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.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

"Recession alters parents' plans for kids' college"

Lisa Black's article on the effects of the economy on college affordability is written well enough, but lacks a truly newsworthy appeal.  Although Black does a nice job of finding and incorporating sources and uses quotes effectively to move her story forward, she fails to provide a fair balance.  The article does not provide substantial background information on the economy or provide actual tuition prices.  There are also no economic experts quoted in the story.  
Though the article is timely, it does not provide a newsworthy story.  The focus of the article is predictable and obvious.  Reading the article is only a way to find a few examples of people suffering from a problem that everyone already knew existed.  
The article's greatest strength is its use of examples.  By following a small number of students and their families through the struggle of applying to schools and finding a financial fit, the reader becomes attached and intrigued by their story.  
Overall, this article is well done considering the subject.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

"Whites break new ground by teaching black studies"

Dawn Turner Trice authored this article on the emergence of white professors teaching African-American studies courses.  Though the main focus is on white professors, the article also discusses the history of the African-American Studies program.  The historical background is presented well and adds depth to the article.  
The sources that Trice quoted are either white or African-American professors.  This provided some balance on the issue, though it would have been nice to have heard from students directly instead of being told how they react through the professors' words.
The lead for this story is a light hearted feature lead that sets the tone for the rest of the article.  I don't necessarily think that the story's material called for this style, but the author does a nice job of making it work and keeping it light throughout. 
Since this year is the 40th anniversary of the African-American studies program the article is timely, though it surprises me that it wasn't run a week ago as part of a black history month feature.
Overall, I found this article to be a good piece of journalism.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

"Suburban school board chief quits in email flap"

This article, written by Russell Working, discusses a sexual assault at a west suburban public school, and the after effects that led to school board chief Mark Metzger to quit his job.  After two children assaulted a classmate on school grounds, the father of the assaulted student was understandably upset that the suspects were not being removed from the school.  Metzger accidently emailed the father a message in which he refers to the father with an epithet containing an expletive.  The Parent Council was not pleased by this, and after apologizing Metzger has decided to step down.   
Beginning with an effective summary lead the story opens by delivering the most important details right away.  The necessary background information is provided up front and the story follows the inverted pyramid style by introducing more detailed information throughout.  
Working does a nice job of being ethical with this story.  He recognizes the sensitive state that those involved must be in, considering the story revolves around people who were victims of a sexual crime, lost their jobs, or are young children.  For this reason I understand why the story is lacking in direct quotations.
Overall, I believe this was a difficult story to write and that Working found a way to present the information in an easy to follow way.