Opinion: A eulogy for Gonzo

Alex Kamczyc

Alex Kamczyc

This week marks the 80th birthday of Hunter S. Thompson, the creator of a genre of writing called Gonzo Journalism.

He was a beloved writer to many who had an amazing sense of the culture he was living in and a remarkable way of writing it and incorporating it into his stories.

I think that’s what is missing in journalism today: a sense of connection to the story. I’m not talking about injecting bias or opinion into your work (though admittedly, Thompson did this sometimes), I mean a real sense of understanding when it came to the story.

Nowadays, we rely on a cut and paste delivery of our news, and most prefer it this way.

However, the problem I have with this is that it makes the news boring and uninteresting. There isn’t a real sense of connection or a reason for the viewer or reader to care about the story.

It’s like wanting your coffee black with nothing else to compliment it.

For me, Thompson was the first real jumping off point for me to get into journalism, how he could tell a news story but make you feel like you were there, viewing the events unfolding just as he did.

He showed me how to create a lush narrative, and that writing stories based in reality could be worthwhile, all you had to do was find the right angle.

I think the most important thing for me about Thompson was that he inspired me to be open minded about my surroundings. Observe first and judge later — another thing seriously lacking in news today.

To most he was a madman, a misunderstood beast of literature who often wrote exaggerated stories of depraved villainy within our society and politics.

Mournfully, on February 20, 2005, Thompson committed suicide, leaving a hole in not only his family but the American media newscape.

It’s a great, terrible thing when a such a lively icon, someone who you would never expect to feel sad and lonely, would take their own life.

He serves as a perfect example to us that you truly never know what goes on in someones head and that even the biggest icons can feel small.

He may not be palatable to most readers, but he was damn sure one of the best writers of his generation.

There’s a famous saying by him: “Buy the ticket, take the ride,” I tell myself this at least once every week as a reminder of what I want to accomplish as a journalist and to live life without reserve.

I think, in that sense, he should be palatable to everyone. An icon of living your life without fear.

Buy the ticket, take the ride.

Alex Kamczyc is a columnist. Contact him at [email protected]