Thursday, February 25, 2010

Sale Events Turn to Trials for Toyota

Toyota's focus turned from making cars, to fixing cars, and now two days of U.S. House hearings. The first took place Tuesday, Feb. 23, before a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee. The second took place Wednesday, Feb. 24 before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. The USA Today on-line article "Toyota Executive Not Sure Problems Are Solved" discusses witness testimony and what the company can expect in the future.

As an editor, I can see that the lead is what makes the story. A paraphrased quote from Jim Lentz saying "he is "not totally" certain the automaker's recent recalls will prevent future cases of unintended acceleration" grabs attention immediately. However, Lentz is not identified as the speaker until his name first appears in the fifth paragraph. With sources ranging from a personal experience of unintended acceleration, to representatives on the subcommittees, to top executives within Toyota, the article balances personal and informative. Also, the list format under the sub-head "Major Issues Raised" is an effective way of presenting the testimony in a nutshell.

As a 20 something woman, I was particularly interested in the concern that electronic glitches could be to blame for the acceleration issues, since the future is definitely in technology. Associate professor of automotive technology at Southern Illinois University David Green testified that he was able to bypass Toyota's "fail-safe" system that should be preventing electrical problems from affecting acceleration. Green performed his tests on four types of Toyotas, bypassing the "fail-safe" system each time without triggering anything that could be spotted by a technician. This testimony grabbed my attention, because of the ridicule it makes of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood promised that the NHTSA "will not rest" until they determine whether electronics are the problem in Toyotas. Members of the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee questioned LaHood's pledge based on his staff's report they felt incapable of handling such an investigation. The solution seems obvious to me: the NHTSA should hire David Green since he is obviously capable of hacking Toyota's system.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Soaking up the Sun in Haiti

Haiti has been in the minds of people for weeks, since the January 12 earthquake. The new angle that CNN article "College Students Heading for Haiti" takes is clearly spelled out in the title. Groups from Penn State and Lawrence Technological University are traveling to the country in the upcoming months as their spring break or post-graduation plans. Lawrence Tech students, working with Reconstruction Efforts Aiding Children without Homes (REACH), plan to help lay foundations for two structures. "Project Haiti" from Penn State will be taking clothing and other supplies to children living in the Maison Fortune orphanage in Hinche.

From an editorial standpoint, I immediately want to know if these are the only two universities who have trips planned to Haiti; other universities could easily be recognized in a sidebar. The article provides a wide variety of sources, including students participating in the trips, advisers and even past participants that still work with the projects. I appreciated the array of voices, and the method the article's author used, which allowed sources to basically tell the story in their own words.

From a 20 something viewpoint, I am slightly disappointed in the tone the article takes. Twice the article points out that a "typical" college spring break is partying and lying in the sun (once in a quote from Liz Stock and again when referring to Christopher Harris). While this tone places a spotlight on these students for choosing to travel to Haiti, it makes it seem like all other college students are self-absorbed. Especially with the decision to end with this quote: "I think more people need to stop being selfish and give back to the principles that we're all instilled with from birth. It feels good doing good things." Interesting choice for a kicker quote on an article that is supposed to be focusing on the good deeds of college students, don't you think? Let me know.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Degrees in Medical Marijuana

On Tuesday, February 9, 2010, USA Today ran an article on their website entitled "As Attitudes Shift, Marijuana Classes Roll." The story focuses around classes at Oaksterdam University, Los Angeles, that teach about the marijuana plant. California is one of 14 states that allow marijuana for medicinal purposes, so the classes are meant to teach citizens about growing the plant legally. The reporter included a glimpse into who the students are within the classes and what they learn.

Looking at this article from an editorial position, the article appears amidst media attention to a California petition to legalize marijuana in every sense. My initial thought was that quotes or biographical information from participating students would have strengthened the story, before noticing this: "Many students, worried about legal uncertainties, did not want to be identified." While this one line explains to me why so few are included in this article, I felt this line blew a huge hole into the credibility of the story altogether. One of the points of the story is that marijuana has now become a topic that people are willing to talk about and even attend classes for, yet people don't want there to be repercussions for appearing in a story?

Looking at this article from a 20 something perspective, it does not seem to have a specific target audience. Though most of the sources are Oaksterdam school officials, their message is refreshing because they don't sound as rehearsed as typical university officials. The one question I am not completely sure was ever answered is: why should I care? I want the news to give me a reason to pay attention, but this article only gives me a weak attempt towards relatability using few sources that were actually students in the program. Legalizing medical marijuana came about through the efforts of the generation ahead of us, but simply legalizing marijuana will likely be up to my generation.

Take a look at the article, and let me know what you think: