Monday, April 6, 2009

"Online university founders: University of Illinois' Global Campus face uncertain future"

This article, written by Jodi S. Cohen is a very informational story concerning University of Illinois' Global Campus online course program.  The story details how the program has failed to meet expectations and as a result may be forced to shut down.  Cohen quotes many official sources involved in the program at different levels.  There is a fair amount of balance in that several sources advocate for the program to be closed, while others argue for it to be salvaged.  Cohen presents the information in a very matter of fact way, and the quotes she has selected help make the information easier to take in while reading the article.  The story discusses how $10 million have already been invested in the program, and how that effects people's decisions on where to go from here concerning the program's future.  The lead captures the true newsworthiness of the story and sets the tone for the informative piece.  The only issue I have with this story is that only one student who is involved in the Global Campus program is quoted, and it is only once at the very end of the piece.  Hearing more from those directly effected by the decision would be a nice addition to this story. 

Monday, March 30, 2009

"IIT kills basketball: Men's and women's programs are shut down"

This article, written by Sara Olkon, discusses how the Illinois Institute of Technology is canceling its basketball program after this season.  The decision was made as a means of allocating funds to extracurricular programs that would offer greater impact to a greater number of people.  The article doesn't mention what those extracurricular activities may be, leaving the reader to wonder what gets the entire student body more involved than cheering for their athletic teams.  The article's focus is on the how the cancellation affects the players' lives.  This is the truly newsworthy aspect of the story, and the author does a nice job of quoting players' and coaches' opinions on the issue.  A fair amount of background is given on how the basketball program is run concerning scholarships, though there is no information concerning how much funding it costs to run the program.  There are no quotes from the school's administration outside of a very wordy PR statement, so the article does lack some balance, but it isn't the fault of the author since the organization refused to comment.  After reading the article it's hard not to feel sorry for the players' whose lives have been drastically changed, and the emotion that the article stirs up in the reader is a direct result of powerful quotes.  Olkon does a great job of setting the tone and getting at the real news in this story.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

"Chicago Public Schools crack down on abusive coaches"

This brief article discusses a new policy concerning how high-school athletics coaches are allowed to manage their players.  The new policy prohibits the use of profanity, taunting, or throwing objects at student athletes.  The article discusses how the policy will work, and provides some information concerning how coaches feel about the new stricter rules.  The article fails to include any student athletes' reactions.  Without the students' input, one doesn't know for sure whether the policy was instated to protect the schools' administrations, the coaches, or the players.  The coach that is quoted in the story is against the new policy, and since new student source is included, it's hard to say whether kids are in favor of it either.  The article's lack of balance makes it unclear as to what caused the new change in policy, which I believe to be an interesting aspect to this story.  The summary lead used to open the story is about as effective as the article that follows it in terms of grabbing the reader's attention and providing newsworthy material.  

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

"Simeon Career Academy students rally: High schoolers mourn slain classmate Gregory Robinson"

Carlos Sadovi opens this article with a scene setting feature lead.  The lead works well because it goes beyond simply stating that another Chicago public school student has been killed and gets directly into the real newsworthy aspects while developing a foundation for the tone of the story.  The author combines quality quotes with effective paraphrasing to tell the story of the a recent memorial and anti-violence rally.  In a short news piece, Sadovi manages to squeeze in a variety of sources, including students and Chicago Public Schools officials.  
The article discusses the importance of naming each of the 29 student victims personally at the memorial rally, and never referring to any victim as a number.  I imagine this could have posed a challenge to journalists covering the event, as there are ethical issues involving sensitivity to victims' privacy. 
For a short piece, I believe Sadovi's article is a good piece of journalism, that if expanded on, could make a better story.

Friday, March 20, 2009

"Open space versus schools: Who wins?"

Antonio Olivo opens this story with a summary lead that, through effective word choices, gives a very accurate picture of what the article will cover.  The article discusses how a section of Rainbow Beach Park on the south side of the city has been approved by the City Council Zoning Committee to be the new site of an overcrowded elementary school.  Many education officials are in favor of using this land for the new school site, while local residents advocate for keeping the park as is.  
Olivo presents both sides of the issue evenly throughout the story.  There is no evidence of the author's bias or opinion in the story.  Olivo also provides ample background information for the issue so that the reader can easily identify both sides of the argument as being logical.  
The sources in this story are balanced as well, coming from both those who support the school and those in favor of the park.  Both local residents and city officials provide colorful quotes as well as informative quotes that offer new information to move the story forward.  
I guess the best measure for how good the story is could be how interested the reader is in finding out whether the new school will be built on the park or not.  I'm looking forward to finding out, so this article did the job for me.

Monday, March 16, 2009

"Examining shockingly deadly year for public schools"

Authors Carlos Sadovi and Angela Rozas open this article with an effective feature lead.  By setting the scene with a grim picture of the violence that the article discusses, a serious tone is developed for the entire story.  The story details an increase in the number of youths killed in the current school year.  The authors acknowledge that the numbers are skewed because the statistics only account for youths who are enrolled in public schools, so youths who had dropped out, were not enrolled, or died in the summer months are not included.  This information helps the reader to understand the facts better and not be mislead by statistics.  The authors quote both official and civilian sources, providing a nice balance.  The article shifts focus in the middle of the story.  While the first half deals with an individual case and tells the story of a particular youth who survived a violent act, the second half describes how gang culture is tied in with the problem.  I like how the authors told the story first and followed with the more fact based information.  The only major problem I had with this article is that the authors intentionally do not use the last name of the youth, but do choose to include the full name of his mother.  I am assuming they do not share a last name, but by including her full name it becomes easier to find out who the youth is through her.  I believe it is insensitive to the victim to have done this.   This was a well written article that provided good information as well as a good story.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

"Chicago school is ready for teacher performance pay"

This article discusses a federally funded trial program for performance based pay for teachers involving 20 Chicago schools.  The author, Carlos Sadovi, outlines the way the program works with teachers to improve their teaching skills as well as simply offer money in exchange for better academic results.  This is the most interesting aspect of the story, and Sadovi does a nice job of weaving the background factual information in with the key points.  The story's lead mentions the most newsworthy aspects as well as the two most important figures in the story.  The biggest weakness I found in this story is a series of consecutive paragraphs that introduce new sources without using any direct quotes.  The author elects to paraphrase information that I believe would have a bigger impact on the story if it were presented directly.  The end of the story gives more of a big picture look of how the performance based pay system could work in the future.  The article is well balanced, with contributions from those in favor of the performance based pay program as well as those who claim there is no conclusive evidence that it is an effective way to improve student learning.  Sadovi does a nice job with this story.