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Chris Jones on "Animals," his Zanesville Zoo massacre story

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by brandonsneed, Feb 7, 2012.

  1. imjustagirl

    imjustagirl Active Member

    Chris, I'm sorry if what I posted came across as questioning you or Heath. I wasn't. Like I said, it's just always weird with these stories because everyone's memories are different. You're right, maybe the second one I misread and was imagining them in a pen as opposed to a fenced in field. But yours read to me as it was coming at the horses, and his read as if it was in the middle of a big spinning circle of horses. All in how one envisions it when reading, I suppose.

    And I'd tell you anything you wanted to know for Cheddar Bay Biscuits. Also, side note, Capital Ale House discontinued the dollar hot dogs. Just FYI.
  2. Cousin Jeffrey

    Cousin Jeffrey Active Member

    The toughest part for me, subscribers to both magazines, is not reading them online.
  3. typefitter

    typefitter Well-Known Member


    I didn't take it as a critique. I thought it made for an interesting starting off point for a debate about reporting a story like this one.

    But obviously, when facts diverge, only one person can be right. (Or you can both be wrong, I suppose.) Here, I believe I'm right. What I did in my post is essentially the justification I have to go through with our fact checkers. That's why magazine writing isn't for everybody. Some people would find it mind-numbingly tedious. There are a lot of facts in a 10,000-word story if it's written right. But if there's a fact, we have to back it up, preferably with more than one source. That's true of every single fact in my piece. It's a pretty pure form of labor.

    And thanks JJ: I figure if somebody's paying me, they aren't paying me to lose.
  4. 93Devil

    93Devil Well-Known Member

    When you have so many people being spoken to, so many details and so much happening in a short period of time, not everything will be a 100 percent match, and there were a lot of details in this story to match up. If a few did not, to me, that is not the end of the world. It happens.

    One source could have told Jones one thing and the other guy another.

    Great work, and I would not want to see two writers getting worked up at each other over this because they spoke to all of these people at different times.
  5. imjustagirl

    imjustagirl Active Member

    Um, no one was trying to start a fight. And no one's going to go around flinging shit at each other for someone misremembering [/bush] a detail in the rush of adrenaline then the long months afterward.
  6. Versatile

    Versatile Active Member

    I decided I was only interested enough to read one of these stories about the Zanesville Zoo. I read the ledes to each story in order to make my decision. I have a particular distaste for stories that begin with time elements, and I have a pet peeve against starting a story with a clause unless it's a particularly good clause and there's a particularly good reason you can't simply break it into its own sentence. Heath's first clause made it pretty easy to dismiss his story. I don't mean that to be as harsh as it probably sounds. Oh well.

    Jones, you wrote a really amazing piece here. You stayed out of the way but caught so many tiny details. Details such as, "It was only after Lawhorne had hopped up into it that he felt a lump behind his lip and spat out his bone-dry plug." And when you needed to write, you wrote. I loved this paragraph:

    You stayed away from trying to explain the town of Zanesville. You avoided painting with broad brushstrokes. You focused on the characters. You wasted few words. It was a fantastic story.

    But (there always one, isn't there?) one sentence gave me pause: "Depending on your proximity to Zanesville, Ohio, and your feelings about the relative value of animal life, what happened at the farm was either one of the worst mass shootings in American history or a miracle."

    It stopped the narrative and called on the reader to make a value call. It stepped back and reminded us that this wasn't a movie but a feature story. It wasn't even written to fit the style of the narration. I'm also not sure why proximity to Zanesville would play a major role in how you valued the lives of those animals. I went back and reread the paragraph, skipping over that sentence. I preferred the story that way. The ending was fantastic.

    The only other concern I had was the decision by both Esquire and GQ to illustrate the stories with stock photos of lions and tigers and bears. We don't need to see 18 photos of living, completely unrelated tigers to understand that 18 tigers died. The photo of the dead animals in Zanesville was far more visually stirring. The photos of the responding officers and the farm, along with the useful map, pushed the narrative better. It seemed almost childish to use the stock photos.

    Great work, Chris.
  7. John

    John Well-Known Member

    Chris' story is the highlight of my year so far. And it will be tough to top. Just spectacular.

    While reading it I got miffed because I had to get up to pee.
  8. 93Devil

    93Devil Well-Known Member

    Verse, very good points.

    The way I read proximity note is people might be a little outraged at all these animals being hunted and killed. Heck, my wife might even say something to that effect because we live about 300 miles from there.

    But if you swap out Zanesville with Ashland, VA which is about four miles from my daughter's bedroom, I'm pretty sure killing these animals by any means necessary would be OK by her.

    I also like the photos because seeing the animals dead does not have the same effect as seeing them all healthy. It paints the true danger that was happening.

    Great work and a great job by the person who assigned you the story.
  9. clintrichardson

    clintrichardson Active Member

    Curious about one detail from Jones' anecdote:

    So I said something like, “You know, it’d be awesome if you didn’t talk to anyone else about this.” And the sheriff said he had one more interview to do at three o’clock, and then he was done.

    I understand why Jones would ask for the sheriff not to do anymore interviews, but I don't get why the sheriff would agree to cut it off after the appointment he had already made with the GQ writer. As a public employee dispensing information about a public event, it doesn't seem like he should be engaging in that kind of exclusivity.

    I understand that public officials give writers scoops all the time, but it feels unseemly here.
  10. You beat me to it.
    I also took issue with the salt the earth crack.
    I pride myself on doing good work in my reporting. I Love competition. I love to win and I hate to lose. But I have never asked anyone to not talk to another reporter, or tried to burn a bridge for another reporter to follow.
    I get the competition between the magazine and Jones' motivation, but still. ... It seems like a really shitty thing to do.
  11. 93Devil

    93Devil Well-Known Member

    I agree. Kick their ass with better questions asked and better details found.
  12. Alma

    Alma Well-Known Member

    The two stories are different, heh, animals entirely.
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