their department. This was certainly the case with an editorial regarding the ineffectiveness of torture, printed February 10 in the Inquirer.

Originally printed in the New York Times, the piece was submitted by Donald P. Gregg, former national security adviser to George H.W. Bush during the Reagan administration. In it, Gregg recounts the lackluster results of a torture policy used by a South Vietnamese officer under his supervision while working for the CIA in Vietnam.

In the whirlwind of criticism concerning torture at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, I have read many vague references to the ineffective, and even counterproductive results of torture as an intelligence-gathering tool: statements like “some intelligence experts say torture leads to false information” or “many experts question torture as a viable way to obtain accurate information.” But these assertions have been attended by very little hard evidence.

Gregg’s editorial provides a useful anecdote to fill in a gap in the criticism of Bush administration policies that many reporters have glossed over. To round out his point, Gregg’s kicker used the kid-glove treatment of Saddam Hussein to show how the “carrot” approach to interrogation can have better results than the “stick” of torture.

Here’s to the Philadelphia Inquirer for recognizing the insight and purpose in an editorial from another paper. Hopefully they saved themselves some work in the process.

-Lance Duroni

School for vets’ kids could lose state funds

The Scotland School for Veterans’ Children, in Franklin County, Pa., could close after this year, following Governor Rendell’s budget announcement last week. The 114-year-old boarding school is operated by the Department of Military and Veteran Affairs, and costs state taxpayers approximately $45,000 a year per child. The average per child spending for the School District of Philadelphia is $10,000. Of the school’s $13.5 million annual budget, $10.5 million comes from state funding. Parents and lawmakers have said that they will do what is necessary to keep the school’s doors open. Virginia James, president of the Scotland School Parent Association, said that some students’ parents are in active war zones and some are stationed in other states, and that the students regard the institution as a safe haven.

This article from the Daily News is just one of several discussing the fallout from the governor’s budget speech from last week. In the national recession, lawmakers have had to make difficult decisions about where funding is necessary. This article contains information from several sources, including the governor, State Rep. James Roebuck and James. The article also puts the possible closing into a larger context by including that fact that the school is over 100 years old, and is a cornerstone for children with parents in the military. It allows the reader to understand that this is not just a story about cutting state funding to a school; it provides the reader with a greater understanding of how this school’s closing will affect its students and a larger community in the state.

-Rachel Ross

Helping pick up the pieces

I imagine that Kathleen Brady Shea’s article about the Coatesville arsons and Senator Bob Casey’s visit was a challenging one to write. The story of the arsons has been an ongoing one for the past month or so. The fact that Casey visited was newsworthy, but how to recast the story in a way that doesn’t seem repetitive to those who have been following the devastation in the Philadelphia suburb? Shea does a nice job.

She quotes several people-and several types of people-throughout the article. From residents to Casey to the city council president, many people’s thoughts and opinions are represented. Each quote used brings something significant to the story as well-they are not included just for the sake of including quotes.

Shea covers a lot of information in the article. While she can’t focus on any one thing solidly, the point of the story is to talk about Casey’s visit, and Shea does so successfully. The reader learns about a woman whose house has been vandalized three different times since the summer, as well as the skyrocketing insurance rates in Coatesville-with a poignant quote from a city councilwoman who says, “The people who need insurance most can’t afford it.”

Shea pulls together a lot of information in this article, but does it in a clear and coherent way, highlighting Casey’s visit to the area, and explaining why his visit was necessary.

-Victoria M. Indivero

Starvation Riot; A Hunting Park Activist Takes A Stand Against Global Hunger

I randomly stumbled upon this story, but I like it. I’ll probably be accused of picking this as my HOOT because the subject of the article is from Indiana, but I do actually have legitimate reasons for putting this piece on my mantel this week.

The article from Philadelphia Weekly encompasses the qualities of magazine writing and journalism that I deem most crucial.

First and foremost the piece has purpose. It tells a great story about an individual in Philadelphia doing something out of the ordinary for the good of a community-in this case the community is global, but the point still stands. Journalism with some meat? (No pun intended.) What a concept!

Secondly, it is well written. What I look for in good magazine writing-taught to me by Temple’s Laurence Roy Stains-is an enjoyable, descriptive style-word and phrase choices that are not only fun to read, but also place the reader directly at the scene.

When reading this article I could clearly envision the neighborhood the writer describes. The story flowed nicely, and unlike the HOWL for this week, I wasn’t left with a lot of questions. Sure, it isn’t an in depth subject, but it is what it is, and it does it well.

Overall, the article is a great. It is informative. It’s an easy and enjoyable read. It’s interesting. It has context!

-Brian Donathan


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