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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. Dick Whitman

    Dick Whitman Well-Known Member

  2. 93Devil

    93Devil Well-Known Member

    For a feature, like Ricky Williams, I would be more understanding in asking to hold off a few weeks until this story gets published, but this was not a feature. These were sources vital to the telling of the story. To take that away from another reporter is a couple notches above asking a feature to hold back on talking to someone.

    Plus, would your Ricky Williams have been printed before 60 Minutes aired their feature?

    YGBFKM Guest

    So, Dick, competition is best when you're competing with yourself?

    Let me put it this way, Jones: Do you think this story would have been better if you went about it thinking you were the only one?
  4. Inky_Wretch

    Inky_Wretch Well-Known Member


    Nothing wrong with it at all.
  5. Small Town Guy

    Small Town Guy Well-Known Member

    Also, even if asked, the source can still, you know, talk to other people if they really want to. They're not gagged with a court order or a ballgag.
  6. Double Down

    Double Down Well-Known Member

    "I don't mind if the other guy scores a lot of points. I just like to score points too. Hopefully I'll end up a few more points, but everyone in the end will feel like a winner." -- Michael Jordan

    "If it's ok with you, Bob May, I'm willing to share the trophy." -- Tiger Woods
  7. JC

    JC Well-Known Member

    Whether you are a journalist or not, I cannot for a minute believe that people would criticize the writer for this. It is called competitive nature. There was nothing untoward about it. I think it says more about the people who believe he did something wrong than the writer or people defending it.

    Now that is an interesting question. I doubt that would be the thought process while doing the interview but the overall story may have been better because of the competition. Fear and insecurity can be great motivators.
  8. imjustagirl

    imjustagirl Active Member

    This was published four months after it happened. It sure as shit is a feature. You think it's a breaking news story?
  9. Dick Whitman

    Dick Whitman Well-Known Member

    I think this overlooks that huge weight is put on the exclusive, in this profession. And certainly so between direct competitors. Yes, I can frequently get a much better, much better-sourced story if I just wait until the press conference on a coaching change when everyone is cooperative and dispensing all the details. But I'd rather have it first and miss a few details. I know this was a feature, but as one of my editors once told me, "Don't you fucking think for a second that because this was 'just a feature' that you didn't get beat. You did."
  10. Alma

    Alma Well-Known Member

    I think, to some extent, that's a nod to all the material the Esquire piece doesn't cover.

    The Esquire piece is indisputably more effective on face - it's hunting tigers in the dark - but it's not real broad in its scope. It's heavy on the existential side and light on the sociological depth. That sentence makes an attempt to acknowledge, IMO, that, <i>what you've just read is an account of what happened, but it's not telling you how to feel</i>. Some people might be haunted by it. And some people might just be plain pissed off by it. It's the kind of article that very well might draw criticism from some circles, in part because of its title - which is, again, effective but a little cold - in part for its fidelity to a few gruesome details, and in part because the style is subtle in its regard for the animals. It recounts what happened - and says something significant about man/nature, etc - but doesn't say much about Thompson or the concept of people hoarding animals on their property.

    The GQ story is much more ambitious thematically, but I don't think it works all the way. It covers Thompson's whole adult life - sad, strange, a little played up by friends - and has a section examining people who keep wild animals. Some of the anecdotes in one-off weirdies, but it doesn't seem to be fleshed out quite enough. The first section - which covers the night itself - is much shorter and less powerful than the Esquire retelling, but the idea is make up for it in the final two sections. The second section feels more like a sidebar than anything else, and third section, while a good read, is a little long in the tooth.

    For sheer command of style and authority of narrative - the writerly stuff - I'd go with Esquire over GQ. For broader insight, GQ has more. You get a pretty clear sense of what Terry Thompson was going to do, why he might have done it, and the personality traits that led to that point. But the story never threads together. It needed a complete rejigger of structure, IMO.
  11. YGBFKM

    YGBFKM Guest

    That's kind of what I was getting at, JC. Most successful people are competitive by nature, and, I would guess, are always competing with themselves and the pressure and expectations they place on their shoulders. It's a self-sustaining competitiveness. On the other hand, I think you need someone in your way to reach the highest level of competitiveness, the stomp-on-your-head (or however Jones put it) level.
  12. Competitive is one thing... Jones stated he "salted the earth." What does that entail, Chris?

    As for competitive? Oh. Fucking. Please.
    How many people does he compete with on a story? Seriously?
    None of his stuff is "breaking news." So it ain't like there are 20-50 reporters trying to get a scoop. I doubt there is a half-dozen.
    With most of Jones' stories and other magazine features I'd wager he's the only one with boots on the ground when he's around. The buzz of the story has either long passed or not yet been discovered.
    When you get to the rarefied air of Jones' ilk, the competition isn't for the story. It's for the writer to stay at the top of the food chain.
    In the Zanesville story, it was national news. Imagine being the Zanesville daily newspaper guy working that and competing with hundreds of media.
    Jones gets there, finds himself in competition with ONE other guy and "salts the earth?"
    Shit ...

    I've worked big stories - even in West By God - and managed to get scoops. And I've done so without being a complete cocksucker to the competition.
    That's doesn't mean I was helpful. I just wasn't hurtful.
    I don't fault him for asking sources not to talk to anyone else, even though I have never done it. But I would like to know how he tried to salt the earth? That's my issue.

    Like I said, In reading the interview and how he handled his competition Jones came off as guy I wouldn't root for.
    And I'm sure he'll lose a ton a sleep over that.
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