Monday, October 8, 2012

Just watched The Rum Diary, the movie version of Hunter S. Thompson’s novel based on his wild newspapering days in Puerto Rico. It got me reconsidering my previous negative views on Thompson’s unconventional approach to journalism.

Thompson’s legacy was the use of Gonzo journalism, reporting and writing based on feelings, not facts. It was subjective and emotional writing driven by rage over perceived wrongs in society. For many working in traditional journalism settings, Thompson’s work was considered bizarre, unworthy and not true journalism.

Looking at today’s society, and the reporting of it, it is easier to understand Thompson and his work. There are so many issues demanding that someone stand up and scream for action. Yet, journalism gets shallower every day, too often never getting close to exposing and promoting action against things that are terribly wrong within our society. Too much reporting is fluff, simply entertainment. Fluff reporting is cheap and easy and designed to build market share, profit and ratings, all of which now take precedence over deep journalistic work aimed at helping to create a better society.

Hunter S. Thompson’s living style is not to be admired. Too often it was about booze, drugs, sex and rock and roll, and it ended with his suicide. But today’s society could use more of his journalistic style, more Gonzo to wake up a complacent society and make it shout out against the marketing crap, distortions and outright lies offered up daily by business, industry and governments and their bureaucrats.

The novelist Hari Kunzru once wrote that Thompson was a misshapen sort of moralist, “one who often makes himself ugly to expose the ugliness he sees around him.”

Our society needs more of that, and likely will get it as newborn citizen journalism begins to mature.

(My New Book: Smoke Signals: The Native Takeback of North America's Tobacco Industry. Available in November 2012 Wherever You Buy Books)

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