Hoot! Objective Journalism Still Exists!

This story from the Philadelphia Inquirer talks about the latest decision of Philadelphia School District to turn four schools into chartered schools.

This article opens up with a typical lead that contains the what, why and how elements. The reporter provides the detail about how the city school district plans to turn these schools over to chartered organizations. On the other hand, the reporter is able to provide the voice on the other side that represents the Philadelphia Teachers Union. By balancing the story with voice from two sides, the reporter shows the typical trait of objectivity of journalism.

After presenting voices from both sides, the reporter then starts to provide some background information to provide the story more depth. It also allows readers to link back to what has happened in the past and offers a clearer understanding of what’s the whole operation going to be about.

Besides background information, the reporter also provides the future direction of the whole event. The Philadelphia School District’s decision on other schools is of the top interest of parents and other school teachers. This strategy can effectively lead the story to other possible follow up stories in the future. Then the reporter enlarges the range of discussion to the overall examination of school performance and how that might affect their destiny in the future.

One little part that the article can try to improve is the part when the reporter lists out the general information of the schools. For an article that actually has other more valuable things to focus on, the reporter actually can omit this part, especially since the readers of the Inquirer are based in the Philadelphia area. Putting all that information in one paragraph will be a little bit too dull. In order to not disinterest the readers, the reporter can actually assume that people know where those schools are and use that portion for a better purpose.

– Text by Hao Wei Yang.


Howl! A Failure to Dig Deeper.

In his City Paper article “Food Fight,” Isaiah Thompson reports that the city’s health department recently distributed flyers to Benjamin Franklin Parkway soup kitchen workers, inviting them to attend a meeting of the Board of Health. That board is responsible for putting city food safety rules in effect.

Thompson reports that Parkway soup kitchen organizations are leery of this recent invitation. They see it as just another attempt on the city’s part to remove the homeless from the Parkway to make the city’s Museum Row more appealing to tourism. After all, as Thompson notes, the new Barnes is opening soon.

The piece basically agrees with the soup kitchens. It even goes so far as to identify past city officials who have tried to clamp down on soup kitchens as a way of discouraging the homeless from congregating on the Parkway: former councilman Frank DiCicco and former mayors Ed Rendell and John Street.

That there may be a sinister motivation behind what the city’s health department recently did is surely tantalizing and worthy of investigation. Unfortunately, in the end, the article comes up short in its investigation. While the city insists that the board of health meeting is unrelated to cleaning up the Parkway of the homeless in time for the new Barnes, the article fails to press the question of why the meeting has to happen now. It never asks the city the question: “the board of health meeting invitation is well and good, but why now? Why issue that invitation now?”

Instead, the article merely reports that the health department’s move is to ensure the safety of the food served by soup kitchens, thereby failing to dig deeper into the story, failing to ask the city the tough questions.

Text by Charlie Chan. Image via City Paper.

Howl! Are Men Really Watching Downton Abbey? Really?

PBS’ Downton Abbey has been a boon for a network known more for “Sesame Street” and pledge drives than for arresting dramas, and with the British series’ season finale coming up this weekend, it’s no surprise that journalists have been looking for new ways and angles to feature the show.

Case in point: Molly Eichel’s recent piece in the Daily News, which asks the question: Are men watching Downton Abbey? Her answer: Yes — but her research into the question falls far short of supporting the 724-word article that follows. Continue reading

Hoot! The New York Times Scoops the Philly Papers on Their Own Story.

This New York Times article is about the potential shift of the ownership of The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Daily News and Philly.com.

The authors started the story with the alleged meeting chief executive and publisher Gregory J. Osberg had with the three senior editors of the news organizations. Although Osberg denied it, the industry fears that the shift might interfere with the news independence of the Philadelphia papers.

Former Philadelphia mayor and Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell is leading a group of the area’s most powerful Democrats who might likely to have new control over the newspapers. The authors said many potential bidders have been purposefully discarded when the Inquirer decided not to run their stories. And the Philadelphia Media Network, the parent company of The Inquirer, has rejected their offers. Continue reading

HOWL: Burned Up By Bad Yoga Story.

Avoid getting scorched by ‘hot yoga,’” is a story prepared by HealthDay News but it appeared on philly.com. It’s about the possible “dangers” of hot yoga, which is practiced in a heated room.  The story reads like a press release from the Hospital of Special Surgery in New York City, where much of the information derives.

There are many unanswered questions in this article.  What type of hot yoga is the article talking about?  Is it Bikram Yoga, in which the 26 poses are copyrighted and must be taught by a certified instructor who has undergone the intensely vigorous, nine-week Bikram yoga training?  Or is it another variation of hot yoga, such as power yoga, which is not subject to the strict rules of Bikram Yoga? Also, not all hot yoga is practiced in a room heated 90-105 degrees.

Because of its generality, I feel the publishing of this article is irresponsible.

There isn’t any research or balance.  Yes, of course you can get injured while performing hot yoga but this is true for all types of yoga, or any exercise regimen.  There are quotes from a yoga instructor who is a doctor but it wasn’t made clear if she is a hot yoga or Bikram yoga instructor, which left me suspicious.

I will say that the checklist at the end of the article is helpful but I’m sure some readers who were thinking about trying hot yoga were scared away by that point – especially with the use of “scorched” in the headline.

That is an extreme word to describe hot yoga.

– Text by Zenovia Campbell. Image via The Hairpin.

Hoot! Bloomberg Staff Teaches Me How to Write for Business. Howl: Bloomberg Teaches Me How to Ignore the Skinning of the Earth.

Depending on what streams on your Twitter, you may have heard about the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

In a January 19th web article posted in The San Francisco Chronicle but written by Bloomberg, a pro- Keystone appeal is made.  The Obama administration has denied the construction of the pipeline and to assuage the readers, the article’s lead and title asserts that Keystone will forge ahead.  Even investor appetite is whetted when management gurus say that Keystone is the “biggest infrastructure project on the continent.” (Really, this quote is gravy!) Continue reading

Hoot! The Review That Inspires (As Well as Answers Questions).

I read about the “Zoe Strauss: Ten Years” photo exhibit and I want to see it in person.

However, I want to get a better idea about the photographer and the exhibit beforehand so I read a Philly Weekly article posted on Jan.18: “’Zoe Strauss: Ten Years’ Is a Poignant and Sometimes Chilling Look at Our City.”

What makes this article great is that it approaches the subject in a non-cliché way. It is not a typical neutral critique with narrative facts and art-promoting tone. The beginning of the piece makes good use of Strauss’s close relationship to her South Philly roots to relate to her photo exhibit. Given a few examples of Strauss’ work, readers get a better understanding of what this exhibit is all about – the humanity of the daily life in the city of Philadelphia.

The writer carefully reveals the experience of Strauss as a photographer through a few outstanding photos. After the knowledge of Strauss’ past and her experience as a photographer, readers might ask, “So, what makes her stand out and why would we want to see the exhibit in person?”

This is when the writer really gets down to grab readers’ attention by pointing out the uniqueness of this exhibit.

“This firm separation between mute people and vociferous language in Strauss’ photography can grate against assertions that she gives a voice to both the joy and desperation of America’s hardest-hit citizens,” the writer delivers. “When faced with Strauss’ portraits of people, you might ask, ‘What would they say?’”

The brilliance of this piece is that it makes you want to go and see the exhibit and find out what you are curious about.

– Text by Ning Shao. Image by Zoe Strauss, via Philly Weekly.