‘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 words from the aforementioned ‘bronze plaque’ 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 freelancer in the age of the internet 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 – part professional journalist, part gonzo journalist, part blogger, the styles blend together to make style of writing I call blogalism.
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.
Blogging + journalism = blogalism
Being a less traditional journalist in the age of the internet, has been a god send for me. My English style of gonzo journalism is more a sober and cuddlier type of writing than the American frontier mentality mixed with the twisted 60s counterculture Hunter was a product of. So rather than Raoul Duke riding shotgun with Dr. Gonzo in the great red shark Chevy convertible, think George from the Famous Five instead.
The freedom and fluidity in the online blogging world is an exciting place to mix traditional print and original gonzo journalism skills. The canvas of the internet allows for fresher, faster, and a broader range of stories to abound.
Crucially, with no advertising pressures or editorial agendas, or any other numerous constraints on the story, this blogalism format also enables me to write from a place of personal truth and humour, often championing the voice of the underdog. And as such, helps keep my writer’s heartbeat in time with Hunter S. Thompson’s utter commitment to the main principle of gonzo – to tell it like it is.
Well, that’s my humble take on it anyways.
Here’s some more:
Artist David Shrigley said my piece on Big Issue Seller Colin Britt at his show How Are You Feeling? was the ‘best of the bunch’. The Muhammad Ali blog about the world’s shortest poem, sits at #1 on Google rankings, and of course, I followed in the footsteps of Hunter S. Thompson himself at The Kentucky Derby.
Read more of my blogalism on BAFTA winning comedian Sophie Willan, the UK General Election 2019, The Breeders, Millfield School plus many more.
If you would like an original, uniquely told, well-researched piece of blogalism that people and search engines love, do the write thing and get in touch.