Journalism, Media Blog

A shot at something new

I’m compelled to start something new for a couple of reasons. It’s not as if I have a bunch of free time where I’m sitting around looking for things to occupy the hours between sleep, food and writing. And there’s that school thing too.

Reason #1

I’m compelled to start something new because I am compelled by the new. Or at least things I have not come across yet. In that respect, those things are new to me.

Reason #2

I believe that reading and writing often (constantly?) is the best way to improve my craft. Writing on my reading is a natural fit.

I don’t really have a concrete Reason #3, so I’ll get on with explaining myself.

I have decided that I’m going to start writing about media on the blog. I’m not exactly sure of the capacity or execution of this project, but I’m excited about it nonetheless.

My initial thought is purely selfish and is not contained in my Reasons above for that very reason. I post four or five (at least) links a day to my Twitter feed. Each of them, except for those promoting this blog and my work for The Post, takes anyone who is interested in what I have to say (who’s that?) to a page that isn’t mine. My hope for the grand scheme of this media blog, which I’ll probably name later, is to give my own spin on a lot of those links and throw them back out there. Within my post, I will link out to the original work. Seems like a win-win to me.

This will not replace the posting of others’ original work to my feed because of time concerns. Straight-up: I post a lot of stuff and people probably don’t read much of it. That being said, I’ll stick to the best things; the ones that catch my eye and make me think. In the best-case scenario I will prompt a thought or two in someone else. That’s the goal.

Want to flatter me? Tell me that I’m wrong, off-base or totally whack. If you don’t like my interpretation of a story, let me know. If you do, chime in as well. I’d love to foster a discussion of some sort.

____________

What’s spurring the decision to launch this ahead of schedule (I definitely don’t have a schedule, who am I kidding?) in such an unprepared, haphazard way is a story I read earlier tonight. It rocked. In fact, it was one of my favorites of 2012 thus far. Scratch that — it was my favorite in a long while and is worth a read. Even if it takes a solid hour.

I have heard a lot about Esquire/ESPN’s Chris Jones. To be completely honest, I’m not all that familiar with his work, as I have been a Sports Illustrated guy as long as I can remember. It’s safe to say that I will be keeping a keen eye out for Jones’ work from here on out.

My thoughts on his latest for Esquire, a 10,000-word feature on the Zanesville animal outbreak late last year:

As a bit of background, I drive through the small town where this story takes place every time I go on a Post road trip. It’s nothing special and wouldn’t usually warrant a second thought other than ‘why are there ceramic statues lining the main drag of the town?’

I wonder if Jones thought the same thing on his drive into the town for the first time. It’s really weird. I think they’re for sale.

A couple of things about this story compelled me to finish it in its entirety when I had plenty of quote-on-quote “better things to do”.

The first of which is that our local media covered this event and it hits very close to home for me. I feel like I have a connection with the story from the get-go.

The second is that it is written simply. It’s not a series of interviews with 26 people who weren’t at the so-called massacre, but are “experts” in the field. The only “expert” Jones referred to was Jack Hanna, who was in Zanesville shortly after the outbreak.

The third is the chilling detail Jones delved into in the story. If the lede wasn’t enough to grab you, than the artwork that lined the first page of text was. If you saw it through to the end, which I’m sure most people did, the final paragraphs were the best of the entire work.

Lastly, and most prominently, an interview with Jones roped me in. A young writer by the name of Jason Sneed keeps up a blog in addition to his freelance work that features, among other posts, profiles of writers he finds unique. I read them as he puts them up, as I don’t often see anything like them anywhere else. They are not as much stories as they are questionnaires. And as a writer, I see a lot of value in a good — emphasize good — question-and-answer post. There are a lot of bad ones, believe me.

Sneed says it best when he writes that he confined the interview to email because he wanted to let Jones do what he does best, which is write. The post roped me in and made me want to read the story and then re-read his interview. Kudos.

“The horses knew first.”

“He caught himself scanning the passing woods, searching each dark socket, watching for shivers in the tallest leaves of grass.”

The first and last sentences, when lined up next to each other, make you want to read the rest of the story.

If that’s not enough, take Jones’ last remarks from his interview:

“Some people told me that my story would give them nightmares. That’s all I needed to hear for me to sleep like a baby.”

Need I say more.

The story: http://www.esquire.com/features/zanesville-0312

The interview: http://brandonsneed.com/home/2012/2/7/chris-jones-of-esquire-on-his-zanesville-zoo-massacre-story.html

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My name is Jim Ryan, and I'm a breaking news reporter for The Oregonian and OregonLive in Portland. I'm an Ohio University graduate from Gaylord, Michigan.

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