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Gonzo Text

Disentangling Meaning in Hunter S. Thompson’s Journalism


Matthew Winston

Hunter Thompson’s writing is widely read and studied, yet as a methodology and body of work his Gonzo journalism has not been the subject of much critical or theoretical examination. This book fills the gap by constructing a coherent theoretical framework around Gonzo journalism.
Drawing on theories of subjectivity and authorship from Derrida, Foucault and Barthes, key themes of Gonzo journalism are considered, including edgework, representations of drug use, ideas of professional objectivity in political journalism, sports in American culture and ‘the death of the American Dream’. It is considered in wider social, political and historical contexts and in terms of boundaries of reportable experience and of objectivity and/or journalism.
Matthew Winston’s study provides a critical commentary and a theoretical exploration of how Gonzo can be read as destabilising conventional ideas of journalism itself, in its peculiarly unclassifiable nature.
This book is designed to be read by postgraduates and scholars in journalism, cultural studies and media and communication. It is also suitable as an undergraduate text dealing with journalism theory, literary journalism, sports journalism, the New Journalism and the wider historical contexts of American journalism.
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Chapter Eight: This Bedrock Sense of Professionalism

← 138 | 139 → • Chapter Eight •


THE examination of The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent and Depraved within discourses of sports journalism was perhaps, as noted, ostensibly problematic. Some theoretical perspectives might consider the piece as not necessarily suitable for examination as situated within the sanctified, if intrinsically subjective, borders of ‘sports journalism’. The offences against such rules as might apply in terms of form and focus, are, however, a matter of degrees, rather than of essential difference, even though some accounts of the job description of a sports journalist, unlike Thompson’s definition, call for the abrogation of all advocacy of any kind (Koppett, 1994: 134). Gonzo sports journalism can thus be considered to some extent as operating as and within sports journalism, providing a different perspective on the conventional landscape of the culture of (media) sports. Just as discussed in previous chapters, with reference to Gonzo and political reporting (see Chapters Four & Five), Gonzo sports-writing can be seen as performing both the limits of the genre, and of the relevant standards of professional practice, by transcending them, in terms of both content and style. At times within the Gonzo Text, Thompson’s narrative voice even goes so far as to criticise explicitly the professional practices of the conventional journalist.

One of the key themes of Fear and Loathing at the Super Bowl, a feature published in (then) counter-cultural Rolling Stone Magazine, is this type of critique of journalistic convention, specific to the idea(s) of sports journalism. The points which comprise this critique most...

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