Uncovering MSNBC’s Discovery Article

“Police kill Discovery building gunman” reads the headline of one of msnbc.com’s most popular cover stories on September 1, 2010.  This article is astoundingly posted roughly two hours after the gunman was shot down by police to secure three hostages taken at the Discovery Communications building.  With the safety of at least one thousand Discovery employees at risk, the story is easily deemed newsworthy.

The news article is written with care to avoid offending readers with the gunman’s vulgar language in a phone conversation with NBC News.  The story also makes note of how the gunman, James J. Lee, became enraged with Discovery by listing former protests, clarifying a motive.  This article is written effectively by utilizing accuracy and an unbiased approach.

The story is clear in naming the suspect, James J. Lee, and provides key information to understanding the attack.  It discusses the nature of the hostage situation, who was involved in the assault, and those responsible for bringing about the solution.  The article provides detail as to the location of the building, Washington, D.C., and where officials believe Lee is a resident. Although the article does not attempt to address how Lee got into the building, it does refer to former incidents in which Lee had contacted Discovery Communications and protested outside the building.

The news story does not deliberately name the significance of the event, however, the risk placed on the lives of those in the building appear cause enough to deem the topic important.

The article includes a variety of voices.  County police Chief Thomas Manger is quoted when discussing the final outcome in apprehending Lee.  Manger continues to reveal how SWAT chose to use lethal action to secure the safety of three hostages.  The story even quotes Lee and his accusations against Discovery Communications to reflect his motives.  Nathaniel Harrington, a former Discovery employee, is also brought into the article with claims that he witnessed Lee at a protest outside the same building in 2008.

Along with eyewitness accounts, the article digs up sources from past documents submitted by Lee to Discovery Communications, including his proposal for a reality TV show designed to “save the planet.”  There are also links to resources such as: Lee’s environmental and population-control demands, a YouTube video of Lee’s 2008 incident, Lee’s main domain savetheplanetprotest.com, and a Twitter follow of the hostage situation in real-time.

The first paragraph of the story starts out with a gripping account of the gunman being shot down by authorities.  This paragraph not only provides sufficient information as why the police used lethal force, but also encourages the reader to continue reading by withholding Lee’s purpose for the assault and details of the event.

The original story is linked below.


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