What is gonzo journalism? Well, take everything you know about traditional news coverage and twist it. Don't observe events; become a part of them. Are there multiple viewpoints? Forget all semblance of sober objectivity. Take a side, and argue fervently for it. If you want to, portray the other side(s) as the Worst Thing Ever and dismiss their arguments as emanating from a Propaganda Machine
. Also, drugs. Lots of drugs, or at least booze.
What's the point of this? It isn't to give readers the dry facts of the matter; they can probably get that from a more traditional news source. It's more about getting the feel of the events or places you're covering. Which, by the way, leads us to another important element: you must be writing more or less as you experience your story. Editing is held to an absolute minimum. This not only ensures that the feel of the event is included, it also lets your voice shine through. The resulting mash is often disjointed and surreal, and is almost always quirky and generally odd. If you've succeeded, you've created an article or non-fiction novel worth reading as literature rather than as journalism, one that someone might read fifty years later and actually appreciate. If you've failed...well, let's hope you don't fail.
The other wiki
describes gonzo journalism as "a style of journalism that is written without claims of objectivity, often including the reporter as part of the story via a first-person narrative."
Gonzo journalism developed during the 1960s, spearheaded by outlaw journalist Hunter S. Thompson
. Thompson wrote very stylized news stories told from the first person perspective (most news stories are written in third person) that were often sarcastic, vulgar and extremely negative of his opposition, including his personal arch-nemesis
, U.S. President Richard Nixon
. The Ur Example
, Trope Codifier
, and Genre Launcher
is Thompson's "The Kentucky Derby
is Decadent and Depraved", published in the shortlived literary magazine Scanlan's Monthly
in June 1970, documenting his trip to Louisville—his hometown—and the bizarre festival that is the Derby.
Gonzo news articles are normally told similar to a fictional story format, with the writer acting as narrator of the story with a focus not only on people and events but also personal commentary on the history and morality of said subjects
. The purpose of the story is to sway the reader to the writer's side by championing a person, group or outlook on life and ridiculing those opposed to such things. Usually the side being championed is portrayed as the underdog fighting against the status quo. Even stories that aren't attack pieces per se
still treat mundane news events with irreverence and contempt.
Very obviously Writer on Board
. Expect the writer to see themselves as an Intrepid Reporter
whose duty is to pull back the curtain and expose The Masquerade
. In fiction, the gonzo journalist can be a mouthpiece for La Résistance
or a Jerk with a Heart of Gold
, often both.
open/close all folders
- Transmetropolitan: Main character Spider Jerusalem is a very obvious Hunter S. Thompson expy, based in some ill-defined future setting. Jerusalem violently accosts his enemies, uses his position to topple government officials and rally the masses out of their mindless funk. He clearly believes journalism is a weapon against evil and corrupt power. One point early on, he even has one of Thompson's books on his coffee table.
- McDougal from The Paper qualifies. Of course, the enemy he demonizes is the parking commissioner.
- Duke in the early years of Doonesbury, so much that he's named after Hunter S. Thompson's alter ego Raoul Duke. Later in the strip's run he becomes a free-range influence peddler.
- In the early years of Bloom County, the character Limekiller was added to the cast. Gary Trudeau complained the character was too similar to Duke in Doonesbury, which Berkeley Breathed admitted in his "Complete Bloom County" collection. Written out of the strip not long after Opus the Penguin became the comic's Breakout Character.
- Milo Bloom often wrote heavily-biased news articles filled with screaming headlines and personal attacks on corrupt government officials. Thompson would have been proud.
- Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: Pretty much the Trope Codifier. A stream-of-conscious novel written by Hunter S. Thompson in the early 1970s chronicling his experiences covering news stories in Las Vegas. Although ostensibly about his coverage of a motorcycle race and a police convention, Thompson used the setting to criticize what he saw as vile in American culture as well as lament the death of the ideals he and the hippies aspired to, but failed to see realized, in the previous decade.
- Holidays In Hell: A collection of essays and news articles by P.J. O'Rourke criticizing international corruption and populist guerrilla movements, which he saw as misguided and ultimately futile. O'Rourke came by his Gonzo cred honestly: he was (and is) the best-known of Thompson's successors at the Rolling Stone National Affairs Desk.
- The protagonist of Bryan Young's Lost at the Con is a self-declared gonzo journalist, usually on the political beats, who gets sent to cover Griffin*Connote . At first he's very disparaging of the con and the kind of people who go there (both fans and guests) but eventually winds up defending them against the kind of JerkJocks who pick on people that just want to have fun and be themselves.
- Michael Liberty, the Intrepid Reporter protagonist of the Starcraft novel Liberty's Crusade, dips into this as his ad hoc relationship with the Sons of Korhal grows tighter and his anti-Confederacy beliefs become more and more apparent. The crowning achievement is a long-form holo-transmission (harder to fake than a normal 2D video) called "the Liberty Manifesto" that lays out the entire true story of the fall of the Confederacy and the rise of the Dominion, as told by Liberty, who was there for the whole thing. He takes a particular interest in both savaging Arcturus Mengsk, leader of the Sons and Emperor of the Dominion, for being pure evil and also blaming himself and everyone else for going along with the "madman" for so long.
- Ixod Instanbul in At Arm's Length, an expy of both Hunter S. Thompson AND Spider Jerusalem. Views the world in black and white and sees himself as a messenger appointed to bring the truth to the masses.
- Claud Southend of Quantum Vibe especially in his relentless pursuit of the story behind Nicole's falsified drug charges.
- Of course, Hunter S. Thompson.
- P.J. O'Rourke is often viewed as the conservative/libertarian counterpart to Thompson, who was staunchly left-wing and sympathized with the '60s counterculture. He does, however, cite Thompson as an influence (along with H. L. Mencken), and looks favorably on him.
- Tom Wolfe is also seen as a major influence on gonzo journalism, and is considered one of the founders of the broader "New Journalism" movement of the 1960s and 70s, along with Thompson.
- Matt Taibbi has taken up Thompson's mantle of manic and iconoclastic political reporting for Rolling Stone magazine, noted for such gonzo polemics as calling Goldman Sachs "a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money".
- Sports broadcasts in North America can have their own version in their announcers. Most announcers will at least try to present themselves as neutral, but some will embrace their biased coverage and make it part of their image. A prime example is Ken "Hawk" Harrelson, the play-by-play announcer for the Chicago White Sox.
- This is more likely to occur with local broadcasts. While the professional leagues and major media networks have agreements to broadcast big games across the US on a regular basisnote , most professional teams have agreements with local or regional networks to broadcast the vast majority of games that don't get on national TV.note Consequently, while nationwide telecasts have announcers who will be calling games for different teams week after week (and an announcer with such an obvious bias to one team will alienate a huge chunk of the audience, whether its fans of the other team or just casual fans), games on local broadcasts will see pretty much the same announcers for the same team being covered and will generally have fans of that particular team as their main audience. After all, if you're going through the effort to find that team on a cable channel or radio, you're more likely to be a loyal fan of that team in general.