‘There is another concept of journalism…It’s engraved on a bronze plaque on the southeast corner of Times Tower in New York City.’
– Hunter S. Thompson
As a sixteen-year-old I became fascinated by the writings of Hunter S. Thompson when I saw Jo Dicks reading a copy of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas under his desk in Mr Kindon’s chemistry class at Millfield School.
It’s no surprise then, that in my application to Cardiff Journalism School I quoted Joseph Pulitzer’s bronze plaque words in its entirety in my covering letter.
The brilliant John Foscolo who ran the course in the Bute Building at Cardiff, took me on probably against his better judgement, but ultimately said, ‘Every newsroom needs a Nikki.’
That was generous of him to say so. And perhaps not quite 100% accurate. Much like Hunter S. Thompson, my younger self’s non-conformist attitude always made me feel a little bit like a round peg in a square hole in the trappings of traditional print journalism.
And so it was as a rookie print journalist at the turn of the millennium and into The Noughties I found myself surviving the world of print news journalism by writing about human interest stories and the funnies. Not quite what I had in mind – still all a valuable learning experience, as they say.
These days as a, ahem, mature and well-rounded freelancer I have the creative freedom to write the way that is in my blood, the way that is in my brain, the way that I love to write – as a Gonzo Journalist.
What is Gonzo Journalism?
Gonzo Journalism is a subgenre of New Journalism championed in the 1960s by writers such as Truman Capote, Tom Wolfe, Lester Bangs, George Plimpton and Terry Southern. Hunter S. Thompson is credited as the creator of Gonzo, a mind-bending blur of fiction and reality. Hunter felt that objectivity in journalism was a myth. He put himself at the centre of the story and used sarcasm, black humour, surreal exaggeration, social taboos and profanity to get his version of the truth across.
Muhammad Ali once said, ‘My way of joking is to tell the truth. That’s the funniest joke in the world.’ Hunter said that was as fine a definition of Gonzo Journalism as anything he’d ever heard.
Becoming a Blogalist in the world of Blogalism
Also crucially, the format affects the form, the medium the message. Thus my English style of Gonzo influenced journalism is more a sober and cuddlier type of writing than the faster, bigger, American frontier mentality mixed with the twisted 60s counterculture Hunter was a product of.
Think George from the Famous Five riding shotgun with Raoul Duke in the Great Red Shark Chevy convertible. Rather than being a full-blown Gonzo Journalist, my more empathetic and subtle approach is something that I have coined called Blogalism. Yes, I am a Blogalist.
The freedom this specific blog form allows is a very exciting place to mix traditional print and original gonzo journalism skills with the fresher, faster, more fluid blogging skills on the canvas of the Internet . It also enables me to write from a place of truth, gratitude and humour, often championing the voice of the underdog with no advertising editorial considerations, or political agenda, or institutional or systematic constraints on the story.
Indeed, what does keep my writer’s heart beating in time with HST’s, is an utter commitment to the main principle of Gonzo – to tell it like it is – to try, at least, to the truth of the story.
So if you would like an original, uniquely told, well-researched blog written by a blogalist do the write thing and get in touch.
What The Bronze Plaque Says
We always fight for progress and reform, never tolerate injustice or corruption, always fight demagogues of all parties, never belong to any party, always oppose privileged classes and public plunderers, never lack sympathy with the poor, always remain devoted to public welfare, never be satisfied with merely printing news, always be drastically independent, never be afraid to attack wrong, whether by predatory plutocracy or predatory poverty.
– Joseph Pulizer, 10th of May, 1883 in an editorial on becoming publisher of the New York Herald and reproduced on a bronze plaque on the corner of Times Tower, New York City.