JRNL101: The Great Gonzo Debate

Gonzo is a style of reporting, which has regularly divided journalists in many areas of the field.

Hunter S. Thomspon, father of Gonzo journalism - Source: Daily Post

Hunter S. Thomspon, father of Gonzo journalism – Source: Daily Post

The genre of reporting, known as Gonzo, spawned from American author and writer Hunter S. Thompson, and was first illustrated in his detailed first person narrative, The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved.

The style contrasts traditional methods of reporting, with Gonzo journalists renouncing their claims of objectivity. This is a practice, regarded by Guardian reporter Bradley L. Garrett, as essential.

Amidst recent clashes in Waco, Baltimore and Brixton, Garrett has called for the return of Gonzo. After a recent brawl, between rival biker gangs turned deadly, in Waco, Texas, reports were largely comprised of data – the numbers killed, how many injured, who was arrested and the way police responded.

Similarly, following the Mayweather v. Pacquiao fight, those who were unable to afford the $150 for the “closed circuit” broadcast, anticipated a detailed recount of the event. However fans were provided with little more than a developed internet listicle, detailing the money made and ligaments torn. This restated the call from journalists like Garrett, encouraging local ethnographers and journalists to report from the inside out.

But not everyone shares this view. Gonzo has been heavily criticised by reporters, such as, Chris Cramer, who argues ‘Buzz is no substitute for real news’.

While Gonzo allows journalists to inhabit the story through the use of first-person, Cramer accentuates that credibility is achieved through accuracy and impartiality. In a career that is constantly transforming, journalists are essential in providing the first draft of history and should aspire to reporting with as much impartiality possible.

Yet Cramer also raises a larger concern.

Modeled as Gonzo, the rise of automated websites, claiming to know the viewer’s interests, has developed into a serious threat. One of many responses to the pressure for journalists to publish quickly and often, this technology is threatening both traditional journalists and Gonzo journalists alike.


An outline of the ‘BuzzFeed’ homepage – Source: Wall Street Journal

Written by: Hannah Laxton


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