Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Reading Response: Auperlee, Boo & Finkel

Mother who beat cancer walks miles... (Auperlee)

I found this to be a well-written narrative about a struggling mother who loves her sons.  At the same time, the Jackson Citizen Patriot should not have put it in their news section because of Auperlee's angle.  Auperlee does a decent job of expressing both sides of the mother in question, Gail Hammett.  He brings up her alcoholism, he talks to her son's aunt about her concerns and he tells about the time a friend she brought over threatened Hammett and her disabled son at knifepoint.  I appreciate that he wove this into a story that also focused significantly on what she does for her sons and the struggles she's had in her personal life.

However: "It is impossible to measure a mother’s love and devotion to her children, but consider this."  Auperlee begins his conclusion with this sentence, which precedes a reiteration of Hammett's commitment to visiting her son and the pain it inflicts upon her.  To me this screams of editorializing and emotional manipulation.  As a news story, this sentence and its connotations should have no place in the piece.

I like the way in which Auperlee starts this story.  He sets it up with teen boys joking around and, although he mentions that they're in wheelchairs, he does not focus on their disability.  The story is really about friendship between people with the same injury, which makes it a little different than the standard, uplifting story about injured teens who still keep an upbeat attitude.  He includes a section about their frustrations, which I like.  Although the boys seem to be okay with their situation, I appreciate his portrayal of the more difficult parts of their life.  There's a good balance in the article that prevents it from being overly optimistic.

The homecoming scene at the end did a good portrayal of the way the boys navigate everyday life in high school.  It was a bit cliche, especially here: "So, in the end, the boys' biggest challenges at Homecoming had nothing to do with wheelchairs or accidents. Their issues were all too-normal: a loose bow tie and an ill-fitting crown."  Overall though I feel that Auperlee did a good job with the subject.

Life On Chittock (Auperlee)

Auperlee's focus on a collection of residents gave this piece a good dimension.  He talks to a woman who watches a huge group of kids on the block and to a man who sits on his porch alone and reports traffic problems.  My one criticism of his selection is that I would have like to hear the voices of some of the younger residents.  Overall, though, I liked that he showed the neighborhood through the voices of its residents.

The police information also added to the piece.  It shows the crime that does occur in the area, but also indicates that it often isn't caused by residents.

The Marriage Cure (Boo)

This piece was really well done.  As always with this kind of topic, I sometimes have trouble with the idea of a successful journalist dropping in on a low-income community and thinking they can represent them.  With this piece, though, I think Boo did a good job of observing and writing what she heard.  It made me think of Trina and Trina, by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc.  Unlike in that story though, I wasn't uncomfortable with the reporter's involvement in the lives of these women.  When Kim couldn't catch a bus to get to the mall, Boo didn't offer to drive her.  She essentially refused to interfere directly in their lives, which I thought was great.  It got rid of the savior complex that bothered me in Trina and Trina.

I am glad that Boo pointed out the outdated and situationally distant marriage curriculum.  When I started reading about the program, I was put off by the government's idea of saving poor women by marrying them off.  While that wasn't specifically addressed--and rightfully so, if it didn't put off Kim or Corean--Boo mentioned that the conflicts that arose as examples in the class did not match the real problems those women had with men.  I found this marriage frame interesting in general.  The story was not really about marriage, although Kim did hope to marry Derrick.  The story was about her struggle and Corean's struggle to rise out of their situation, Corean by sending her high-achieving son to college and Kim by making "normal-lady" plans for her future.  The marriage angle gave it a unique aspect, so it didn't seem like just another narrative about a poor person striving for a better future.

Yemen: Exporting Democracy (Finkel)

I did not even realize this piece lacked pictures until I sat down to do this analysis.  Finkel describes the scene quite well, making it easy for me to picture the scenes.  He describes the physical appearance of the people less, but that didn't really bother me.  He also held back on over-doing the review information in each segment but gave enough information so that people reading the series over several days would know the important details.

I liked the topic.  There was a lot of media focus on US military involvement in the Middle East at this time, so it was interesting to read about other US involvement efforts.  Finkel did seem to lean toward promoting Madrid's work and portraying the residents of Yemen as anti-American extremists, which is probably my biggest complaint about the piece.  Other than that I felt like I learned a bit about government and tribes in Yemen, and the way in which these two things are closely tied together.  Even with my limited background in this area, I understood the surface level of the situation, which is all someone can get from something as short as this.  Finkel explained things in a non-confusing way that drew me into the text. 


  1. Maggie,

    I like your perspective on the Boo's use of marriage as a clever angle in her article. I agree -- the article wasn't really about marriage, but it used marriage to present to the reader the complex web of the struggles of poverty. Boo's mastery of writing can be evident in the emotions she was able to evoke in the reader (me) and like you I appreciated her commitment to remaining an observer (unlike in Trina and Trina) despite the fact that I was
    initially a little put-off by her "dropping in on a low-income community" from a position of power and priviledge.


  2. I hear what you're saying about the "Mother who beat cancer..." article having a few too many emotionally charged phrases. Besides the one you mentioned, the author also describes the judge before he doles out the son's sentence as "not lenient or kind"--but in reality, he was probably just doing his job. Up until this point, it seems like Auperlee wants us to be cheering on the son, at least for his mother's sake, and it seems like he ends the article with the son getting sentenced to prison to gain sympathy from the readers. It is a sad situation, but it definitely seems like our emotions are being guided. I don't mean to be overly negative--I enjoyed Auperlee's topics for the most part, especially the article about the two boys who were hospitalized but maintained a positive outlook on life. That was just something that stood out to me as a bit off track for a news story.