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MinnPost: Verdict: Balanced & Socially Responsible

December 8, 2009

MinnPost is a daily nonprofit journalism enterprise with a mission to provide “high-quality journalism for news-intense people who care about Minnesota.”  In the “About Us” section the editorial board found it necessary to underline that it focuses “sharply on that mission, and not get distracted by trying to be all things or serve all people”.

Mission – MinnPost.com features written, video and audio stories. According to their mission statement the site does not endorse candidates for office or publish unsigned editorials representing an institutional position.

The publication strives to create a business model for what might be called a socially responsible journalism with a funding from corporate sponsors, advertisers, and members who make annual donations.

The publication equally acknowledges its financial as well as editorial contributors. It encourages dialogue and donations.

Web look – The content seems to be updated daily. The web design is modest yet well organized. The web domain name is registered under Karl Pearson-Cater’s name who is the Director of Operations.

It has numerous news sections for politics, science and technology, health, national and international as well as business, sports and culture. It has a separate section for community members to have their say. It mainly concentrates on Minneapolis news   and yet manages to give an overall idea about national news and concerns. It has web sharing possibilities and allows reader participation.

Content – Advertising is clearly separated from the content. Articles are generally insightful with a number of identified quotes and what seem to be credible sources.

Accuracy – In one of their December 3rd issues, they gave an insightful look on Afghanistan insurgence. In a 1700+ words article, the publication’s staff writer, Sharon Schmickle wrote about the concerns surrounding President Obama’s decision on sending more troops to Afghanistan. The journalist used 4 local experts (Prof. John Radsan, who directs the National Security Forum at William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul., Ghafar Lakanwal, MultiCultural Development Center, former minister of agriculture in Afghanistan during the 1980s, Thomas Hanson, a former U.S. State Department Foreign Service officer who now works with the Minnesota International Center and several other local groups interested in world affairs.)to analyze the background of the US presence in Afghanistan, Soviet presence and its outcomes as well as looked at the issue of the particular number of troops being send to Afghanistan, who Obama was referring to when mentioning and addressing  “the people of Afghanistan” as well the factor of Pakistan.

It was an educating, quite balanced and thought provoking article. The publication stayed true to its mission – not only did it do a good reporting it also maintained local relevance of the national story by using strictly local experts, which was a nice touch to the story.

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Asharq Al-Awsat: Verdict: Combination of Regional News & Views

December 8, 2009

Asharq Al-Awsat ( 1978) is a London based  bilingual (English, Arabic)daily publication.

Mission – It describes itself as “the decisive publication on pan- Arab and international affairs”. Asharq Al-Awsat prides itself for being “the only newspaper to own the Arabic copyright” for such newsmakers as The Washington Post, USA Today and global viewpoint.

Content – The publication covers variety of issues: Business, Style and Culture, Media, Technology as well as daily news. The latest issues (December 6, 2009)  has reports on H1N1 virus reaching Gaza Strip, draining plan of Lake Misk and of course the Budai crisis which speaks for the diversity of issues they consider newsworthy.

The publication sometimes used stories by AP and Reuters. Mainly reports coming from Iraq and Afghanistan. This perhaps can be explained by the dangerous conditions and excessive expanses associated with having reporters in war zones.

One of the main stories by Ali Sharaya and Amal Baqzi touched upon Lake Misk and the draining plan within a year. In a 800+ word article they used 5-6 sources and gave an insightful look into the issue.

Web look– The overall web design is clean. The web site uses a built-in calendar which automatically posts the date and time indicating that the content is fresh every day. Readers can leave comments and e-mail articles and thus engage into a dialogue with the publication.

The web page has limited graphics and focuses on words rather than images. Despite that some of the main contributors (editors and columnists) have their photos attached to their articles with a short bio.

For example, Tariq Alhomayed, the editor of the Asharq Al-Awsat, in his editorial piece “Iran … and Political Hallucination!” wrote about Iranian president and his policies. He mainly argued that the president’s policies and rhetoric steams on illusions and speculation with public’s emotions. The nature of the article was critical and one sided, however acceptable, as it was placed in the opinion / editorial section. Nevertheless, it will be premature to claim that the reports are balanced and responsible.

The publication’s content in Arabic is visually different. It will be interesting to hear from those who read and speak both languages and who can trace differences between the two versions of the publication.