September 30, 2008

Story Ideas: Banned Book Week

This week the American Library Assoc. celebrates Banned Books Week.

The purpose is to draw attention to books that people want banned for one reason or another. (Something that runs counter to the First Amendment, by the way.)

So what are some of the books that should be banned? Among the frequently challenged books are:
  • Harry Potter (Series) by J.K. Rowling
  • Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  • Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  • A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
  • Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  • Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • Beloved by Toni Morrison
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  • Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
So now for the story idea aspect
  • Student interviews: What do students think of the attempts to ban these -- and the other -- books?
  • Interviews with librarians, groups that try to ban the books, and library users about the issue.
  • Interviews with academics and legal experts on the history and legal basis for banning/not banning books.
  • Maybe some students can call back to their high schools to discuss the issue with their schools' librarians and school board members to have them discuss battles over book banning.

September 26, 2008

September 25, 2008

September 19, 2008

Charges Against Journalists at RNC Dropped; Questions Remain

The SPJ and many other groups stepped up to complain about the treatment of journalists by St. Paul, Minn., police during the Republican National Convention.

Now the city has dropped all charges.

Read the story at

September 18, 2008

Story Idea: Science and the next president

With all the talk of the economy and lipstick, another issue facing the country is how will the executive branch view science.

The National Academies of Science have weighed in with a study.

For student journalists, interviews with science department profs would be a natural.

The Financial Implosion: Points missed by US media

With the financial implosion taking place within the US banking and insurance industry, a lot of the write ups in the US media are about the impact on the US market with a few comments on the roll over effect on foreign markets.

The decline of AIG could also mean a major loss of private sector support for developing international affairs programs.

Thanks to the Asia Times we can see that the AIG bailout has much deeper implications.

China's imploding US ally
By Richard Komaiko and Chris Stewart

The collapse of US insurance giant AIG and its US$85 billion takeover by the US government on Tuesday takes the US financial crisis right to the heart of China's development as a capitalist country.

AIG, the world's sixth-largest company by assets and biggest insurer, according to the Forbes Global 2000 list for 2007, is one of the few US institutions to be founded in China, its roots dating from 1919 when Cornelius Vander Starr, a veteran of World War I, founded a small insurance company in Shanghai called American Asiatic Underwriters, later to become AIG.

Click here for the rest of the article.

One of the interesting points the article makes is that the future of AIG may not lie in the US government but in the individual policies in Asia. People are cashing them in NOW out of fear of an AIG collapse.

The role AIG leaders have played in US-China relations is also important. The Greenberg chair at the Council of Foreign Affairs is endowed by the CV Starr Foundation, named after the founder of AIG and named after the current CEO of AIG.

No AIG. Potentially less involvement in international affairs.

September 17, 2008

Story Ideas: College Enrollment

So maybe look at how Virginia, Maryland and DC size up.

From the U.S. Census Bureau, Sept.. 17, 2008

College Enrollment Up 17 Percent Since 2000

Enrollment in two- and four-year colleges and universities in the U.S. reached 20.5 million in 2006, up 3 million since 2000. This included 17.1 million undergraduates and 3.4 million students in graduate or professional schools.

These statistics are from the U.S. Census Bureau’s School Enrollment in the United States: 2006, a report that describes the characteristics of the nation’s 79 million students in 2006.

This is the first school enrollment report from the Census Bureau to use data from both the Current Population Survey (on which previous reports have been based) and the American Community Survey. Incorporating these data result in new state-by-state comparisons of enrollment characteristics while preserving the historical comparisons of school enrollment.

In 2006, there were more students in college and high school, but fewer in nursery school, kindergarten and elementary school, than in 2000. This change reflects the composition of school enrollment by age in the United States for that time period.

Other findings:

  • More than half of undergraduates (56 percent) – as well as 59 percent of graduate students – were women.
  • In 2006, 4.7 million children age 3 and over were enrolled in nursery school or preschool. Among 3-year-olds, 41 percent were enrolled in nursery school, compared with 60 percent of 4-year-olds. Children 5 and older made up 12 percent of nursery school students.
  • The West reported the lowest percentage of native non-Hispanic white students enrolled in kindergarten through 12th grade (44 percent), while the Midwest reported the highest (72 percent). The highest percentage of native-born, single-race black elementary school students was in the South
  • (23 percent), and the West reported the highest percentage of native-born, single-race Asian students (5.8 percent).
  • California (50 percent), Nevada (36 percent) and New York (33 percent) had the highest percentages of students with at least one foreign-born parent, while West Virginia and Mississippi were among the lowest at 2.5 percent.
  • In California, Texas and New Mexico, one-third or more of students enrolled in kindergarten through 12th grade spoke a language other than English at home. By contrast, about 3 percent of students in Mississippi spoke a language other than English at home.


The data in this report are from the 2006 American Community Survey (ACS) and the Current Population Survey (CPS). Statistics from surveys are subject to sampling and nonsampling error. For more information on the source of the data and accuracy of the estimates, including standard errors and confidence intervals, see Appendix G at

Note: See for further information on the accuracy of the 2006 American Community Survey data.

Note from the Census Bureau: The report can be accessed at

Contact: Tom Edwards

Public Information Office

301-763-3030/763-3762 (fax)


September 11, 2008

Story idea: DoD and open source

Very interesting article on a provision of the Defense Appropriation bill working its way through Congress.

Seems the legislators have added a preference for open sourcing computing for the Pentagon. And the brass are not objecting.

How the DoD learned to stop worrying and love open source.

So I wonder:
  • What other federal agencies are seriously looking at open sourcing?
  • Are local and state governments looking at open sourcing?
  • Are government entities with a degree of independence (i.e. universities) looking at open sourcing.

September 10, 2008

World Fails To End

The giant atom smasher in Switzerland was turned on today (9/10/08) and despite the hysterical screams of the anti-science crowd, a black hole devouring the earth was not created. (Or maybe it has and we are all now living in an alternate universe.)

Here's the CNET report on the one of the greatest science projects ever created.

Science story anyone?

Story Ideas: What are the neighbors buying?

The New York Times put up a great interactive map of what other countries are buying.

Obviously the US leads in many areas, but look at the comparisons.

Brazil (Population 188 million) spends about US$5 billion on electronics. Hong Kong (population about 8 million) spends almost US$2 billion. Obviously this is an issue of how wealthy Hong Kong is compared to Brazil. But doesn't that also show the gap that developing countries have bridge to be competitive in the 21st century?

But look at alcohol and tobacco and you see Japan spends more than twice as much as China. US$77 billion to US$31 billion. Guess money and education don't always buy wisdom.

Lots of this information is available for free from US government web pages. Maybe a session for students and working journalists on how to mine the FREE US government web pages might be in order.

September 4, 2008

The Word: More than a puppy swatter

More Than a Puppy-Swatter:

"You know what people use these for? They roll them up and swat their puppies for wetting on the rug--they spread them on the floor when they're painting the walls--they wrap fish in them--shred them up and pack their two-bit china in them when they move--or else they pile up in the garbage until an inspector declares them a fire hazard! But this also happens to be a couple of more things! It's got print on it that tells stories that hundreds of good men all over the world have broken their backs to get. It gives a lot of information to a lot of people who wouldn't have known about it if we hadn't taken the trouble to tell them. It's the sum total of the work of a lot of guys who don't quit. It's a newspaper . . . and it only costs 10 cents, that's all. But if you only read the comic section or the want ads--it's still the best buy for your money in the world."

--William Conrad, actor, playing a crusty city editor in "30," 1959

From The Word

Editing Process

Wired magazine is putting its editorial process -- from start to finish -- online.

Wired Article.

This can help give students (and the general public) a better idea about how a major magazine puts out an article from pitch to publish.

The tale of Amy Goodman at the RNC

For a discussion on the role of press freedom and the importance of free media, you might want to look at the posting I put up in the DC SPJ blog site on the Amy Goodman arrest in St. Paul this week.

Amy Goodman Arrest