Saturday, February 11, 2012

For Feb. 16 discussion: Revisiting Zanesville

All of us probably remember the surreal story that broke out in Zanesville, Ohio, last October. The escape and subsequent killing of dozens of exotic animals were international news items in the weeks that followed.

Two major U.S. magazines, GQ and Esquire, revisited that mayhem in this month's issues. The stories don't really break a whole lot of new ground. But they do paint fascinating pictures of the escape and its aftermath using what is commonly referred to as a "tick-tock" story format - an hour-by-hour (or in some cases minute-by-minute) narrative account that includes incredible detail and context (almost in the form of play-by-play) from the important actors.

Reading the two stories back to back is an interesting exercise. We have two talented reporters writing for major media outlets, both of whom enjoy large budgets and virtually unlimited space. The final products are similar in many respects, but different in others.

Compare and, more importantly, contrast the two stories. What made them different, and how did those differences affect your enjoyment of the articles? Give some specific examples of what you liked (and perhaps what you didn't like). I'll share my opinions Thursday, but here's a preview: I find one of these stories above average. I find the other breathtakingly good.

Here are the links to the stories:




  1. Both stories were extremely lengthy and descriptive. It was difficult to follow the second after hearing everything from the first. The story in GQ described the impact of the situation whereas the Esquire story simply covered it in a news fashion. I personally enjoyed the GQ story more, I found the Esquire one to be too detailed. Its hard for me to imagine anyone who wasn't required to read the Esquire article finishing the entire thing. Rather than simply quoting officers and neighbors, the GQ article included Jack Hanna, which I thought was very important. Many perceive him to be an animal expert and his insight o

  2. on the situation, especially given his ties to Ohio, were important in formulating an opinion.

  3. I thought that the Esquire piece grabbed my attention more than the GQ story, but I thought both were way too detailed with unnecessary information that detracted from the impact of the story. I think it could have been better done if they had broken the story into a series, since I know I definitely wouldn't have finished either piece if I hadn't been assigned.

    Overall I thought that by Esquire providing more details early on, like the 911 call, it was much more interesting to me. I thought the GQ story took way too long, describing in detail each individual animal that Kopchak saw which I thought gave time for the reader to lose the sense of suspense and become uninterested, unlike the Esquire piece which moved quickly from Kopchak's observations to his mother's 911 call to the story from the police's point of view.

  4. First of all, I don't think each piece should have been as long as they were. I don't care who is reading it, be an animal rights activist or someone else, this story happened months ago and I think a two page story if that would have sufficed. Especially because of the fact that both magazines took the exact same approach to the story.

    As for which one wrote it better, I'm going to have to go with GQ. The writer was much more descriptive and creative. The writer esquire just sort of went through the motions. I feel that because it was "old news with legs" a writer is almost obligated to take an artistic approach to it, to make it interesting for the readers.

  5. As a person who loves animals, it was hard getting through these pieces. I thought that the GQ article was better written and fully got the emotion out of me. I read the GQ story first and I liked that it started out with the story of Kopchak at his barn. It was easy to follow along and it caught my attention. The writing style made it a narrative, and I liked that.

    In the Esquire piece, I felt that the writer was making too much of an effort. The first paragraph of the article is so straight to the point and blunt. After reading the GQ article, I didn't even want to read the Esquire.

    What was weird about the GQ article though was how the writer jumped from subject to subject. The writer was going into deep depressing detail and then the mood of the piece completely flipped and started talking about Thompson's life.

    I got inside to the horrible event that I didn't hear previously (not sure if I really wanted to) but although the GQ article was quick to switch to a different subject without transitions, it showed another side to the tragedy. In the Esquire, it mainly focuses on what happened after the animals were set loose, whereas GQ focused on the man behind it all and it made you realize that this man had gone through a lot. It humanized it for me.

    The GQ article takes my vote for being the better article. Both were lengthy but I enjoyed the other side of the story that GQ researched.

  6. Both of these stories I thought were really good until I got to the fourth page on them. Was way too detailed and drawn out although it did do a great job of keeping me interested for most of them. But like I said, by the fifth or so page on both stories I felt like it was pulling teeth reading them.
    Personally, I liked the GQ story a little bit better because I did like the authors writing style and it did keep my interest for a while. I think it was Sam who said that it was really hard reading the second one after reading the first and I agree whole heatedly.
    The fact that they included Jack Hanna was pretty cool and it was one of the reasons why the GQ article was able to pull my interest back into the story. I liked the fact that it tried to look at the situation from different angles, but it was just way too long!

  7. I read a lot about what had happened in Zanesville the few days after the massacre occurred. I think I knew the general story and timeline of the events, but both of these stores really left nothing to the imagination about the events.

    I think the “tick-tock” story format was really interesting and detailed, but also very lengthy. Both articles were interesting and very descriptive. The writers both had different styles that made their interpretations of the stories interesting.

    Overall I liked the GQ story better. Esquire had some good quotes, like this: "There hasn't been a day gone by I haven't thought about it," Steve Blake says. "I feel sorry for Terry Thompson. I'm mad at him, but I feel sorry for him at the same time." I think quotes like this add more of a human element to the story.

    Other than the articles being to long, my only other complaint would be that some of the names of the people involved become hard to follow in both stories.

  8. Overall I really liked both of the stories. I thought they were extremely long, and at times drawn out, but they were both written really well. Personally, I liked the GQ article better. I liked how later on in the article they focused on the laws and brought Jack Hanna back into the story. However, I felt as though the story jumped around on different ideas and focuses. This was distracting at times.

    I agree with previous comments that it was difficult to read one after the other. Just for the fact that the openings were very similar and it was the same story. I think that may be the reason that I liked the GQ one a little better, I read it first.

    I liked the "tick-tock" story format and thought that it fit the topic well. I just didn't like the length of the stories in both articles, especially with it being a revisited story.

  9. The Esquire's lead was much more interesting to me after hearing all of the basic breaking news leads months before during the actual incident. However, the detailed descriptions became jumbled and hard to follow after page one.

    I think I liked the Esquire's edition of this story better over all. It really painted a picture for me in my mind. It kept me wanting to know more (although this sensation went away after about the third page haha)

    I liked the GQ's part two section: Animals Among Us. I think it answered a lot of questions at the right time in the reading. GQ definitely took a completely different approach to the entire article. If you wanted to to know play by play what happened on that day the Esquire is your choice. However the GQ goes beyond that and looks at the effect that that day had. The GQ made me ask a lot of questions in my mind and did a better job of keeping my interest.

    I can't really say which one I liked better.. in my mind it's like comparing apples and oranges.

  10. The article were very long, and could be overwhelming for some readers, but because of the topic, I definitely wanted to continue reading. The pictures in both articles were captivating as well.

    I liked how in the Esquire article, it gave the 911 call. I also liked the quote, "He would walk, as calmly, and steadily as a sixty-four-year-old retired schoolteacher being watched by a lion could manage." It put his fear into clear perspective.

    The GQ article had some good visuals as well. I liked how on the side there was a market rate for all of the animals Thompson had. I found that interesting.

    Because I knew about this topic beforehand, I wasn't entirely thrilled about reading one story after the other on the same topic. Even though the stories were good, reading one article about the same that was seven pages long was enough. Reading the Esquire one that was just as long about the same topic made me start to lose my interest in wanting to read about the piece.

  11. Yes, these stories are long-- but I this is the perfect story to tell in magazines like GC and Esquire. Generally I like the GQ article much better.

    I like that the GQ article began with the incident that led up to the initial 911 call and report of wild animals on the loose. It might be because of my experience writing factual news stories, but the assumptions made about the people involved with the story did distract me a little. I realize, of course, magazine reporters are able to take more liberties than other journalists. I really liked the graphics with this story-- I’ll bet they look great laid out in print.

    I feel like the Esquire piece relied heavily on the narrative aspect of the story. Although there was also characterization in the GQ story, I feel in this piece it teetered on the edge of cheesy. I didn’t like the dramatic portraits. I understand why they sectioned the up how they did, but even though each aspect of the story is told through the person who was closest to the incident, I found the background information and characterization just kind of distracting and annoying. It was nice they had more quotes though, and I like the map of Thompson’s land.

    I think I liked the GQ article more because I found it much more clever than Esquire’s. I liked the editor’s note better, the headline better and appreciated the couple pop culture references sprinkled throughout.

  12. GQ did a nice job in separating the article into different sections. I could have gained the general idea and happenings of the story by just reading the headlines. And whether or not we want to admit it, when flipping through a magazine, that's what most of us tend to do.

    Esquire's lead grabbed my attention right away. It did not lose my attention throughout the entire piece. It had an eery feeling in the beginning, which made it even more intriguing.

    The topic in itself is incredibly intriguing. It would definitely be something I would take the time to read when flipping through the magazine's pages.

    I definitely liked Esquire's version more, but I think both stories had a unique approach to their own.

  13. I agree and think they were both well written pieces. I praise both of the authors for their obvious extensive research and painstaking writing that goes into something like this. However, I feel like the GQ piece is better written. I like how it throws you right into the action by telling the story of a person who is staring down a bear and lion with very few places to escape. this repeats throughout the story and I think it works very well. It is also a way to break down the story into smaller easier reads. I think it works with the organization and construction of the story. The Esquire piece is a little bit harder to get into and tended to lose me at points.

    Because I am from Ohio, and these hit very close to home I found these both to be very interesting reads.

  14. I thought the GQ story was a better piece than the one by Esquire. The article for GQ was more of a narrative and really brought life back into the story with the detailed descriptions instead of just running back over the same old story,which i felt Esquire did. I, like most of the world, thought the killings were just barbaric, but the GQ article put a face on the police in Zanesville and really helped me understand the story from their perspective.

    Although both were very long, GQ kept my interest more because it went deeper and covered more of the issue of exotic animal ownership as a whole.

  15. I thought both stories were going to be pretty much the same since they were covering the same topic, but I definitely think each story had their good points and bad points. For instance, I liked how GQ kind of just jumped into the story at the beginning by bringing up the lion and bear with Mr. Kopchak. I already knew what happened since the massacre was last year, so him getting to the juicy details was perfect in my book. The Esquire didn't take to describing the animals right off the bat so sometimes it was difficult to follow.

    Even though it took longer to bring up the appearance of the lion, the descriptions and dispatched 911 call on the Esquire article made the impact on the event more intense and in the moment. The recapturing of any event especially one like this one deserves to be emphasized with detail and precision and I definitely think both did that, however, the GQ article held my attention more and overall delivered the Zanesville recapturing better.