In all the homage to Hunter S. Thompson, one stands out in my mind and, to my surprise, it is from the MTV web site.
Kurt Loder points out that underneath the gonzo sideshow of drugs and drink lurked a solid journalist. You could find the distinction among those of us in journalism at the time. Sadly, several lost their way in the sideshow. Many more realized there was also a main event — reporting.
Loder puts it very well:
Getting loaded didn’t make you a journalist; nor did it make you a talented writer (another key requirement of the style). Getting loaded, in the case of most of his many young admirers, simply made them loaded — a time-honored way of avoiding the annoying work of actually sitting down to write the story.
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[Thompson] was a unique and passionate American writer, and he opened up the practice of journalism to new experiences and new ways of seeing things. Unfortunately, he also opened it up to unenlightening self-dramatization on the part of younger writers who lacked his gifts. Nobody wrote the way Hunter did, but many were misguided into trying to do so by what he implied were his methods. “I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence or insanity to anyone,” he once quipped, “but they’ve always worked for me.”
For him, maybe. But Thompson also knew that his singular talent wasn’t really a function of his vaunted dissipation. The way he actually cranked out the copy, as he said in a 1974 Playboy interview, was quite basic. “One day you just don’t appear at the El Adobe bar anymore: You shut the door, paint the windows black, rent an electric typewriter and become the monster you always were — the writer.”