The View from Here

Hunter S. Thompson is credited as the father of Gonzo journalism, with contradictory accounts of when he first coined the term. The genre itself is credited for revolutionizing journalism, and was used by Thompson and his contemporaries to find and tell interesting and profound stories from a genuine, personal point of view. However, the late Thompson would roll in his grave at what has become of the genre he created.

What’s refreshing about Gonzo journalism is that the writers make no claim to objectivity. In a media landscape full of opinion disguised as objective fact, this can be a breath of fresh air. When executed effectively, the writer’s perspective is used to enhance and enrich the story being told. But when executed poorly, as it so often is now, the writer’s perspective can be irritating and vacuous.

Gonzo journalism was effective for writers like Thompson and his contemporaries because they had genuine voices that were unlike anything else in journalism at the time. The modern bastardization of the genre has resulted in an influx of snarky, boring kids who douse their stories with sex and drug references like hipsters wielding a bottle of sriracha, and with the same intent – to spice things up, but only in a way that strictly adheres to a tried and true method that their peers have shown enthusiasm for.

The genre is seen at its worst when injected into material that can’t possibly benefit from it, like interviews and hard news. Giving young journalists the license to wax poetic and talk about themselves as much as they like for no particular reason is risky. In the case of material covering far more important and interesting subjects, the writer’s voice rarely adds anything to the story. Young journalists are egocentric people, to say the least, which is something that needs to be reigned in and reserved for appropriate contexts, not mindlessly proliferated.

Not surprisingly, the digital age has seen rise to millennial centered content that has grown massively popular. Vice News, targeted at millennials and presenting itself as an alternative news source, has produced some impressive content since beginning just two years ago. But what it has also ushered in some content that poorly represents its opinions and assumptions about its targeted audience.

Although writers love to talk about themselves, nobody wants to read what equates to verbal masturbation. In its current incarnation, Gonzo journalism has become something that is clearly more enjoyable for the writer than the reader.