A “goat-choker” is an article so long that it suffocates the reader and becomes a real challenge to finish. The length of the article is intentional; the author and the publication intend to submit the article for awards, such as the Pulitzer Prize.
“Goat-choker” has been cited in print since at least 2005 and has been popularly used at the Baltimore (MD) Sun.
The American Editor: The Bulletin of the American Society of Newspaper Editors
Pg. 14, col. 2:
Faculty member Scott Sines, who heads the visual side at the Commercial Appeal in Memphis, referred to the story we are working on as a “goat choker”. He was right, it was extremely long, but you had to read the whole thing or you wouldn’t make the right picture choices.
A practical guide to the craft of journalism
By Tim Harrower
Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill
If they’re too long — if you’ve written a thumbsucker or a goat-choker — an editor may cut or trim a few grafs (paragraphs).
Baltimore (MD) Sun—“You Don’t Say”
October 18, 2007
Cranky Old Guy redux
Posted by John McIntyre at 2:51 PM
Yes, we do produce the occasional article that identifies a compelling subject and explores it with grace. But it is much more common for us to produce, say, a 3,000-word article that the reader abandons after about 150. (The word frequently applied in-house to the article of 3,000 or more words by Another Senior Editor was “goat-choker.”)
You Don’t Say
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
The patron and the protege
Posted by John McIntyre at 11:14 AM
Three summers ago I published on the original You Don’t Say blog jocular taxonomies of copy editors and writers. This summer, after discussions with colleagues about the tendency of newspapers to retain unreliable employees, reflection led me to conclude that there are two protected classes in newsrooms: stars and incompetents.
Stars enjoys a status that lesser writers aspire to: freedom to pursue individual projects rather than carry out assignments, indulgence to prolong those projects indefinitely and to write at a length that some describe as “goat-chokers,” and — this above all — immunity from editing and the annoying questions and meddling that come with it.
You Don’t Say
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Our vanishing heritage
Posted by John McIntyre at 9:37 PM
You asked for it: some terms — hardly an exhaustive list — retrieved from newspaper lingo before these endangered print artifacts vanish like the passenger pigeon and the copy editor.
goat-choker (n.) An article of inordinate and suffocating length, produced to gratify the vanity of the author and the aspirations of the publication. (Cf. Pulitzer-Prize-winner.)
Aug 19, 2009 09:15 PM
Love the phrase “goat-choker”—I once had a boss who called such stories “thumb-suckers.”
mild-mannered reporter in the emerald city
April 1, 2011 · 6:00 am
What’s a goat-choker? Weird news terms 101
Funny thing is, the newspaper world is full of such terms. A suffocatingly long article whose purpose is to satisfy a reporter’s vanity and win the newspaper prestigious awards rather than to gratify readers is called a “goat-choker.” Why? Nobody knows.
Baltimore (MD) Sun
Choking goats, sucking thumbs
February 04, 2012|John E. McIntyre | The Baltimore Sun
A conversation with a colleague prompted me to draw an important distinction in long-form journalism between the thumbsucker and the goat-choker.
The thumbsucker, long a journalistic staple, is the article that tells you What It’s All About. Thumbsuckers flourish on Sundays, because Saturdays are generally slow news days and the increased space of Sunday editions is an open invitation to pontificate about the how and why and what next of some development during the week.
The goat-choker, a term long favored in The Baltimore Sun‘s newsroom, is less an analysis of events than an example of traditional long-form journalism. It is typically an article in which the writer has been given his or her head to proceed at length and at will. It will start on a section front and occupy two or three full pages inside the section. The quality distinguishing the goat-choker from examples of long-form journalism is that it requires of the reader a steely determination, an effort of will to plow through the entire text.
New York City • Media/Newspapers/Magazines/Internet • (0) Comments • Monday, February 27, 2012 • Permalink