Gonzo journalism is the reporting style in which there is lack of complete objectivity and detachment from the topic to be reported on. The works of Hunter S. Thompson are a few good examples of Gonzo journalism articles.
“In the English language, it all comes down to this: Twenty-six letters, when combined correctly, can create magic. Twenty -six letters form the foundation of a free, informed society.”
Traditionally, it has been a norm for journalists to be objective about their job, no matter which news they report. The news that they deliver must not be biased or express any personal opinion. Although this has been, and I repeat, a traditional viewpoint.
According to William Faulkner, fiction is the best fact. For a few decades now, we have witnessed the shaping of a new style of journalism that has been inspired by this notion. The rules of the game are not as strict here as they are in the traditional style of reporting. The journalist can add some personal flair to the report. Reporters can write their reports in which the narration can be on a first-person basis. They can also take help of various elements that may have an emotional base, when reporting.
Here is a sneak peek into Gonzo journalism history, and a few pointers.
The origin of the term ‘Gonzo journalism’ can be traced back to the ’60s and ’70s decades of the twentieth century. The credit for the creation of this genre in journalism goes to American author and journalist Hunter S. Thompson. He took a first-hand experience of the subject that he had to write on, even from the illicit world of narcotics. He was subjective about what he wrote, and made use of an innovative approach in his writing to put forth his point of view. A classic example of this is his book ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’, which has a character named Dr. Gonzo, who is an attorney. The reporting style of Thompson became famous as ‘Gonzo’, owing to this character.
The most important thing that the writer has to remember when writing a piece in this genre is to be subjective about it. There cannot be a neutral viewpoint expressed in the article, rather, it has to be an opinionated one. The author can make use of various literary devices available at his disposal when writing the article. The piece may not be factually cent percent right, and include some creative liberties. Though, it must be written from the point of view of the protagonist, who, more often than not, is the author, and has to add personal experiences. Owing to this fact, there will also be some emotions present in the writing, and hence, in the article.
Another aspect the aspirants for Gonzo writing must remember is to read as many articles from this genre as possible. Gonzo journalists are also not much keen to get their articles edited. Thompson, himself, had called his ‘Fear and….’ a failure, since he had to edit it five times before it was published. Reluctance to edit makes sense, as editing can tone down the rawness of the article. Those interested must also keep a journal ready at hand, that will be helpful in keeping a record of the things almost as soon as they transpire. After all, it is all about the rawness of the moments. And yes, practice to be perfect.
- The Great Shark Hunt: Strange Tales From a Strange Time – Gonzo Papers, Vol. 1
- Generation of Swine: Tales of Shame and Degradation in the ’80s – Gonzo Papers, Vol. 2
- Songs of the Doomed: More Notes on the Death of the American Dream – Gonzo Papers, Vol. 3
- Better Than Sex: Confessions of a Political Junkie – Gonzo Papers, Vol. 4
- Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72
- The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved – Scanlan’s Monthly, June 1972
Many journalists do not consider Gonzo journalism to be real journalism, because of the changed rules; the subjective approach, introduction of some fiction to go along with the facts, and raw content. There also is no midway approach to take in this genre. The content for the articles cannot come from a controlled settings and under supervision. Writers need to go all out during their research and writing process. It is about either writing an article in ‘Gonzo’ style, or not. And yes, some pretty high standards have been set by Thompson to match in this genre.
If you want some real dirt, then ‘Gonzo’ is the only way you would want to go!