Tuesday, January 6, 2009

What is wrong with taking a psychodelic trip?

I arrived on Sunday afternoon to the heat and red earth of Port Hedland, and began my oddessy into the land of mines and humidity. After confusion reigned supreme regarding my accommodation, I'm settled into a sharehouse with a couple of journo students and a couple of nursing students.

Luckily, my room has been outfitted with an airconditioner with an engine which would have Boeing engineers in awe and I found my new surrounds frosty in stark contrast with the heat outside. The thing which has surprised me was not only the heat but the humidity which locals say is the real killer punch.

In regards to actual work though, during the past two days we've been given a couple of asignments for radio(radio? bah!) and are about to embark on a print journey oddessy. We'll be writing for a number of local rags while we're here about all sorts of things, but taking a special look at indigenous health issues which are affetcing the North West.

Hopefully, we'll have enough work to keep us busy while avoiding going insane from the pressure of those bastions of insanity, deadlines. I'm taking bets now as to how long it takes for me to completely crack under the pressure and go on a drug-fuelled trip into the desert, Hunter S Thompson-style.

Speaking of the Gonzo-man, the thing I think I'll miss about the relative glitz and glamour of Perth is going down to the Luna on my days off and taking in a film or two. The new Thompson doco is dueout soon, which should be fun and hopefully isn't just some pandering schmaltz about what a rebel he was but rather an examintaion of the style he helped found.

For those of you unfamiliar with Thompson, he basically wrote a number of influential articles for Rolling Stone, the most memorable of which took place during the riots in Chicago. Instead of balance and objective journalism which removes all reference ofthe author from the copy, Gonzo journalism is about presenting a very perosnal, first-person account of the event being covered.

The supposed upshot of it is that instead of the aloof, detached style which gives readers very little insight into the 'situation on the ground' as it were, Gonzo makes the reader feel as if they are there by presenting a first person narrative.

Of course this runs counter to the 'objective journalism' philosophy and is full of writer ambiguities and fallacies. But proponents of the Gonzo style say that while objective journalism is the flavour du jour, it runs counter-productive to the inherent point of journalism.

As Thompson summised 'It may be not strictly objective to call a guy a bum or a crook, but objectivism misses the point of journalism altogether'.

The argument which is key to those which support Gonzois that those who defend objectivism use the veil of aloofness to not say exactly what is needed to be said. If a guy's a bum, say it. Objectivism in its worst state will try to avoid making any judgements about a person for fear of reprisal and loss of the journalistic power which publications hold but the actual truth gets thrown out with the bath water.

Of course both approaches have their pluses and minuses, and at the end of the day it is up to the journos of the future to determine which approach is more valid for the times in which we live. What is essential, for this to happen is to discuss each approach, debate the points instead of just milling along turning around copy without a single thought as to your approach from a philisophical viewpoint.

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