by Public Service Associate Luke
One of the core tenets of journalism is to remove yourself from the story and keep that sense of detachment in order to avoid any kind of bias or personal involvement. This rule is what allows journalists to maintain an air of neutrality in their reporting. “Gonzo Journalism” is the direct breaking of and sometimes flippant disregard for that rule. These stories often become more about the writing itself, rather than just the objective of the article or book. The term “Gonzo” has several disputed origins, from the semi-translation of a French term to a 1960s jazz song (no, none of them relate to the blue-beaked Muppet).
Gonzo Journalism was first mentioned by the editor of Scanlan’s Monthly when describing the seminal piece “The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved” by the creator of the movement, Hunter S. Thompson. This journalistic style is known for its writers being directly involved in the act they are meant to be observing. Think of embedded journalism, if the journalist also fired the rifle, smoked the drugs, or engaged in otherwise frowned-upon activities. The ethics of such a style are questionable, but they certainly bring about excellent and extremely detailed product. Hunter S. Thompson would begin and continue to add to the movement, while many other journalists and authors took influence from him and began getting involved in their own subject material. I first found Thompson in junior high, and I now own a copy (or two) of each of his works. I love this type of writing, and so I’ve collected a list of some of my favorites.