Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Discrepancies in News Reporting

Out of curiosity, I decided to pick a random news article within current events and see how various online news sources covered it. I chose the traffic accident involving Michelle Obama's van and the motorcyclist from Iowa.



The Swamp, Chicago Tribune
Michelle Obama's van involved in Iowa crash
The motorcycle was driven by Timothy Emerson, 41, of Iowa Falls, Iowa, according to the sheriff's department.

Salem News
Michele Obama's Van Crashes Into Motorcycle During Iowa Campaign
The motorcyclist, 40-year-old Tim Emerson of Iowa Falls, is a hydraulic mechanic according to media reports. The rider reportedly came to a landing on fairly soft ground, he did not have a crash helmet on.

Mason City Globe Gazette
Motorcycle, Obama campaign vehicle collide
The cyclist was 41-year-old Timothy Scott Emerson of Iowa Falls.

Chicago Tribune
Michelle Obama involved in crash
The cyclist, identified by the Franklin County Sheriff's Department as Timothy Emerson, 41, of Iowa Falls, Iowa, was injured and airlifted to a hospital. A nursing supervisor at Mercy Medical Center in Mason City, Iowa, said late Tuesday that Emerson was treated and released.

Associated Press
Obama's Wife's Vehicle in Collision
The motorcyclist was injured and taken to the hospital, said Katie McCormick Lelyveld, a spokeswoman for Michelle Obama. The vehicle was hit by the motorcycle as it attempted a left turn just south of Hampton, where Michelle Obama was due at a rally.

Chicago Sun-Times
Michelle Obama not hurt in Iowa car crash
The motorcyclist, whose name has not been released, was injured and a medical helicopter was at the scene.

FOX News
Michelle Obama Involved in Car Accident
The motorcyclist, who the Washington Post identified as 40-year-old Tim Emerson, was not wearing a helmet at the time of the accident. He was taken to a nearby hospital.

Hampton Chronicle
Wife of candidate delayed by crash
At the entrance to Maynes Grove Park, four miles south of Hampton on U.S. Highway 65, Obama witnessed a serious crash involving a van and a motorcycle. The motorcycle's rider was airlifted by Mercy Air Life to an undisclosed hospital.

Washington Post
Michele Obama in Iowa Accident
The motorcyclist, 40-year-old Iowa Falls hydraulic mechanic Tim Emerson, landed on grass softened by three inches of weekend rain and lay still with a cut on his head. He was not wearing a helmet."He got in a little bit of a hurry and tried to go around everybody," said Mark Kellar, a friend of Emerson's riding another motorcycle. "I didn't believe he was going that way at an intersection. He went around two other cars that he shouldn't have."

Reuters
no coverage



It looks to me like there's no definitive information on how old he is. Some papers caught his nickname, others reported his full name and profession, and one claimed that information was not released. The Washington Post got a very good quote from a friend of the motorcyclist, that was unique among all the reporting I read.

Some papers had headlines that mispelled Mrs. Obama's first name (sloppy!), and others implied that the van hit the motorcyclist - only upon reading the article was it revealed that the motorcycle drove into the van. Stating that the van drove into the motorcyclist would be misinformation, but stating that the van "collided" with the motorcycle seems to be vague enough wording to insinuate that Mrs. Obama was at fault, but if called to task the article can testify that this was not precisely the case.

FOX News and Salem News both report the motorcyclist as being 40 and specifically indicate he was not wearing a helmet. I'd guess they draw their news from the same source. The Washington Post indicated these too but had substantially more information. I would wonder if FOX News and Salem News chose to cut out parts of the wire they received.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Last Night and Today

Class went very well last night. I had such weird reactions to the stories. The first one, in picture book format, was charming and reminded me of my own childhood. The next two were transitional readers or juvenile novels, so hard to nail these definitions down and I'm just not sure anyway. The first brought out the proofreader in me and I was highly critical of everything. I made sure not to speak up and kept my corrections to myself. The second was colorful and entertaining and I would have liked to have read much more. It had some of the errors of the first one but I didn't care so much. There's a layer of subtlety to this that part of my mind is working on, but I'm not conscious of it.

There's a teenager walking around the library (where I'm posting from) in a red-lined cloak. I'm unable to determine whether he's mentally retarded or just extremely awkward.
Boredom's really setting into my bones, and I'm past the point of resenting it. In the beginning of this week it fired me up and made me angry; now I just feel worn out. I sent out writing samples to three places: received automated messages from two sites, have heard nothing from the third. No reason to give up, certainly, and this is one wall against which it is most beneficial to bang my head. Must keep writing, submitting, or writing without submitting. Neil Gaiman gave me the simplest, almost exasperated advice: writers write.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Difficulty in Thought and Deed

As all things are cyclical, now I'm confronted with my lack of sophistication. It started a couple years ago, when I felt that black t-shirts and jeans were getting to be too childish for me, but I didn't have much else in the way of wardrobe. Some business apparel, but I couldn't imagine lounging around with friends in a tie and slacks. Then I fretted over details such as not being able to distinguish between Izod and Lacoste. That was easier to resolve, as there are many, many more important things about which to be concerned.

Now it's come back, both in the classroom and in social interaction.

I wrote a couple paragraphs that would go here, and have deleted and rewritten them a few times. I don't want to put out enough information that anyone besides me might be identified. I'm also trying to decide how to phrase these revelations without coming off as whiny. I might not be able to.

I'm taking a class in writing children's literature, and it's surprisingly sophisticated. I'm not surprised by this: you can take any topic and study it to incredible degrees, you can penetrate multiple aspects to any depth you like. So it is with children's books: 32 pages, 14 two-page spreads, balance here, meter there, watch your vocabulary, etc. Our instructor is endlessly cheery and supportive, and as time goes by we're given greater insight to her experience and wisdom. She can meet any student at their skill level and push it up just a notch: a highly personalized learning experience.

She does this for me, too, but... more. She is never scant in her praise, but her criticism is pretty insightful and adult. Almost hard, but maybe that's just because she believes I can take it, and if I'm going to be a serious author I'd do well to learn how to take it because I'm sure it'll get much worse. I'm not even worried about that, it's just... there have been a couple instances where I think she has pegged my character and shapes events accordingly. She has never been insulting, she has never embarrassed me in front of anyone, but if I'm able to read between the lines at all I would describe her as prematurely fed up with my arrogance. I try not to be arrogant, I just want to do well, but I think she sees it in me and is taking preemptive measures to keep it at bay. It's a humbling experience. It's one thing for any jackoff to call you arrogant, and most likely they have no idea what they're talking about, but for someone of perspicacity and depth to quell your inspiration to rant or preclude certain events from precipitating - and to become aware of these, even if no one else can see them (and they are all the more sagacious because no one else can perceive this private struggle) - it's a humbling experience. There's no other way for me to say it. It makes me want to hang my head and focus on working harder and pushing myself to correct the flaws in my writing, if the flaws in my character are too large to resolve in an evening.

"There's no other way for me to say it." This is another thing. I've gotten into arguments with friends and my girlfriend, and I'm confronted with my lack of education and reasoning capacity. I'm not sure how to work on this. I mean, education, I'm working on that. I'm going back to school, I have a wealth of research databases at my disposal. I can study anything on my own, I have plenty of time to read. I'm not sure how to form better arguments, though, I don't know how to resume critical analysis like I took in college. There are probably books on this, that teach you how to identify the kernel of someone's argument and clear away the chaff. There are probably other books that instruct you in patterns of argument, how to guide the flow of a conversation, or... I don't even know. I can't conceive. I know that simplifying arguments to their component parts isn't working for me. I want to get better at this because I'm tired of sounding like a little kid when I get angry.