Archive for March, 2009

Investigating the Educational System

By Patrick McCabe

Written March 31, 2009

Investigating Education

The first thing education reporters should focus on is the quality of learning. This is the most important component in education. One must ask themselves is a child’s education being hindered by tradition, politics, prejudice, bad teachers or poor administration? Reporters have often found that public schools face the issue of politics over children’s needs.Top 10

The first think to look at when measuring the quality of a school system is student test scores. When analyzing test scores a reporter should always ask, who decides which tests to use and which to reject, how much do the tests cost to acquire and score and are comparable school districts using tests that yield more sophisticated results? While some investigations have proven low income predicts low test scores, others have found the responsibility for these low scores falls on the teacher or administration.

Another factor to look at is school violence and discipline. A journalist should look at security measures and question how effective they are at discouraging violence and what sort of stress do these security measures cause students in the classroom? Some teachers single out students as a way of punishment but this often results in low self-confidence, resulting in poor classroom performance.

The curriculum is an important thing to look at. Does the curriculum seem based on race, gender, ethnicity or class? Are students in lower tracks given the opportunity to advance to college preparatory courses? Does tracking benefit gifted students while hindering slower learners? A good journalist should investigate the text books and assignments when analyzing a school’s curriculum to fully understand it.

Class size is another factor to analyze. It has been found that the larger the class size the harder it is for students to learn. A reporter should ask how is the class size affecting students learning?

Advanced technology at schools often yields to higher test scores. How is the school striving to provide its students with the best and most recent technology? This plays a big role in determining if the school is looking out for the child’s needs or for the politics of the school district. 

Special-needs students face a lot of issues in many school districts. These students need extra care and attention and it is up to the school district to provide them with that. A reporter should ask is the school district neglecting special-needs children, forcing them to redistrict or forcing them into the private or home school sector? This is one of the biggest areas for investigative reporters to find good stories that will capture an audience.

Race, gender and class equity is always an issue in schools. School districts should be doing everything in their power to make all students feel equal. A reporter should analyze performance based on schools with a lot of racial, gender and economic diversity and compare it to schools that are less diverse. This could help determine if race, gender or class really play a role in higher test scores or if these schools prepare their students differently.

The final factor to look at is school choice. Should a family be able to choose where their child goes to school? Does increased competition among schools motivate students to have a higher-quality education? What happens to schools not chosen by many families? These are all important questions that come up when looking at school choice.

In Montgomery County, Md. students have a variety of schools to choose from. In each district student have three different schools they can choose to attend. If a student lives close to the school they desire they are guaranteed a spot but if they do not they must compete against other students. Each school has a different specialization and this makes some schools more desirable than others. James Huber Blake High School was designed as a school specializing in the arts and humanities. It was highly desired by many students and highly competitive. Due to it’s competitive nature the school was only able to admit the best of the best from the district. It quickly became referred to as the “free private school” that you could only attend if you were “rich and white.”

This caused a lot of issues in the district and county officials felt they needed to change this perception. They moved the English for Speakers of Other Languages(ESOL) program that had once been at another school in the district to Blake in hopes that it would make the school more diverse.

Was what the county officials did ethical? How will moving these ESOL students to Blake affect the current students learning environment and how will the teachers and administration react? These are all questions a good investigative reporter should ask and they did.

The Gazette, a local newspaper, found that test scores and performance of all students at Blake High School dropped considerably when the ESOL program was brought to the school.

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March 31, 2009 at 12:29 pm Leave a comment

Elon University Students face virus while cruising the Caribbean

A stomach virus rapidly spread through a spring break cruise effecting three Elon students.

By Patrick McCabe

Written March 30, 2009

While students thought they were headed for a week of sun and fun, cruising the Caribbean Sea they quickly realized that not all of them would have the fun filled week they had hoped for.

“By day four of the seven day cruise my stomach was in knots,” said Senior Amanda Peterson. “I wanted to enjoy the beach but I just felt lousy.”

The Norwegian Dawn, the ship with a virus.

The Norwegian Dawn, the ship with a virus.

The students knew something was not right when on the second day of the cruise they were not allowed to touch anything in the buffet line.

“Everything we wanted had to be served to us by a worker,” said junior Maria Wyka. “I wasn’t even allowed to touch my water cup.”

The cruise believed that a sick passenger brought the virus on to the boat.

“These ships are so heavily sanitized that there is no way the virus could be from the boat,” said ship entertainer Nathanial Reed. 

The ship believes a Norovirus, a family of highly contagious stomach viruses, has caused the virus. Major symptoms include vomiting and diarrhea and it can be passed through the air and by touch. 

“I heard that some people were quarantined in the medical center for three to four days of the cruise,” said Senior Anne Nicholson. “That would have absolutely ruined my vacation if that had been me.” 

While the Elon students were able to enjoy most of their vacation, three students showed symptoms while onboard and one was asked to remain in his room for 24 hours in fear that he may get worse. 

March 30, 2009 at 4:24 pm Leave a comment

Anderson Cooper tickets available to Elon students and faculty causing a big scene and long line

Anderson Cooper’s “A 360 degree Look At World Events” to draw in a huge crowd, Tuesday, April 7th.

By Patrick McCabe

February 17, 2009

Students flooded the Center for the Arts at Elon University, only to find a line wrapped all the way through the building, yesterday as tickets for guest speaker, Anderson Cooper became available to students and faculty.

Anderson Cooper, CNN anchor.

Anderson Cooper, acclaimed journalist and CNN anchor.

Copper, an acclaimed journalist and CNN anchor, will present a lecture entitled “A 360-degree Look at World Events” at Elon on Tuesday, April 7th.

The box office opened at 12:30, Monday afternoon and students and faculty flocked to get their ticket. By the end of the day 400 student tickets remained and 1,000 tickets will be available to the general public for $12.

“It was ridiculous, I have class all day Monday and am required to attend the lecture for class,” said freshman Parker Davis. “How am I supposed to get my ticket when I am taking midterms or in class during the only time that the box office is open?”

Students were not happy with the long wait they faced Monday afternoon.

“I waited for over an hour and I got here before the box office opened,” said junior Kristen Clements. “I ended up missing my second class because the line was so long and the ticketing process was so slow.”

The remaining student tickets and the general admission tickets are available today from 12:30-5 p.m. and students who were not able to get tickets yesterday are encouraged to face the line once again.

March 17, 2009 at 6:41 pm 2 comments

Poor weather and midterms overwhelm Elon University students

It’s raining, it’s pouring, it’s making classes boring

By Patrick McCabe

February 17, 2009 

As midterms loom over Elon University students’ heads, rain continues to pour and weather continues to be bleak.

Rainfall covers Elon's campus

Rainfall covers Elon's campus

 

“We went from snow, to 80 degree weather and now we have had rain for five days straight,” said senior Lauren France. “I have midterms all week, yet this weather just makes me want to lay in bed all day.” 

The rain started late Wednesday night and has continued until late last night. Today was the first day that rain has held off, yet clouds remain and the forecast predicts rain to return on Thursday. 

“I don’t get it,” said sophomore Jonathan Sudbey. “It is usually good weather here, especially by March, but we have had five constant days of rain, it’s depressing.” 

 

Students and faculty try to take cover from the rain

Students and faculty try to take cover from the rain

Midterms are always a stressful time for Elon students and the rainy weather has not helped students remain positive. Normal stress relievers like running, walking or other outdoor activities have been postponed and students are looking for other forms of relief.

 

“I’m a runner, so I have been trying to hit up the gym as much as possible,” said junior Hunter Gros. “I hate not being able to be outside but I can find an alternative.”

While rain continues to pour and midterms continue to overwhelm students, many are staying motivated by the freedom that awaits them in four short days.

“I just keep reminding myself that as of Friday I will be done and as off Saturday I will be cruising the Caribbean,” said senior Allison Barton. “I just hope the weather doesn’t follow me.” 

Whether it is sailing the Caribbean, lounging around in Jamaica or doing service in Key West, Fla., many Elon students will be traveling south for Spring Break. Hopeful for warm, dry weather students are willing to face the struggle of midterms and bad weather, anticipating the week of relaxation that awaits them.

March 17, 2009 at 3:55 pm Leave a comment

‘The Investigative Reporter’s Handbook’ Summary Chapters 10-11

Written By Patrick McCabe

March 16, 2009

Investigating the Judicial System

Investigating the judicial system can be some of the most important an rewarding work a journalist can do. Within the judicial system a reporter has the ability to help change the lives of the accused, whether it is helping an innocent person go free or reveal harsh prison sentences to the public. Investigating the judicial system allows a journalist to expose government corruption and problems within the United States legal system.Top 10

There is a simple method to investigating the judicial system. “The judicial system has clear junctures were documents are produced, decisions are made and rules are sharply defined,” said “The Investigative Reporter’s Handbook” author Brant Houston. “At each one of these junctures, there are numerous investigative possibilities and previous stories from which to learn and build new stories.”

Pennsylvania’s The Intelligencer Record wrote a story about four men who were all wrongfully accused of a crime. They all faced consequences due to the crimes they allegedly committed but following further investigation the Montgomery County District Courts office dropped the charges.

In this story reporters had so many options in which direction they could take their story. The judicial system has so many key players that interview possibilities are endless. In this story reporter Anne Freedman interviewed, the district attorney, a defense attorney, assistant public defender and the innocent victims. Each one of these key players gave different insight into the story and the flaws in Montgomery County’s judicial system.

Juvenile cases and family court are governed by their own set of standards. “It’s good to keep an open mind that those cases,” Houston said. “[Juvenile] and family court are often intertwined and that despite the barriers you can get inside both of these systems.” 

The New York Times wrote an article about a 7-year-old  and 8-year-old who were falsely accused of murder. The two spent a month in a detention facility but were later found innocent. The wrongly accused were rewarded $2 million settlement in a lawsuit that asserted the boys had been framed and falsely arrested.

This case exemplifies how the judicial system can be flawed and how juvenile cases are harder to tackle than other judicial hearings.

Investigating Law Enforcement

“In the United States alone. there are about 18,000 local and state law enforcement agencies,” Houston said. “Dozens of federal government law enforcement units, plus thousands of specialized police departments for universities, subway systems, airports, parks and public housing complexes.”

In order for a journalist to properly monitor a police officer and asses whether they are a good officer, a journalist should follow this technique:

  • Observe officers directly
  • Study incident and arrest records and rates
  • Track day-today prevention efforts
  • Know the leaders of the police unit
  • Study budgets and expenditures
  • Read available personal files
  • Check for investigation by Internal Affairs Unit
  • Follow law suits in local courts
  • Check to ensure that the agency has all of the proper accreditations

Every aspect of law should be investigated differently. From the officers to the evidence room, each piece of the law enforcement agency is important to an investigation and should be handled carefully and with great skill.

According to Houston covering law enforcement can be a great challenge for journalists because “each type of crime has different roots, different types of perpetrators and victims and different investigation techniques,” A good investigative journalist will be able to cover all sorts of law enforcement cases and do so with expertise and precision.

March 16, 2009 at 11:41 am 1 comment

Five abandoned puppies find new homes with Elon University students

Abandoned puppies warm the hearts of Elon students on a cold, rainy Friday night.

Written by Patrick McCabe

March 15, 2009

A soft whimper was heard Friday night near the dumpster in the Old Trollinger apartment complex. When students looked for the source of the whimper, they found five black and white puppies in a box just outside the dumpster. 

One student claimed to have seen a white van drive through the parking lot but no one was certain as to who abandon the five puppies.

Lily, one of the five abandoned puppies, gets her first bath.

Lily, one of the five abandoned puppies, gets her first bath.

“I just don’t understand how someone could leave them out here without finding them a good home,” Katherine Black said. “These little guys were freezing out here and who knows what would have happened if we hadn’t found them.”

Black was one of three students who found the puppies and helped to find all five a good home.

“It was difficult, everyone loves puppies and would want one but many students leases do not allow them to have pets,” Black said. “We had to find them good homes, with responsible students or families.”

The puppies were all split up and have found new homes. Some living in off-campus apartments, illegally, while others were adopted by students living in off-campus houses.

The runt of the litter stole the hearts of three boys and she was quickly adopted to become a part of their home.

“We have the space and we have talked about getting a dog for a few months,” said Hunter Gros. “We are excited that she is now a part of our lives.”

“We really planned out how we would care for her and where she would go on breaks before we decided to keep her,” said fellow roommate Graham McGoogan.”A lot of college students get pets before thinking about what a big responsibility it will be and we did not want to make that mistake.”

As spring begins at Elon University, more and more students have been seen with new pets.

“It just seems like more and more students are adopting pets this spring,” said Elon junior Maria Wyka. “I don’t know if it is because of the nice weather or what but more and more of my friends have pets.”

No matter the reason, more and more students have adopted new pets. While this is good news for the animals, it puts the issue of whether college students have the time or funds to properly care for a pet. 

It appears that the students that recovered the five abandoned puppies this weekend will work hard to maintain a comfortable life for their new pet. 

“We didn’t just get this dog on a whim,” McGoogan said. “We rescued her and will do our best to take care of her, no matter the cost.”

See owner Max Harnett play with his new puppy:

March 15, 2009 at 10:34 pm 1 comment

Mac DeMere speaks to Elon University students about the future of online journalism

By Patrick McCabe

Written March 13, 2009

His hands trembled, clutching his notebook; he tapped his toes and began to speak on the future of journalism.  Mac DeMere spoke at Elon University earlier today, addressing reporting classes and sharing his personal journalist experiences as well as gaining insight into what university students saw for the future of this changing field.

Mac DeMere speaks to university students about his own journalistic experiences.

Mac DeMere speaks to university students about his own journalistic experiences.

“The whole journalism media is [currently] in a war and we don’t know how it is going to end,” said freelance writer and automotive journalist Mac DeMere.

DeMere has worked for a number of automative magazines and also works as a race car driver instructor. His love for the automotive industry has remained apparent in his career, whether serving as a teacher or journalist.

He began working in the automotive career as a journalist but as technology developed he had to conform and now does some work on air, whether in commercials or segments for online content.

“I was driving a car at 210 miles per hour and I get out of the car and they stick that glass lens in my face. My heart raced to 160” said DeMere about his first experience on camera.

As a seasoned journalist, DeMere had a lot of advice to share with students. There are four major things that he focuses on when reporting a story. These include accuracy, timeliness, length and interest.

“You have to be correct and know what you are reporting on,” said DeMere. “it is much more of a challenge if you don’t know the intricacies.”

Friend and colleague, Bill King, joined part way through DeMere’s discussion, sharing his insight on the industry and looking for students opinions about online content.

King told students that the automotive company he works for, oncars.com, has found that video content has one hundred times the hits as opposed to written content.

“In one respect I am not all that surprised that our written content is down” King said.

When questioning student on their opinions about online content King found most students find both video and written content important.

“I don’t have twenty minutes to watch a video,” said Elon sophomore Camille DeMere I need the information immediately and I can’t get that from a video.”

While students appreciated online video, many agreed that written content is much easier to quickly process and grab information from.

It appears that journalism is quickly moving towards online media and multiple forms of media. For seasoned journalists like Mac DeMere and Bill King this means learning new technology and as for university students it means learning a new journalistic style.

See Mac DeMere talk about the journalism war

March 14, 2009 at 12:59 am Leave a comment

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