Perhaps the most famous Gonzo journalist of all time is the late Hunter S. Thompson. Thompson is often credited as being the inventor of Gonzo journalism. So what is Gonzo journalism and what does a Gonzo journalist do?
Side note: In reference to the late Hunter S. Thompson, all journalists in this article will be referred to as “he” “him” or “the journalist.” In fact, the word “Gonzo” was first used to describe the writing style that Hunter S. Thompson used in his writing.
Gonzo journalism is a journalism style in which the journalist tells the story from the first person. The story usually takes on the form of a first person narrative in which the journalist will mix factual information with fictional elements to emphasize the various points that he wants to make. This work is often much less polished than what you would read in one of the glossier news magazines or see on television. This is because this style of journalism rewards a style of writing over the accuracy of the piece itself.
Gonzo journalists are known to rely on a “regular” voice in their writing. This voice will often use sarcasm, exaggeration, humor and even profanity to get a point across and is more likely to use slang or current colloquialisms than he is to resort to the more formal style that other journalists use. For a Gonzo journalist, getting the reader to feel like a part of the story is more important than the simple transfer of facts from the page to the brain. Many journalistic experts consider this form of journalism a type of editorial piece.
Gonzo journalism is also a name of the type of writing done by a journalist who finds himself not able to remain subjective or out of the story. One of the most common examples of this is storm chasing in which the journalist is immersed in the storm while writing or filming the story.
The first Gonzo journalist, as already mentioned was Hunter S. Thompson and the term was first used to describe his article “The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved” which was run in Scanlan’s Monthly’s June 1970 issue. One of the many meanings of the word “gonzo” is South Boston Irish slang for the last guy who is still standing after drinking all night long with his buddies. This could certainly be used to describe Thompson who wasn’t afraid to partake of any substance at a party. He also did not believe in remaining objective when telling a story and felt that the best stories were written from a first person experience of the situation.
Tom Wolfe is another famous Gonzo Journalist along side George Plimpton and Lester Bangs, all supporters of a “New Journalism” movement. Tucker Max, the author of Fratire is another Gonzo journalist and Alan Cabal, the writer of CounterPunch magazine also embraces this journalist style.
Since the style was embraced by Hunter S. Thompson, many otherwise stuffy and formal news organizations can be seen embracing a less formal and more first person approach to journalism.
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Source by John Parks