Saturday, 27 March 2010


The New Journalism

The two main figures in 'The New Journalism', now known as 'features', are Tom Wolfe and Hunter S. Thompson.

This movement was heavily influenced by the taking of LSD. The drug (apparently) makes boring things interesting and interesting things boring.

If you wanna write features, take LSD. If you wanna write the news, take alcohol.

People like Wolfe began looking at these boring things and writing about them for hours on end - one of the triggers that brought about 'long form journalism' or 'features'.

Techniques involved included floating around in Existentialist 'Wings of Desire' stylie and observing a situation.

One of the highlights of Wolfe's career was his invention of the term 'radical chic'. The term describes somebody who is seen as collaborating with a radical group to increase their reputation and stir up politics.

The first example came when American musician Leonard Bernstein held a fundraising party for the Black Panther Party who campaigned for self-defense for black people. Wolfe wrote down everything that happened in this weird event. The feature ended up being reprinted in his books 'Radical Chic & Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers' and 'The Purple Decades'.

Hunter S. Thompson wrote a detailed commentary decadency and depravity of the Kentucky Derby called 'The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent and Depraved' (funnily enough!). Thompson focused on what was going on around him, rather than the race itself - the querky style being one of the first examples of 'gonzo journalism'.

Thompson made his name with his novel 'Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas', which took on a similar style. It told the story of two men and the darker side of 'The American Dream' in times of racial tension

Overall, this was a literary movement in journalism that was mimetic not diegetic in its narration. That's to say it shows rather than tells what is going on (as in news).

The mimetic style figures like these led to 'performance journalism' where the journalist/filmmaker involved in the piece is also the 'star'. Example: Morgan Spurlock in 'Super Size Me'.


1. Scene-by-scene construction - Raw style, jump cuts, be sure to set the scene, hand held camera etc.

2. Phonetic dialogue (if written) - Recording actual speech in the way it has been said (i.e - 'ain't' or 'hangin').

3. Third person point of view - Never use 'I' and in video form never make yourself the main subject. You are the observer.

4. Concentration on 'status life' - Try and establish, through your chosen style, who is the big dog and who are the underlings.

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