New style of journalism popular with writers

By on April 27, 2005

In the 1960’s and 1970’s, writers such as Tom Wolfe and Truman Capote pioneered a new journalistic form, breaking through simple fact reporting and changing the narrative scope to deliver stories centered on the reporters point of view. Coined by Wolfe, “New Journalism” swept the literary world by storm and brought non-fiction to an uncommon high.

Using the term “New Journalism” now seems unfit, considering it was gaining popularity 40 years ago. Recently, there has been fresh response to New Journalism through the rise of a newer form of “New Journalism” which is creatively labeled “New New Journalism.”

“New journalists deployed a narrative technique commonly evident in fiction and non-fition and that made for stories that transcended fact and went to truth,” Dick Hanley, director of journalism and interactive communications at Quinnipiac. “Fact based reporting is just presenting the facts and fact and truth are not the same. Truth means there is a higher element of interpretation, like the difference between law and justice.” These journalists went to great length to really get “in” their story, while focusing on their reporting and analysis.

The New New Journalists have updated old style by the way they report their stories. Some current writers go as far as getting a job as a prison guard for six months to cover their subject and in one case, lived with a family in the Bronx for ten years. This new generation of journalists are going to unprecedented lengths to get the scoop. They have also ditched the idea of using fiction-like narrative structures and just stick to simple fact writing.

“The belief that the writer can see through brick walls or into people’s minds strikes me as one of the unfortunate outgrowths of ‘new journalism,'” Susan Orleans, a New New Journalist, said. “That’s what fiction is for.”

Hanley, who recently attended a conference concerning New New Journalism, had his own thoughts on the possible down sides to this current adaptation. He used an example of someone covering a story about homeless people by pretending to be homeless for a few months. He felt that this showed a blatant lack of authenticity. “The attempt to be homeless invalidated their work,” Hanley said. “‘I was homeless for six months.’ Bull. They are just temporarily adopting someone else’s status in life and it is not authentic. They are in fact severing themselves from reality.”

Depending on where these writers take it, New New Journalism can be attractive and unique but can also be easily diverted from the realm of valid journalism. If it strays too far, then this “new” thing will be very short-lived.

As many know, literary great, Hunter S. Thompson, just recently shot himself. His style was a branch of New Journalism called Gonzo Journalism and was never intended to have a journalistic scope at all. His idiosyncratic way of reporting was basically writing what he saw. He took conventional objectivity, threw it out the window and replaced it with his point of view. Although subjective, Thompson’s work had authenticity and could be used as a model. The focus is not genuine of what he wrote, but the authenticity of the way he went about writing it.


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