Tag Archives: inquirer

Hoot & Howl: The Reporter As Critic (And Vice-Versa).

In its very essence, the recent Philadelphia Inquirer article “Art poised for eager crowds” is a hard news/ general arts piece, announcing the May 19 opening of the new Barnes Foundation on the Ben Franklin Parkway.

In the way typical of hard news reporting, the article delves into various concrete facts about the museum. For example, when it mentions the operating budget for the museum, the article notes how 20 percent of that budget will come from endowment money. The article also notes the number of visitors the museum expects to have in the first few years. It notes the number of membership subscriptions the museum has been able to take in so far. The article even goes so far as to state how much those memberships and entrance tickets cost.

Striking, then, is the way this hard news reporting is actually embedded in a larger story that is more art criticism than general arts reporting. The larger story is about the Barnes and more specifically about the significance of the Barnes collection itself. As such, this article by Stephan Salisbury represents a hybrid of general arts news reporting and art criticism.

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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 Review That Doesn’t Review?

Agatha Christie’s famous whodunit “The Mousetrap” is currently running up rave reviews at Walnut Street Theatre but readers hoping to get an idea about the quality of the performance from Toby Zinman’s “review” in The Philadelphia Inquirer from January 25 will be disappointed.

Zinman sets the scene ably enough, laying out the characters, which actors and actresses are involved and the basic plot, as well as a note about the play’s epic sixty-year run in London.

Then she sets the scene some more, and some more. And then the review ends.

Well, not exactly. Zinman manages to include two sentences at the end of the piece praising the set design and Malcolm Black’s direction. Beyond that, though, readers are left in the lurch.

Zinman enjoyed the play – that much is clear. And while one could maybe forgive her for not wanting to give away the precious plot turns of a mystery play, she easily could have given the reader something else. Were the actors’ and actresses’ performances any good? Did any performance stand out? Did the play feel long or short? Is Walnut Street the best venue for a play like this, or would another playhouse in the city have been better suited for the performance?

Though 300 words is not a lot to work with, Zinman’s “review” is still more of a preview than anything, and readers hoping to get a better sense of what aspects of the performance are done well will need to turn elsewhere or see the play themselves.

Text by Dan Wisniewski. Image from the Walnut Street Theater.