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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. PCLoadLetter

    PCLoadLetter Well-Known Member

    In a competitive situation like this? No question I'd try to get the people involved to talk to me only.

    I work in a market with 5 independent TV newsrooms competing against each other. We absolutely will do what we can to keep elements of a story exclusive. They don't have to play along, but if they do, great.
  2. typefitter

    typefitter Well-Known Member

    I'd like to talk about this more later—Versatile, you raise some good points that I want to chat about, because they're interesting—but really, I have to get this out before I run out the door.

    I'm intrigued by the journalistic Smurf Village you guys live in. That doesn't exist where I live.

    You've never asked for an exclusive?

    You don't think GQ weren't trying to spike us when they posted their story, like, three weeks ahead of when they normally do?

    You don't think reporters are protective of their sources and their stories?

    I mean, seriously, judge me on the words all you want. Versatile did, and he's not wrong about that sentence. I get that.

    But as a person? I help out young writers all the time. But if we're on the same story, I'm going to do everything I can to make you wish you weren't. I wanted more than anything for Chris Heath to give up and go home.

    Let me raise another parallel incident: When I found Ricky Williams in Australia, 60 Minutes found him, too, by phone. We were standing by a bank of pay phones outside this campground, and he's on the phone with a producer.

    Do you think I was standing there going, Oh, sure, Ricky, I think it would be great if you did 60 Minutes? Fuck no. I was jumping up and down and waving my arms and shaking my head and mouthing PLEASE NO. And he didn't do it. Do you think I was sad about that, that I felt bad? I WAS ELATED.

    I'm honestly baffled. Would you have told Ricky to do 60 Minutes? Would you have stayed mute on the subject? Yes? You're either lying or you're going to get beat. I live my life doing my damned best to make sure I don't have to do either.
  3. No, I've never asked for an exclusive. But that doesn't mean I haven't had them.
    Would I have told Ricky to do 60 Minutes? No. But I prolly wouldn't have said anything either. For fucksakes, I am in Australia with Ricky Williams! It's not a fucking phone interview.
    Journalists in competing media work on the same stories all the time. Sometimes I win and sometimes and I lose in that competition. On my end, it's never been due any attempt to kill a competitor's efforts.

    I realize I'm not at the top of the writer's game.
    But it's not a Smurf Village I live in. It's respect for others trying to do a job.
    I may not share info, contacts and sources, but I'm not going to try to shut down access to sources either.

    You're a phenomenal writer, who needs little help. In this regard you remind me of Barry Bonds or Dale Earnhardt Sr; A top-shelf competitor who does everything he can to win, but comes off like an asshole in the process.
    That's great for your story and your readers. Maybe that is life in the big leagues. Maybe.

    I'm not trying to take shots at you personally. Really, I'm not. When I read the interview, though, That's how you came off. ...
    After reading your interview, If I was Chris Heath, the first, next time we meet we would be rolling in the grass.
  4. 93Devil

    93Devil Well-Known Member

    I think your drive to find all the information and all the sources will naturally beat people. No need to grab the ropes when going for the pin. You are a better wrestler in most cases and should be happy to win that way.

    Salting the Earth would backfire with me because I would ask why wouldn't you want me to talk to other people. To me as a person, that sounds almost like I am talking with a car salesman.
  5. PCLoadLetter

    PCLoadLetter Well-Known Member

    This is so bizarre to me.

    Yes, that's life in the big leagues. Hell, it's life in the upper minor leagues.

    And I don't know Chris Heath, but I'd be absolutely astonished if he didn't do the same thing if he knew Jones was on the story.
  6. EStoess

    EStoess Member

    I can't say I understand these opinions either. I think at any level you should want to be first, best and exclusive if at all possible. I'm not going to kneecap the other reporter, but asking and hoping a source doesn't talk to the competition or waits until my story is published is fair game and expected, at least when you've got a rare or special topic, angle or subject.

    YGBFKM Guest

    This thread has taken an unexpected turn.
  8. JackReacher

    JackReacher Well-Known Member

    This is hilarious.
  9. Inky_Wretch

    Inky_Wretch Well-Known Member

    Same here. Fcking Postal Service.
  10. YGBFKM

    YGBFKM Guest

    Jones, I understand the importance of exclusivity. But in the situations you're describing, isn't trying to eliminate the competition the least competitive way to go about it?

    Ultimately, isn't it more competitively satisfying to have the better story instead of the only story?
  11. brandonsneed

    brandonsneed Member

    I think this is one of those situations where it's easier, as an observer, to cast judgment. Particularly if you've never been where Jones is coming from here.

    In my admittedly limited experience so far, it seems to me, though, that the truth is that what Jones did is pretty common. That's my understanding, anyway. Heck, I've done it before.

    Now, I didn't go about it like an asshole. I asked nicely. But I made it clear that it would be best for the story I'm trying to write if they could hold off talking to anyone about it until my story comes out. Most of the time, when they understand why you're asking that, they will work with you.

    And the reason I go about it that way is because I've been totally screwed before. I've talked to people about writing about them, and they told me they just didn't want to talk to anybody or they'd flat-out lie to me to get me off the story, and I'd see an amazing piece published a few weeks later.

    If somehow Jones and I end up on the same story at some point in life, yeah, it'll be stressful as hell because I know the type of journalist he is. But I'm not going to punch him for salting the earth ahead of me. Working against him would be tough as hell. It would also be exhilarating. It would teach me a lot. I wouldn't take it personal any more than those UFC guys who step into the ring to fight for money take it personal when the other guy kicks them in the face. It's just the nature of their line of work.

    To some, maybe how he works does make him an asshole. To me, it just makes him competitive. Moreover, it shows how much he really cares about his stories and doing them well.

    Anyway, just a few thoughts. Not trying to be combative or anything.
  12. Dick Whitman

    Dick Whitman Well-Known Member

    Journalism ain't beanbags.

    Hell fucking yes you ask your source not to talk to another reporter, if you have the relationship with the source to do it.

    My friends and I would beat each other's asses on stories, then go out and joke about it over drinks afterward.
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