A Brief History of Modern Video Camera and its Impact on Media

Brianna Robinson

Link for Word Document

Broadcasting is defined to be the “transmission of information by radio or television” and is a form of modern media that seeks to quickly inform or entertain its audience and create a sense of unity within that specific audience.  There remains multiple forms of broadcasting with all different objectives and audiences.  For the purposes of remaining succinct, this project will briefly cover the history of video recording technology and how it contributes to the role of visual broadcasting in modern media.

Technology is ever advancing and, consequentially, so are the forms for communication between people.  Broadcasting information to the mass public first started with the printing press and the ability to spread papers and journals.  Soon after, camera technology allowed images of shocking or exotic or exciting events to be shared between people.  We currently live within the video era, video journalism and broadcasting are extensively dominant forms of communication as the modern viewer begins to exhibit shorter attention spans and is forced to take in substantially more information on a day to day basis than they would have half a century ago.  Therefore, it is completely reasonable to conclude that video technology creates an enormous impact on modern media and the lives of people living in this era.  However, with that conclusion a natural question does in fact arise.  How is it that video technology is so successful?  How is it produced?  I will attempt to address these issues during the scope of this project.

To start, the modern video camera was brought about by the desire to display moving pictures.  In order to relay such images, a device was first needed to capture the various instances that were to be projected.  The technology to produce television was advanced by a man named Arthur Korn, who invented and built the first successful circuits for image transmission.  Korn’s success with compensation circuits developed the standard that inevitably contributed to a Scottish engineer named John Baird.  John Baird gave the world’s first demonstration of a working television broadcasting in 1927.  Baird’s demonstration included the transmission of moving images over 400 miles of telephone line and utilized a similar circuit system that Korn had developed.

Although Baird’s first officially recognized success was in 1926, he had been experimenting for years prior to his demonstration.  Initially, Baird utilized what is called the “Nipkow disk” system in order to capture and relay images.  The Nipkow Disk system (invented by Paul Gottlieb Nipkow) operates by projecting images through a spinning disk with holes inside of it.  As the disk rotates, a lens projects an image of the scene onto the disk.  The image is split up into rings, or “slices” that a sensor detects to be patterns of light and dark.  To reproduce the “recorded” image, the sensor must be hooked up to control a light behind a second Nipkow disk rotating at approximately the same speed.  The recording of the signals of light and dark by the sensor is an application of using an analog signal system.  Baird later combined the nipkow disk with the circuit system developed by Arthur Korn to produce an early model of a semi-mechanical analog television in 1924.

Baird went on to fine tune his design during his time until the mid 1930’s when the Iconoscope emerged as a more efficient and digitally based system for recording images.  The iconoscope, unlike previous image-capturing systems, was fully electronic and did not utilize an analog signal to record information. An iconoscope forms images using a system of elements called a mosaic.  Inside the iconoscope there is a plate with covered with small grains and sheets of metals that store electrical energy as capacitors.  The energy is typically stored in clusters of grains which creates pixels.  The internal components of the iconoscope are first charged by scanning this plate with an electron gun.  The electron gun deposits charges into the grains; when the plate is later exposed to light, a coating on the plate allows electrons that are stored in those mini-capacitors to be released.  In short, this entire process of exchanging and releasing electrons forms an electrical “coded” version of the visual image being recorded.  The electron gun scans the plate again and this time the remaining charges are reflected back into the tube facing the plate.  The charges are collected by a “ring” of metal.  Those charges, representing the same image as was encoded on the plate, is then amplified to represent a positive video signal.

This remains only a brief summary of the particular technology associated with the initial video capturing devices, these designs have been under constant revision and evolve just as quickly as the rest of the technology in our society.  However, the impact that these initial designs had on the media is far more substantial than most of the revisions made to them.  Before Baird’s primitive televisions and the production of the iconoscope, no such technology existed that allowed media to broadcast information in the form of images across distances and possibly directly into people’s homes.  The most popular distribution of news was through newspapers, radio stations, and general mouth to mouth transportation of information.  Television became successful from the novelty of the enterprise.  Never before had people been able to actually watch another being move, or talk, or sing without being directly there with them.  It should be easy to assume that people had toyed with the idea all the way up until the point that the invention was realized.  The shock value that would have been associated with the aspect of moving images could only have contributed to the popularity of the device.

Up until then, it was radio that served as the primary source of news and entertainment for the people.  Once the production of televisions was underway, the people desired to own their own set, to be part of the ‘modern’ age.  Once word was spread about the device, everyone wanted to experience it for themselves. Initial use of television was mixed between “news, drama, and education”.  As televisions became more popular, the individual governments of communities broke up the different “channels” into television stations.  Initially, due to the limitations set forth by the technology, broadcasting was done over radio wavelengths by a method dubbed as “terrestrial broadcasting.”  This technology later evolved, however the method of keeping different programs on different wavelengths stayed the standard.

Radio news and talk stations were some of the first to make appearances onto the moving screen, allowing the new technology to film their shows and provide the audience with a visual as well as aural stimulant.  These talk shows sought to accompany all three of the ideal types of broadcasting, they operated with the intention of informing the public about news and educating them on world issues, but doing so in an entertaining manner that would keep the audience’s attention.  In the manner that they were produced, a friendly competition started to form between rivaling stations in a similar geographic area.  Over time, this rivalry expanded into the situations that we come to know today.

The popularity of this type of broadcasting sparked interest in further developing the technology behind it.  Scenes started to become filmed, and displayed, in higher resolutions as the iconoscope’s lenses and sensitivity was improved.  Later in the century the realization of color television was explored.  It was the popularity of the devices with the public and the competition between all the different producers of shows/films that went hand in hand with the demand for better quality images.  Additionally, each new innovation to the franchise sparked more interest with the public.  The two aspects seems to coincide with one another and develop a directly related exponential growth between the viewer’s demand for better technology and the popularity of television and video recording systems.

There are multiple divisions of every aspect of broadcasting in the modern age.  In even the simplest of cable packages are a variety of different news stations, sitcom channels, music-only channels, and so on.  Each individual channel continuously fights for your attention, wants your views and your time.  The competition has evolved due to the incredible profitability that comes with the advertising associated with modern broadcasting.  Television broadcasting, at least in America, takes in considerable amounts of economic revenue where companies pay to have advertisements run during certain spots in a particular station’s program.  Typically, the more viewers a station has, the more likely it is that they can charge more to these advertisers.  So, it wasn’t only the viewers that wanted better technology.  Naturally, the producers of television stations are going to want the very best experience for their audience so that they remain as popular.  Additionally, the viewers wanted access to equipment for themselves so that they can record their own videos for professional and personal purposes.

So how does video recording technology fit into this?  Well, obviously there could be no film if it were not for the systems use to capture and distribute the images displayed.  The major impact that video cameras had was how much the technology advanced the possible ways for the media to reach the general public.  The spread of information is substantially crucial to the objective of media and broadcasting in general.  Video devices enable television and internet streaming, providing all different sources of information outlets for media to utilize.  In short, the video camera is one of the key technological advancements to establishing the stability that the media has in modern society.

The constant demand for better technology from all these different directions caused video recording equipment to reach the level it is at today.  Without a doubt, every inventor saw the opportunity there was to make a profit off of developing this technology.  Home video camcorders, cameras in smart phones, security surveillance equipment are all just a few examples of the uses of video recording technology today.  Video technology has found its way into our everyday lives to the point where our society depends on it almost as much as we do on electricity and the internet.  The power to be able to record and relay information is a luxury that serves as a prime symbol as to what our society values.  We value information and we value the ease and the ability to know almost anything about current events and new technology practically instantly.  Overall, video recording technology has contributed to the major advancement of our society and, although it is not singlehandedly responsible for developing our society’s dependence on information, it certainly helps satisfy the need.










Modern Day Yellow Journalism

When the term “Yellow Journalism” was coined in the late 1890s, it was used to describe the signature styles and methods used by New York City newspaper giants Joseph Pulitzer (The New York Word) and William Randolph Hearst (The New York Journal). Huge, sprawling headlines covered each of their newspapers with alarming exclamations of war, crises and money rewards. Powerful words such as “death,” “slaughter,” and “glory” were used on the front page whenever possible in order to generate public interest and curiosity. Along with bold headlines, the yellow journalism of the late 1800s and early 1900s consisted of twisted facts, fake interviews, sensationalism and colorful comics. Today, the term retains most of its old meaning, but it has stretched to describe any journalism that treats news “in an unprofessional or unethical fashion.


       Today, it can be argued that an entire genre is dedicated to yellow journalism. They surround grocery store conveyor belts, catching people’s eyes with their bright colors and scandalous claims. Of course, these are tabloids. One can see similarities just by looking at the two’s bold headlines and generous use of exclamation points.

Screen Shot 2014-11-13 at 5.18.22 PMScreen Shot 2014-11-13 at 5.15.35 PM

In 2009, The Guardian reported an instance where a UK-based documentary team made up false stories about celebrities to see if tabloid journalists would fact-check such claims. The far-fetched stories included Amy Winehouse’s hair catching fire and a member of the pop group Girls Aloud announcing her enthusiasm for quantum physics. Avril Lavigne and Russell Brand were also victims of this project. The documentary’s director, Chris Atkins noted how all that was needed to be counted as a “credible” source was a name and a telephone number. He was offered up to £600 for the fake stories, which equates to about $943.

Here is a video of the documentary’s director, Chris Atkins, explaining the hoax.

“I wanted to show that celebrity journalism is nonsense and this has infected all parts of journalism. I thought that quite a fun way to illustrate this was to see if we could invent some stories ‑ utterly fabricated stories ‑ and try to sell them to the newspapers,” Atkins said.

The false stories in this hoax are just a small sample of the many falsities printed in tabloids. Just googling “tabloid lies” is enough to see just how common it is. For example, Jennifer Anniston dismissed reports of how “miserable” she is and In Touch Weekly falsely reported that Kim Kardashian couldn’t fit in her wedding dress and used a fake picture on the cover.

Although the content printed under Hearst and Pulitzer differ greatly compared to tabloids today, it’s easy for one to notice the similarities in style and motive. Both experience(d) a highly competitive market and want to gain as much readership as possible, and both use(d) exaggeration, bold claims, and lies to win.

Yellow Journalism in Other Parts of Media


Whether intentional or not, unethical and unprofessional journalism is continually created. One of the most recent cases of exaggeration and sensationalism in the media is the coverage of Ebola. Though the deadliness of the virus is undeniable, the amount of panic over it in the United States is disproportional.

Screen Shot 2014-11-13 at 7.35.08 PM 

This cover gives off a very gory and ominous feel
This cover gives off a very gory and ominous vibe

Youma Seck, social economist, wrote an open letter October 30 to Western media for “inciting panic for the sake of ratings” where she noted that the media referring to Ebola-infected countries as “West Africa” gives readers a false idea of how widespread the virus actually is. “[West Africa] is a geographical area composed of 15 countries. Of those countries, three are the most affected by the virus (Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone), and Mali has only reported one case,” she said.

Seck also points out how countries in Africa that have never had a case of ebola are paying an economic price from all of the travel cancelations due to their tourism sectors taking a big hit. “As revenues from tourism depreciate, a domino effect is occurring, impacting other sectors such as the labour market, food prices, and general cost of living.”

“Furthermore, attention is being driven away from other important issues that are still in occurrence in Sub-Saharan Africa such as the kidnapping of more than 200 Nigerian girls by Boko Haram, the continuing civil war in the Central African Republic, and the political uprising led by the civil society in Burkina Faso— that is just to name a few. Yes, Ebola is the hot topic of the last few weeks, but these and other news from the continent should not take a backseat.”


The Michael Brown case and the October 24 school shooting are recent incidents involving young men and gun violence. While many news sites were quick to point out Brown’s faults, news sites were also quick to point out the good qualities in Jaylen Fryberg, the school shooter who killed four classmates.

Huffington Post article written by Nick Wang addresses the differences in racial media coverage, highlighting headline treatments between black victims and white suspects.

“This is by no means standard media protocol, but it happens frequently, deliberately or not. News reports often headline claims from police or other officials that appear unsympathetic or dismissive of black victims. Other times, the headlines seem to suggest that black victims are to blame for their own deaths, engaging in what critics sometimes allege is a form of character assassination. When contrasted with media portrayal of white suspects and accused murderers, the differences are more striking. News outlets often choose to run headlines that exhibit an air of disbelief at an alleged white killer’s supposed actions. Sometimes, they appear to go out of their way to boost the suspect’s character, carrying quotes from relatives or acquaintances that often paint even alleged murderers in a positive light.”

Notice not only the differences in the headlines, but the differences in the pictures. There are other pictures of Brown that would put him in more of a positive light, as well as other pictures of Holmes that would portray him more negatively. Why were these particular photos chosen?
Notice not only the differences in the headlines, but the differences in the pictures. There are other pictures of Brown that would put him in more of a positive light, as well as other pictures of Holmes that would portray him more negatively. Why were these particular photos chosen?

Screen Shot 2014-11-13 at 9.22.45 PMScreen Shot 2014-11-13 at 9.23.59 PM

While tabloids are obvious examples yellow journalism, topics such as ebola and the media’s coverage of race and crime require deeper analyzations in order to realize the sensational, biased, and “yellow” undertones written into stories today.

Al Neuharth and USA Today

When Al Neuharth first decided to create USA Today, it was quickly dismissed by the journalism industry as a gimmick. Media professionals dubbed it “McPaper” for it’s “junk-food” style of journalism. The Washington Post’s Ben Bradlee said that, if anyone thought USA Today was a top newspaper, “then I’m in the wrong business.” But within a decade of its creation, this “journalistic joke” turned into something that the nation would take seriously. (American Journalism Review)

Allen Harold Neuharth was raised “on the wrong side of the tracks” in Eureka, South Dakota. Growing up in poverty, Neuharth began trying to climb the ladder at an early age. He worked jobs cleaning up cow chips, herding cattle, working in a drug store and, finally, became the editor of the Echo—a quarter-page in the Alpena Journal used as the Alpena High School newspaper. According to Neuharth, this responsibility made him feel “like the most powerful kid in Alpena High.” And it was that feeling that turned him into a “media minimogul in the making.” (Confessions of an S.O.B.)

After serving four years in the Army, Neuharth enrolled in the University of South Dakota to get a degree in journalism. He also wrote for the university newspaper, the Volante, serving as a sports writer his freshman and sophomore years and was named editor his junior year. It was as editor that Neuharth used the paper to endorse his friend, Bill Porter, for student body president. He managed to have his friend elected, but “vowed never again to practice or tolerate the kind of unfair and irresponsible journalism [he] was guilty of in high school and college.” It is because of this stand that “USA Today refuses to run anything attributed to anonymous sources and does not endorse any candidate in presidential elections.” An to his death, Neuharth “[raised] hell” with newspapers that used their power to “crown or dethrone political friends or foes.” (Confessions of an S.O.B.)

In their senior year at the University of South Dakota, Neuharth and Porter dreamed up a weekly sports publication for the state of South Dakota, named SoDak Sports, which, according to Neuharth, was “patterned a little after the national Sporting News, only more interesting.” In the two years between graduation and the unveiling of SoDak Sports, Neuharth took to trying to build a reputation across the state. He began working for the Associated Press under the state bureau chief Harl Anderson, which paid less than his other offers but allowed him to write across all of South Dakota (he later turned down two promotions from AP just to stay in South Dakota). After the two year period, the two men began work on the SoDak experiment. The publication was marketed as a “’second read’ approach” as to keep from scaring away publishers. Neuharth wrote every story in the twelve- to sixteen-page tabloid and met every deadline. NBC anchorman Tom Brokaw, then a quarterback for a six-man football team in Pickstown, said, “SoDak Sports became our bible.” The circulation and popularity of the tabloid surpassed anything the two men had ever dreamed, but their losses and lack of advertisers caught up with them. Neuharth and his associate were out $50,000 and the original stock of SoDak Sports was worthless. But Neuharth considered the failure to be one of his greatest accomplishments and “later papered one wall of [his] study with the stock certificates” to serve as a reminder of the experiment. From this venture came two principles of Neuharth’s life: the first being that “Little League failures lead to Big League successes;” the second, “have at least one martini a day for the rest of our lives.” (Confessions of an S.O.B.)

The next chapter of Neuharth’s life was spent bouncing from paper to paper and planning for promotions. He began at the Miami Herald where he impressed his superiors by keeping his pace consistent with his SoDak Sports days. He quickly worked his way up to becoming the assistant managing editor before being called to work for the “hardball” Detriot Free Press. It was there Neuharth learned from one of journalism’s biggest personalities, Jack Knight (who won a Pulitzer for his “Editor’s Notebook” column). After leaving the Free Press (he left after a personality conflict with the new CEO, Alvah Chapman), Neuharth got a call from Gannett Executive Editor Vin Jones and Paul Miller, the president and CEO. At the time, Gannett was a small, regional collection of 16 newspapers with a circulation of less than 50,000. He was offered the job of general manager for the company’s two Rochester-based papers. And in his first two years at the position, Neuharth made innovations that revamped the newspapers and the company, and caught the eye of those above him. (Confessions of an S.O.B.)

After climbing the ladder and working for various publications under the Gannett name, Neuharth made his way to claim the CEO job. It was in this job that Neuharth would create a publication that would nationalize journalism—USA Today. At the time it was difficult for many to understand why he, the CEO of the nation’s largest newspaper company, would undertake such a high-cost, high-risk venture, but Neuharth admitted that he “was getting bored again, on easy street.” The idea of America’s first nationwide, general-interest newspaper was “simply too big and too bold for the newspaper establishment club and the journalism critics to accept.” In reality, Neuharth understood that the “common man” did not necessarily have time to sit down and read full length articles constantly (and now it’s truer to say that people do not want to). His plan was to deliver people news and stories that people wanted to hear in a short and colorful way (the color helped generate the “McPaper” nickname). It went against the grain of the journalism world, and it looked like the idea would fail early. Neuharth had been optimistic about its revenue potential and the paper did not begin to break even until well after his predicted mark. The lack of revenue was largely a result in advertisers being “afraid” of the idea and being stuck on the status-quo of journalism. The paper, founded in 1982, would not begin to turn a profit until 1993. (Confessions of an S.O.B.)

Even when it was slow to turn a profit, it was evident that USA Today, and, thereby, its founder, were going to change journalism. It proved that it was not impossible to break into a market that was so set in its ways. It turned the industry’s focus from making money back towards giving the consumer what they want to read and how they want to read it. Its short stories, polls and charts were, in reality, the precursor to blogging and mobile media (the revolution before the revolution, so to speak). Today, the USA Today brand continues to set a standard for journalistic excellence and excels in adapting to new technology and consumer demands, even while some other giants lag behind.

The ideas and leadership of Al Neuharth, not to mention his boisterous and somewhat overbearing personality, shaped USA Today into one of the largest and most successful newspapers in world and thereby helped reshape an industry into something more centered around the consumer.



Confessions of an S.O.B. by Al Neuharth

American Journalism Review: http://ajrarchive.org/article.asp?id=878

USA Today: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/04/19/al-neuharth-newspaper-founder-dies-at-89/2097995/

What Would The Super Bowl Be Without Ad Campaigns?

This is the link to my project!


These are the links in my project if you are unable to access them from the project itself:

Superbowl Commercial Youtube:

Doritos Ad Winner:


Whiskey Business: The (un)Professional Life of Hunter S. Thompson

In 1970, Hunter S. Thompson was sent by Sports Illustrated to cover the fourth annual Mint 400 race in Nevada, resulting in what is often considered to be his most prominent work, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Here are its iconic opening lines:

“We were somewhere around Barstow on the edge of the desert when the drugs began to take hold. I remember saying something like ‘I feel a bit lightheaded; maybe you should drive…’ and suddenly there was a terrible roar all around us and the sky was full of what looked like huge bats, all swooping and screeching and diving around the car, which was going about a hundred miles an hour with the top down to Las Vegas. And a voice was screaming: ‘Holy Jesus! What are these goddamn animals?’” (p. 3)

At this point in his career, Thompson was already known for a style that was far from traditional. He coined the term “gonzo” journalism, where one would become so immersed in covering a story that one would have to be a primary figure in the story itself.

Thompson is praised as a “counterculture icon,” a “cult hero,” a “giant of the written word,” and his work has inspired countless others. He will forever go down in history as the father of gonzo journalism. However, if it were in today’s market environment, Thompson’s career as a professional journalist might have been over before it even began.

“He was not afraid to rock the boat, and to challenge the establishment, and to express himself in unique and radical and sometimes shocking ways.” – Former president Jimmy Carter on Hunter S. Thompson

In 1955, before his career in writing took off, and after “a long string of brushes with the law over incidents of underage drinking, theft, and vandalism,” Thompson was sentenced to sixty days in prison for a mugging. While today, most establishments would be hesitant to even consider hiring someone with that kind of rap sheet, after a brief stint in the Navy, Thompson was able to find work as a journalist.

Over the next couple of years, Thompson developed a “casual, subjective, often comic style that tended to blur the line between fiction and fact.” His breakthrough happened in 1965, when The Nation hired him to write an article on the California biker gang Hell’s Angels. He spent a year “riding, drinking, and partying,” with the Angels before being violently thrown from the group. In the end, Thompson was unsure if he “was doing research on the Hell’s Angels or being slowly absorbed by them.” The resulting novel, Hell’s Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gang, earned Thompson widespread renown. However, in today’s world of journalism, the fact that Thompson was practically a member of Hell’s Angels and the idea that he was “absorbed by them,” from a journalistic point of view might be considered a tremendous conflict of interest.

According to the Society of Professional Journalists, journalists should “remain free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility.” Among other things, this means one should never use a friend as a source for a news story. Credibility is vital in media, and by undermining the credibility of a source, one also undermines the credibility of oneself and one’s employer.

“Editors generally agree reporters should not hold public office, either elected or appointed. Most editors also agree reporters do not serve as party officials or help with anyone’s election campaign.” – Reporting for the Media, pg. 161.

Consequently, editors would agree that Thompson’s 1970 campaign for sheriff of Pitkin County, Colorado, as well as his open support of George McGovern in the 1968 and 1972 presidential elections constituted inappropriate behavior for a journalist.

On the other hand, gonzo journalism claims no objectivity, since it relies heavily on the perceptions of the author. Thompson did not believe in complete objectivity in the media. Instead, he believed that “objective journalism is one of the main reasons American politics has been allowed to be so corrupt for so long.” However, objectivity remains to this day one of the backbones of news coverage. Often people don’t trust news organizations that they believe might have a hidden agenda.

Likewise, the public might not trust a reporter whose perception of reality had been altered in some way. Thompson was known for his love of liquor and drugs, from marijuana to LSD to Budweiser. It is apparent in Fear and Loathing that Thompson preferred to work under the influence.

“I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence or insanity to anyone, but they’ve always worked for me.” – Hunter S. Thompson

Of course, the drug-induced escapades such as described in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and Thompson’s particular style of gonzo journalism just would not be the same without the effects of substance abuse. However, does this not jeopardize his integrity as a reporter? Thompson himself admitted to finding the book to be “a failed experiment in gonzo journalism.” He had set out to record events exactly as they happened, but ended up with something that tiptoed on the border between fact and fiction. His work as a whole, according to Tim Crouse, was “a very particular hybrid of very clear-minded, accurate, straight reportage, and then sometimes flat-out fantasy. It was all run together, and some people found it hard to tell the fantasy from the other stuff.”

Perhaps this is where gonzo journalism draws its strength. Distorted facts and a lack of objectivity allow the author to portray his or her message in a more straightforward fashion.

“These characteristics ultimately amalgamate into a journalistic piece that can tout not only honesty and fairness–both of which are critical parts of the fundamental journalistic purpose–but also a deep, gritty authenticity often lacking in other journalistic pieces. Gonzo journalism is not only the most effective method of coverage in certain circumstances, but indeed sometimes the only possible method of information collection and dissemination.” – “When the Going Gets Weird” p. 5

On the other hand, one cannot quite call this “journalism,” since the basic principle of all journalism is accuracy, and while it may have been honest and fair, Thompson’s work was often far from accurate and far from responsible.

“Being a journalist is a privilege and a responsibility. Journalists exercise social responsibility if they want the industry to thrive. […] you must be accountable for the choices you make because journalists tell people the news and information they need to make decisions about their lives.” – Reporting for the Media pg. 4

Responsible journalists adhere to a code of ethics. For example, they know it is wrong to plagiarize or fabricate information. Today, plagiarism or fabrication is more than enough to get one fired, and might be enough to earn one a lawsuit. Journalists who do such things are “lying to the public […] they are stealing the public’s trust and the newspaper’s credibility.” (Reporting for the Media pg. 157)

Thus, it is remarkable that Thompson was able to uphold his status as a groundbreaking journalist after the presidential election campaign of 1972, during which he falsely implied in a story for Rolling Stone that vice presidential candidate Edmund Muskie was addicted to an exotic hallucinogenic drug called ibogaine.

“I couldn’t believe people took this stuff seriously. People really believed that Muskie was eating ibogaine. I never said he was. I said there was a rumor in Miluakee that he was, which was true. I started the rumor in Miluakee.” – Hunter S. Thompson

While it may be true that today’s journalists “act more ethically and professionally than their predecessors,” the fact that Thompson mislead the public in such a way should have shattered the public’s trust in him and destroyed his reputation as a credible journalist.

However, despite his blatant lack of professionalism, Thompson was able to still find work as a journalist. In 1974, three years after the publication of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Thompson was sent to cover a boxing match in Zaire between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman. Instead of covering the fight, Thompson decided to give away his tickets and spend the afternoon drinking and smoking by the hotel pool.

“This was called the biggest fucked-up journalistic story in the history of journalism, that we really didn’t get a story,” said Ralph Steadman, who illustrated Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and accompanied Thompson to Zaire. At this point in his career, Thompson’s fame had begun to get the better of him. He was no longer able to simply observe a story or participate in it. As a celebrity, he was often the center of attention; he often was the story.

“I used to be able to stand in the back and observe stories and absorb them. Now the minute I appear at a story, then I become a part of it. First time I went to a press conference with Jimmy Carter, I had to sign more autographs than Carter signed.”

– Hunter S. Thompson

In the end, it was Thompson’s virtue that became his downfall. By participating in his stories, which is one of the main principles of gonzo journalism, he became a part of them. He became the news he was meant to report, destroying the boundaries between narrator and narrative that exist in journalism for a reason – to ensure fairness and accuracy. While some people, including Thompson, may ultimately believe that fiction often holds more truth than non-fiction, fiction and fabrication have no place in today’s world of journalism. Thus, the gonzo style of reporting that Thompson pioneered should not be considered a legitimate style of journalism, but instead should constitute a genre in and of itself, somewhere between fact and fiction. Likewise, by today’s standards, Hunter S. Thompson might not be considered a professional journalist, but rather an idealistic outlaw.

“He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man.”

-Dr. Johnson (opening quote from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas)







Bender, John R., Lucinda D. Davenport, Michael W. Drager, and Fred Fedler. Reporting for the Media. 10th ed. New York: Oxford UP, 2009.

Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson. Dir. Alex Gibney. Perf. Hunter S. Thompson. Magnolia Films, 2008. Netflix.

Thompson, Hunter S. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. New York: Vintage books, 1998.