Deborah Nelson, Pultizer-winning writer of Mother Jones expose on Ringling circus

by | Jan 4, 2012

Deborah Nelson–the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter who wrote a major expose on the Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey circus in the November/December issue of Mother Jones Magazine–outlines aspects of her 30-year journalism career, and what it means for that career and new projects she takes on to have won a Pulitzer.


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She also discusses why she chose to tackle an article on Ringling, and how lawsuits brought in recent years against Feld Entertainment (the corporation that operates Ringling) have unearthed a wealth of documents about the training and treatment of the animals, veterinary records and other information. Nelson addresses certain portions of her article, including how USDA officials, ostensibly charged with the responsibility of protecting Ringling animals, repeatedly failed to do so, often choosing not to pursue violations–that these and other things can be attributed to Ringling looming as a huge, wealthy, monolithic entity. She also speaks about the Ringling’s powerful public relations machinery, how the circus consistently generates gobs of fawning media coverage in many markets it travels to, and more. (

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