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COLD FEET: Birds take to the ice as winter makes its appearance at Yellowstone National Park. / Photo by Nancy Williams

Today's word on journalism

Monday, November 5, 2007

On Objectivity:

"I still insist that 'objective journalism' is a contradiction in terms. But I want to draw a very hard line between the inevitable reality of 'subjective journalism' and the idea that any honestly subjective journalist might feel free to estimate a crowd at a rally for some candidates the journalist happens to like personally at 2,000 instead of 612 -- or to imply that a candidate the journalist views with gross contempt, personally, is a less effective campaigner than he actually is."

-- Hunter S. Thompson, from Fear & Loathing: CORRECTIONS, RETRACTIONS, APOLOGIES, COP-OUTS, ETC., a 1972 memo to Rolling Stone editor Jann S. Wenner, excerpted in the current (November 2007) issue of Harper’s Magazine (Thanks to alert WORDster Andy Merton)

Rating store-bought cupcakes -- oh, the things I do for public good!

By Michael Sharp

October 31, 2007 | Is there anything better than the rich creamy heavenly cloud of goodness that is found in a Hostess cream-filled chocolate cupcake? It's hard to fathom, but I decided it was a question that needed to be answered. The goal: find the best cream filled chocolate cupcake available. The candidates: my beloved Hostess, Mrs. Freshleys, Snack Away, and Little Debbie. I heroically tasted each one of these cupcakes, consuming what felt like a month worth of calories, to spare the reader from this arduous task.

I started with the Hostess cupcake, it being my reigning favorite. The name Hostess instantly filled my mouth with saliva. As I examined the cupcake closely I noticed the perfect white loops that send signals to the brain of quality. Upon further scrutiny I noticed forgivable imperfections; the chocolate frosting was cracking because of its rigidity and the cream filling was oozing out of the bottom.

I probably could have spent more time analyzing the Hostess's near perfect appearance, but my raging taste buds couldn't resist it any longer, and I bit in to the cupcake. Immediately my papillae were overwhelmed with sweetness. I was surprised that the cake, although the nice medium chocolate strength that I like, was somewhat dry. The cream was a good whipped texture, but a little too sugary for my likings. The chocolate frosting was brittle, but had a good rich flavor.

Overall the cupcake was a delectable treat, but not perfect. I then looked at the nutritional label and realized I had just eaten 180 calories, with 6g of fat and 22g of sugar. It cost 31.25 cents per cupcake.

I then moved on to the Mrs. Freshleys. The Hostess was going to be a hard act to follow. The price was similar at 31.33 cents per cupcake. Although it looked somewhat stubby and had flattened white loops, when I bit in to the dessert it was moist and rich. The cream was denser and had more of a vanilla taste than the Hostess. The frosting was the best part. It was rich and creamy and fudgy and wonderful. I realized why this treat was so delicious as I read the nutrition label and found that this product was packing 220 calories, 9g of fat, and 26g of sugar.

After realizing this experiment was going to make me fat, I decided to open up a Snack Away cupcake whose name gave me an illusion that I could just cram my face with cupcakes all day without any repercussions. Snack Away cupcakes boast only 5g of sugar and an impressive 9g of dietary fiber.

As I opened the package, I realized that a critical control point was left out of the development of this cupcake; they didn't factor in how to keep the frosting from coming off the cupcake when taking off the package. This was too bad, because as I stuck my finger in the frosting and took a lick it was excellent. The cake was somewhat dry and chewy, but acceptable. The cream filling was dense and not too sweet, and probably my favorite cream filling of the four cakes that I tasted. There was a hint of the sucralose aftertaste that people who consume Splenda are accustomed to, but for a reduced calorie/fat product, this cupcake was very acceptable.

The next cupcake was the Little Debbie. It was by far the cheapest product, costing only 21 cents per cupcake. These cakes were slightly different, as some people know. They are hexagonal, with large white loops and waxy looking chocolate frosting that covers the whole cake. I decided I didn't like the complete frosting covering because it left chocolate marks on my hands as I ate it. I also did not like the flavorless and dry cake texture or the cream that tasted too much of shortening. The overall chocolaty flavor was not very chocolaty, but the nutrition facts weren't bad: only 190 calories, 4.5g of fat, and 18g of sugar.

Each cupcake had its own particular strengths and weaknesses. It surprised me, but I would have to say that the overall best-tasting cupcake was the Mrs. Freshleys, with Hostess coming in second, Snack Away third, and Little Debbie coming in last. However, if I was worried about health, or at least getting a buttload of fiber from my desserts, I would have to choose Snack Away, providing they fix their frosting removal problem. If I was on a strict budget I might choose Little Debbie, although after this experiment I am more likely to choose no chocolate cupcake at all. I found out that consuming four, rich, sugary, cream filled cupcakes is enough to even make me feel like heaving.

Cupcake stats summary:
-- Hostess: 31.25 cents, No. 2 taste, 180 calories
-- Mrs. Freshleys: 31.33 cents, No. 1 taste, 220 calories
-- Snack Away: 33.33 cents, No. 3 taste, 140 calories plus 9g fiber
-- Little Debbie: 21 cents, No. 4 taste, 190 calories


Copyright 1997-2007 Utah State University Department of Journalism & Communication, Logan UT 84322, (435) 797-3292
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