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Journalistic Analysis 3: Local/Beat Reporting


The Occasional Kindness of Strangers
New York Times
Daniela Gerson

This piece is a first person situational narrative: the author had collapsed on a crowded subway in New York City and chose to write about the group of people on the train that stopped to help her, despite the apparent impossibility of getting medical help to arrive. The piece provides a look into something that defies the stereotype of the cold, unfriendly New Yorker and highlights the unexpected kindness of strangers while still keeping a very New York, local feel to the tone in the style.
The author interjects a specific “typical New York” tone into the piece which counteracts with the kindness of strangers. She talks of  subway etiquette, calling it “distasteful to eat on the subway” and noting that the woman who first helped her broke the “first rule of subway travel: No contact with strangers.”
I initially found this story intriguing because it was not about a major event, it did not profile a specific person to highlight something important or even quirkily interesting; it focused instead on a look at citizens in an ordinary crisis. It is not the most newsworthy of topics, but it gives insight.

Where is Rocky Raccoon?
New York Times
Nicholas Phillips

This piece focuses on a wild raccoon problem on the north end of Central Park, looking at the disturbance they are causing in the New York nightlife and the controversy caused between those who find the animals a nuisance and those who don’t mind them. While the topic may not be breaking, front page news, the story is relevant to the citizens living in the area. The article also paints a picture of the neighborhood by the residents interviewed.
What is especially striking about this piece are the storytelling quotations used. The dialect and word choice in the quotations create a tone to the piece as well as lending to the overall picture of the neighborhood. The piece quotes a fair amount, which shows the gravity of the raccoon situation to the citizens, such as here: “I don’t know what to do, they’re big like a dog.” The writer also uses descriptors to give a physical description of the people he interviews, letting the reader know that this is who lives here, this is their environment.
The author also creates conflict by showcasing conflicting points of view; amongst the people who find the raccoons to be a problem, there are those who not only don’t mind, but have grown accustomed to and even like the raccoon. This is specifically evident in the man who named the raccoons. By covering this story with vivid quotations, details, and conflicting view points, the author creates a layered conflict in what doesn’t seem like much of a story.

Covering Sarah Palin Campaign from the Nome Front
LA Times
Steve Lopez

This article takes a spin on all of the Sarah Palin coverage and national attention on Alaska, which so far has focused on the vice presidential candidates hometown of Wasilia, by focus on the “real” Alaska, going out far west to Nome, Alaska. The article takes a look at citizens who haven’t been living amongst Palin to get their take on the vice presidential pick. This piece talks to democratic Alaskans and Palin supporters, as well as a few who just aren’t interested in talking politics, showing that Alaska is just as diverse as the rest of the US and bringing a sense of normalcy where there’s been national attention and sensation.
The author writes the piece in first person, chronicling his time in Nome as a clear outsider, give a feel to the article as a peek into a different society. This is a smooth contrast to the normalcy presented by the town. Lopez repeatedly mentions things that weren’t what he expected, from the visibility of Russia to the presence of liberal media. He says he unexpectedly liked the small town. Things quoted in the article, such “we’ve had so long a time of people who have gotten by one charisma, we want someone who’s smart again” are similar to opinions you will find anywhere. The inclusion of the reference to Tina Fey’s portrayal of Palin on Saturday Night Live was particularly familiar. The author sets up the story as a look into what real Alaskans think and ends up showing what typical Americans think.

In Atlanta, War-Scarred ‘Lost Girl’ on a Quest
Brian Feagans
Atlanta Journal-Constitution

This piece takes a world concern, turmoil in Africa, and focuses on the local aspect: a “lost girl” in Atlanta. The article specifically looks at Abek Wach’s attempts to find her place in America and take advantages of the opportunities she now has, such as going to college.
The article is broken up into pieces, anecdotes that tell either of her background in Africa or her struggle to fit in in Atlanta. By telling the story this way, the author creates a contrast and comparison between the girl’s old life in a land far away to the reader and the more familiar, local life. In the beginning of the article, Feagans does a particularly good job of this, juxtaposing the two worlds. “She learned volleyball between blinding sandstorms in Kenya. Then she lettered for varsity in Conyers.”

Homeless in Atlanta: Crystal’s Story
Atlanta Journal-Constitution
John Spink

This piece of reporting is focused in photos. The photos taken probably detail the life of Crystal Buchans better than descriptors in a written article. It vividly depicts the city in a different light, blending something the readers find familiar with something they probably overlook.

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