M. Alex Johnson – Journalist at Large

An analog journalist in a digital world

Posts Tagged ‘msnbc-com

Police Blotter of the Day: Bull shot to death after daring meat-plant escape

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Cross-posted from msnbc.com, where it originally appeared:

By M. Alex Johnson, msnbc.com

An animal control officer shot and killed a bull Thursday after it escaped on its way to a Maryland meat processing plant, charged a sheriff’s deputy and damaged a patrol car, authorities said.

The bull escaped Thursday morning in Mount Airy, Md., about 50 miles north of Washington, as it was being led from a truck into the plant, said Brian Horton, a spokesman for the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office.

According to the sheriff’s incident report, the bull broke free, charged a bystander and ran off in the general direction of a day care center. Deputies followed him into a nearby field, where he then charged one of the deputies.

“Fearing for their safety, a deputy discharged two rounds from a shotgun, striking the bull, and causing him to retreat into a wooded area,” the report said. A county animal control officer then finished him off with two more shots.

Besides the bull, the only casualty was the taillight on a deputy’s cruiser, which the bull slammed into as he eluded attempts to corral him. The body of the bull — presumably no longer fit for human consumption as it was by then lead-contaminated — was released back to its owner.

Written by Alex

December 29, 2011 at 1:40 pm

Police Blotter of the Day: Thieves clean out Georgia church … during the service

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Pastor Mona Harper surveys the damage at Kingdom City Church in Stone Mountain, Ga.

Pastor Mona Harper surveys the damage at Kingdom City Church in Stone Mountain, Ga. (WXIA-TV)

Thieves tore apart the youth center of a Georgia church and made off with nearly everything they could — including a refrigerator, a stove, a microwave oven, broilers and the copper in the ceiling — while the congregation worshiped during Sunday services upstairs, the church’s pastor says.

“They stood on the chairs and took all the copper. They took our kitchen utensils,” said Mona Harper, pastor of Kingdom City Church in Stone Mountain, a suburb of Atlanta.

But then they went a step further, NBC station WXIA of Atlanta reported.

“They took crayons, magic markers and DVDs. They left the Bible and the Scrabble game, but they took the board games,” Harper said.

“Things that we use to get kids off the street, they just took it,” she said.

Full story and video (msnbc.com and NBC News)

Written by Alex

December 15, 2011 at 5:02 pm

Judge allows media to live-tweet Sandusky hearing

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Senior Judge John Cleland has reversed himself and says he will allow news organizations to report the preliminary hearing for former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky  through Twitter, email and text messages.

Pennsylvania law bans “transmission of communications from the courtroom by telephone, radio, television, or advanced communication technology,” but at a hearing Monday requested by news organizations, Cleland appeared to carve out an exception for live electronic text reporting, deciding that the ban applied to “neither ‘tweeting’ or the simultaneous transmission of a reporter’s account or impression of events as they occur in the courtroom.”

The state rule is intended to bar “an audio and/or visual record” of events, Cleland ruled — not the actual reporting of the news.

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Written by Alex

December 12, 2011 at 4:03 pm

What do you report, and what don’t you report?

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Over at msnbc.com, I’ve written up the gruesome story of a sick person who has coldly and methodically dismembered at least six cats since October and left their remains on a Florida golf course.

The details of the story are horrifying, raising a serious question: How much is enough in a news story?

Here’s what I chose to report:

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Written by Alex

December 2, 2011 at 2:09 pm

Reporting: New diet rules curb Meals on Wheels

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Cross-posted from msnbc.com, where it originally appeared.

Federal guidelines meant to help Americans eat healthier foods are straining Meals on Wheels and other nonprofits already laboring to make sure the elderly get enough to eat at all.

Lanakila Meals on Wheels in Honolulu, Hawaii, already has a waiting list of 90 people, most of them elderly, who have asked for food the organization can’t afford to provide.

The program can always use more volunteers, but what it really needs now is money. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Alex

November 29, 2011 at 10:16 am

Reporting: For some churches, the Internet clicks; for others it doesn’t

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Over at msnbc.com, I have a long piece examining how religious institutions regard the Internet and especially social media:

[T]he Catholic Church has a long history of being an early adopter of new forms of media, going back to the 1920s, when Catholic priests pioneered radio evangelism, Campbell said.

At the same time, other religious institutions, especially traditional U.S. Protestant denominations, are still sorting through the challenges as well as the opportunities posed by the Internet, and particularly social media, according to church leaders and administrators.

“I think there’s a lot of groups trying to figure it out,” said John Davidson, a fundraising and ministry consultant for churchextension.org, which supports the ministry of the Christian Church-Disciples of Christ.

I talked to the Rev. Bobby Gruenewald, the “innovation leader” at LifeChurch.tv, a very sophisticated worldwide online ministry. He pinpoints the divide this way:

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Written by Alex

November 23, 2011 at 9:21 am

Development of a news story: Is Obama’s high-speed rail a ‘train to nowhere’?

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Over at msnbc.com, I have a piece looking at the status of President Obama’s ambitious project to bring high-speed rail — think Japan’s bullet trains — to most of the country by 2034.

The assignment was to write about the ballooning costs estimates for the Los Angeles-to-San Francisco project, which has been widely covered. So the challenge was to find A) a new angle on a story everyone already knows about and B) a way to make an infrastructure budget story — a known click repellent — interesting.

The first part was relatively easy: Let’s put the California project into a national context and see what, if anything, it says about Obama’s overall plan. The second part was a little harder.

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Written by Alex

November 7, 2011 at 9:30 am

U.S. reconsiders, now says it’s not really OK to lie to journalists

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Cross-posted from msnbc.com’s Open Channel investigative blog, where I also hang my hat:

The Justice Department has gotten the message from journalists, interest groups and government watchdogs and has decided to withdraw its proposal to allow federal agencies to lie to people seeking sensitive documents under the Freedom of Information Act.

Currently, if a requested document is so sensitive that it would be dangerous to acknowledge its very existence, the government is allowed to tell you that it can neither confirm nor deny whether there is such a document.

Last month, the Justice Department proposed a rule revision that would let government agencies tell requesters there is no such document — even if there is. According to the proposal, which was retrieved by the nonprofit investigative project ProPublica, agencies would be allowed to “respond to the request as if the excluded records did not exist.”

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Written by Alex

November 4, 2011 at 4:32 pm

Crackheads aren’t coming to get you

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I tell MSNBC's Craig Melvin why sentences for crack will be closer to penalties for powder cocaine.

Cross-posted from msnbc.com’s Open Channel investigative blog, where it originally appeared:

No, thousands of “crackheads” aren’t going to start flooding America’s streets Tuesday.

That’s just one of several myths that have surrounded the U.S. Sentencing Commission’s vote in June to make federal sentence reductions retroactive for current prisoners convicted of crack possession or use.

What happens Tuesday is that some eligible federal prisoners who have petitioned for reduced sentences under rules Congress passed last year can begin being released. Those rules sought to address a disparity that meant crack offenders were given the same mandatory five-year minimum sentence as were offenders in possession of 100 times as much powder cocaine.

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Written by Alex

November 1, 2011 at 9:52 am

Development of a story idea: Rooting for the home team? There’s a PAC for that

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Over at msnbc.com, where I hang my professional hat, I have a piece today examining the intersection of big-time sports and political activism in Washington:

If you’re among the many Americans who believe lobbyists are part of what’s wrong with this country, you should know this: If you’ve ever gone to a football, baseball, basketball or hockey game — or even watched one on TV — you have your own special interest groups pushing your agenda in Washington.

Even Ralph Nader is working for you. …

Leaders of the groups push a number of different agendas — fighting soaring ticket prices, league lockouts and television-rights deals that black out some fans, among others — but they come together on one issue: what they see as the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s exploitation of athletes and fans for profit.

Many believe the answer is to scrap the Bowl Championship Series, which purports to pit the two best college football teams in the country for the national championship, even though its postseason matchups are determined by pollsters and computers, not by on-the-field competition.

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Written by Alex

October 28, 2011 at 9:44 am

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