Saturday, March 13, 2010

Burying Alzheimer's, In Life and In Media

The Alzheimer's Association released its most recent report March 9, 2010, announcing the finding that minorities are at a greater risk of developing Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia. The coverage of this announcement by USA Today surprised me- it was buried in the "Life" section on the second to last page, below the fold. Granted, this article was published on the day the report came out, so likely the article was a last minute addition with the basic facts about what the report was about. I was still surprised by this coverage and wanted to know more about this report. The CNN web provided some information with their article "'Drowning in Alzheimer's': Minorities struggle with dementia."

From an editorial perspective, I was still disappointed with CNN's coverage of this report. I appreciated that they included a familial profile with the announcement of the report, but I felt that they said little to nothing about the report itself. Instead they focused on how the family of Francisca Terrazas handled her care as she lives with Alzheimer's. After mentioning the report briefly in the second and third paragraph (including the statistics that African-Americans are about two times and Hispanics are about 1.5 times more likely to develop the disease and its subsidiaries), the article moves to the difficulties of handling family members with the disease when a minority. Citing socioeconomic disparities, taboos about assisted living facilities and nursing homes and families simply burying any problem, I know more about the way Alzheimer's is handled within the Terrazas family than about how the Alzheimer's Association came to these findings.

From a 20 something perspective, I wanted to know more. Our parents are getting older, and the age is beginning to show. Alzheimer's, as the article said, is "indiscriminately devastating," and I want to know as much as possible about the disease just in case. This article didn't provide that, even in sidebars or links. While I understand wanting to show a real-life example of a minority family caring for their mother with Alzheimer's, I don't understand why more attention wasn't paid to the report that inspired the story itself- I want to understand why more minorities have the disease, what causes the disease and what symptoms have been currently identified. The article didn't really answer any of my questions, so I felt like the motivation for the story was buried under the profile.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Sleepover at the Supreme Court

Concrete is likely no one's ideal pillow, but many roughed it as they spent the night outside the Supreme Court in Washington D.C., Monday, March 1. This article by Adam Liptak for The New York Times entitled "Tailgating Outside the Supreme Court, With the Cars" provides the story of those wanting to "sit her and see law being made" (in the words of Larken Euiss, second in line). Over the course of approximately 26 hours, people joined the line to witness the open arguments in the case of McDonald v. Chicago, though ultimately only 75 people would be granted entrance. The trial will be examining the constitutionality of the Chicago handgun ban according to the Second Amendment, which is the right to bear arms.

From an editorial perspective, I really enjoyed the creativity of this piece, especially in regards to the angle. The journalist, Adam Liptak, did a great job of "finding the story" within this topic. He introduced readers to those in line and revealed their motivations for being there without going any further into the politics of the trial itself. While I enjoyed the piece, I wish he would have included a brief paragraph on the case itself. Though Liptak, obviously, was trying to avoid the typical trial story, he mentions the case name, McDonald v. Chicago, once and provides no other information. The only clue I saw was the description of Robert Cumberland's button. Readers benefit from a brief background reminder, especially for legal matters.

From a 20s perspective, I appreciated the amount of detail within the piece. Liptak filled readers in on what time things took place over the course of the 26 hours and what people did to pass the time. The piece reads more like a narrative than a journalistic story due to Liptak taking on the role of omniscient narrator. It is obvious that he was "lingering with intent" (in the words of one of my journalism professors), because he knew why a person's hair was blue, what book the high schoolers were reading and heard the retort of the court police. He made the piece more about the people than the trial, and I will readily admit to rereading the piece several times seeking out all the detail. The only thing missing was what kind of pizza they ate.