(John Daly - insisted on calling Hunter S. Thompsons writing style "Bongo Journalism")
In lieu of the recent Senate Bill that questions validity of citizen bloggers, I went back to a National Town Meeting broadcast from 1974 to hear what the status of the media was then. It wasn't that much better, particularly if you were judged to be in the "alternative media" which meant the Underground press back then. However, in all fairness, in 1974 Broadcast news departments were ten times the size they are now. The hours spent on documentaries and special news programming was huge and newspapers offered a plethora of in-depth reports and daily investigative journalism. Unrecognizable from what they are today.
The panel on this broadcast consisted of Pat Buchanan, Richard Harwood of The Washington Post, Richard Goodwin of Rolling Stone and Thomas Asher of the Media Access Project. The program was moderated (and somewhat mangled) by , former newscaster for ABC and CBS, game show host and professional personality.
The subject was "Critiquing The Media" and of course Buchanan spends much time railing against the injustices of the "librul media" and complaining about imbalance. This coming from a man who was deeply entrenched in the Nixon White House.
The subject of Hunter S. Thompson comes up and that's when Daly lets his disconnect be known. Unable to say the words "gonzo Journalism" he insists on a variation of either Bongo and Bonzo Journalism and dismisses it, as does Buchanan who dismisses Rolling Stone in general as no representation of actual news reporting - the only news to be had was from The New York Times or The Washington Post and perhaps Time Magazine.
Richard Goodwin: “I’m not in favor of fictional journalism, and the headline I gave an example, is not intended as fiction, but as fact. I think one of the problems that you have is, even use of the word fact and what constitutes a fact. You’re talking about convictions, attitudes, opinions, judgments. These aren’t facts in the sense that a glass of water is a fact. They require that you impose your own judgment. Somebody says something; is he lying, does he mean it, is it true? And simply to say that he said it, in itself is an assertion, at least to the people who read it, that perhaps or probably what he said is true. It’s a fact that he said it, but he may not be speaking facts or the truth. And unfortunately, most things, most interesting or complicated things in the world are not very, it’s not often easy to decide what the facts are without bringing to it a set of values and personal convictions. And if you withdraw from that you allow those who make the presentation to you to determine what the truth is . . .”
Pat Buchanan: “Let me interrupt on that. I think that, the American people are an intelligent people that when they say that X, Y and Z said this, whether it’s the KKK as someone mentioned or a black Civil Rights leader or the President or someone else, the American people are well informed, they’re entitled to judge whether what he has to say is valid or invalid, true or false. And so I think that what individuals say regardless of whether you agree with it or disagree with it, if they’re important or prominent should be reported. As for Hunter Thompson, the term is Gonzo Journalism and I think it has its place and that’s in The Rolling Stone and not on the front page of The Washington Post.”
Remember, this was coming at a time when the Underground or Alternative Press were starting to make their presences known, and pose something of a threat to Mainstream Media, much the same way Blogs are doing now. The growth in stature of papers like Rolling Stone and The Village Voice from their meager beginnings caused nothing but ridicule from the established media - they were deemed outsiders, muckrakers, a bunch of dope addicts not to be taken seriously, inarticulate slobs writing long rambling navel gazings from the comfort of their basement apartments.
In the 35 years since this panel was broadcast, the media have changed in ways they never could have imagined in 1974. Rolling Stone has become one of the more trusted American Newspapers in recent years. But then, Comedy Central has become one of the most trusted places for Television news. Go figure.
The fact that Mainstream media has been noticing the writing on the wall since 1974 and has only managed to become worse because of it is mystifying. The only thing worse than denying your obsolescence is to ridicule that which you don't want to understand.