With its footing in the underground press, the so-called "New Journalism" loosened the formulaic stranglehold that conventional reporting held over the media. Trying to capture the radical politics and personalities of a disillusioned new cultural climate, and sick of the old... [more]
With its footing in the underground press, the so-called "New Journalism" loosened the formulaic stranglehold that conventional reporting held over the media. Trying to capture the radical politics and personalities of a disillusioned new cultural climate, and sick of the old newsman role of 'running errands for the establishment,' revolutionary reporters Truman Capote, Norman Mailer, and Tom Wolfe experimented with a new stylistic hybrid. They welded factual reportage with the sensory details, narrative structure, and acute insight of the novel in order to convey the surrounding chaos in a language that made sense.
Objectivity was the bitterly fought-over trump card: old-school journalism demanded a "just the facts, ma'am" adherence to fossilized codes of purely objective reportage, while young "interpretive" journalists argued that objectivity was irrelevant in a culture mediated by the PR press. New Journalists claimed that they could not accurately describe the times without adding emotion; thus, literary spices of sound, plot, setting, feelings, direct quotes, and imagery were added to a basic stock.
Opening up the genre was Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood" (1966), a searing 'nonfiction novel' detailing a series of murders. Mailer's breakthrough work, the Pulitzer Prize-winning "The Armies of the Night"(1968), gelled the formula; his later 'The Executioner's Song' (1979), which relates convicted killer Gary Gilmore's tribulations to the history of the American West, set a new standard. Journalist Tom Wolfe's witty, perceptive analyses of entire subcultures and eras further fused informed reportage with the pacing, ambiance, and opinionated voice of fiction. Wolfe's chronicle of Ken Kesey's psychedelic travels ("The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test," 1968) is considered a contemporary classic. Joan Didion's ultra-literary, ultra-minimalist prose brought the journalistic essay to new artistic heights, and Hunter S. Thompson (the self-styled creator of 'Gonzo journalism') cut his journalistic teeth on socio-cultural reportage ("Hell's Angels," 1966) before his twisted, first-person ravings radicalized an even newer age of New Journalism. [show less]