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Technology And The Decline of Gonzo Journalism 215

Posted by Hemos
from the hst-why-did-you-leave-us dept.
johnny maelstrom writes "Pitchfork has an article on how being unable to write about technology has dumbed-down the media. It's quite interesting to see that the formulaic writings in the technology media and the assumption that we don't all get it has lead to a stagnant media. They call for the next Bangs or Thompson and a revival of Gonzo. From the article: 'They [the audience] want a tastemaker, a voice of authority, who can put it all in perspective and knock our heads together with his or her crazy-yet-dead-on arguments. But I think I've found the answer: We don't have a new Bangs or Thompson yet because pop culture today is primarily a technology story. And we don't know how to write about technology.'"
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Technology And The Decline of Gonzo Journalism

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  • I'd do it. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AltGrendel (175092) <ag-slashdot AT exit0 DOT us> on Monday July 31, 2006 @08:25AM (#15816319) Homepage
    If I could write.

    And if they could read.

    • by sgant (178166) on Monday July 31, 2006 @09:02AM (#15816518) Homepage Journal
      We have John C. Dvorak.

      Bangs, Thompson, O'Rourke, and now Dvorak.

      There you go...no need to read any further, our borders are safe. Carry on.
    • Is there an analogue somewhere for Zappa's comment about music critics? "people who dont play writing for people who dont read" Are popular journalists today "... people who dont understand technology, writing for people who dont bother to understand technology"
  • by hotspotbloc (767418) on Monday July 31, 2006 @08:34AM (#15816357) Homepage Journal
    It's a must read: "The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved" [nyud.net]. Personally I blame the decline on the lack of good drugs. =)
    • Oh, there's still plenty of good drugs out there. (John Dvorak should be proof of this.) Maybe even new and different kinds. What we've lost is expense accounts. Can you imagine a reporter for cnet covering Comdex and ordering a case of Wild Turkey and a crate of grapefruit from room service these days? Neither can I. And you can't even see the bats, let alone fend them off, if you don't lay down a base of Wild Turkey and fresh grapefruit juice. How many tech journalists bother to drive to Comdex, rather th
    • by NixLuver (693391) <stwhite @ k c h eretic.com> on Monday July 31, 2006 @09:59AM (#15816862) Homepage Journal
      Perhaps you meant this solely as a joke, but I think you hit the nail *right* on the head. It's something we don't like to talk about in our society, with its War On Drugs. For many people, drugs are recreational; for others, they're dangerous; for a few - like HST - they are cathartic and catalytic. For all of our history, we've sought altered states of perception for inspiration, whether it was the sweatlodge and peyote, wode, self flagellation and trance, alcohol, you name it. The shaman has always walked 'between the worlds' and come back with a perspective the rest don't see. In the case of acid - we've all encountered the old saw about "Anyone who's taken acid more than [insert number here] times is legally and clinically insane"... but the fact is that the result, for people like HST, seems to be a perspective separated from the 'norm'; a 'new view', if you will, and we experience their viewpoint second-hand, through their self-expression.

      But the WOD has been 'won'; the vast majority of the people of HST's literary and intellectual caliber are 'too smart' for drugs, and would never even consider mind-altering experiences. And if they did, they'd likely fail the piss test that every employer seems to require. It was, IMO, the common nature of altered perception that gave rise to the electricity of the sixties. Anything that follows, bereft of unique experience, must seem prosaic and boring by comparison. As Bill Hicks said - "All that cool music they made in the 60s? *real* fuckin' high!"
      • "But the WOD has been 'won'; the vast majority of the people of HST's literary and intellectual caliber are 'too smart' for drugs, and would never even consider mind-altering experiences. And if they did, they'd likely fail the piss test that every employer seems to require."

        I think HST saw the same thing: "Bazooko's Circus is what the world would be doing every Saturday night if the Nazis had won the war. This was the Sixth Reich."

        America has been the Sixth Reich.

        In some areas the WoD has been hel
  • by MarsDude (74832) on Monday July 31, 2006 @08:34AM (#15816360) Homepage
    "They call for the next Bangs or Thompson and a revival of Gonzo."

    I just love the muppets !!! ;-)
    • by identity0 (77976) on Monday July 31, 2006 @12:15PM (#15817823) Journal
      I am trying to wrap my head around the concept of tech journalism, Hunter Thompson, and the muppets coming together...

      "We were somewhere around Redmond, on the edge of Microsoft campus, when the drugs began to take hold...

      I remember saying something like, "I feel a bit light headed, maybe you should drive..." when all of a sudden, there was a terrible roar all around us, and the sky was full of what looked like huge popups, all swooping and screeching about vi4gr4 all around us. "Holy Kermit!" I shouted. "What are those goddamn animals?!?!"

      "What the hell are you yelling about?" My attourney, who was pouring orange juice on his chest, to facilitate the tanning process, disclaimed. No point in warning him, I thought. He'll see those bastards eventually, the poor doomed bastard.

      "As your attorney, I advise you to run Firefox with the Adblock extention and put another rock of crack in your pipe. Wakka wakka wakka!!" Damn it, I thought. So that's why that rat-bastard Fozzie Bear was so calm.

      My consternation was broken once again when what appeared to be a large ergonomic office chair smashed the windshield of the convertible, a red '69 Cadillac from the rental agency. The chair bounced up, over our heads, and gracefully landed, somehow, on its wheels. My following of the chair's flight through the air with my neck nearly caused me to run into the most frightening thing I have ever seen. It may have been a monkey, or an ape, or some other type of beast, but possibly it was an executive from Microsoft. Whatever it was, it was huge, thick, and with a glare and ferocious face the like of which I had never seen. With a baboon-like intensity he was shrieking, "FUCKING GONZO!!! I'LL FUCKING KILLLLLLLL THEEEEEEEEEEEMMM!!!! DEVELOPERS DEVELOPERS DEVELO..." and then it began what appeared to be a seizure, uttering gibberish at the highest possible volume like an air-raid siren and foaming at the mouth.

      "As your attorney, I advise you to run that bitch over and never look back - Wokka wokka wokka!!"

      That's right, I thought. Listen to the bear.


      May the spirits of Jim Henson and Hunter Thompson forgive me :)
  • by Jasin Natael (14968) on Monday July 31, 2006 @08:34AM (#15816362)

    It's important that people aren't sure how to interpret stories about technology. You can write an article about AOL hogging bandwidth, and while 20% of your audience scoffs at a lack of detail and your own lack of understanding, 50% of your audience doesn't understand. And rather than studying up or discussing the issue with their friends, like an average reader might do for a political or religious story, they completely lose interest.

    I think this has very little to do with not knowing how to write technology, and much more to do with the fact that it is (IMO, provably) impossible to write a tech story that is understandable to even a significant portion of the population.

    Maybe we do need a new kind of article, though. Perhaps we can display an article on the web, with a slider on the right, so readers can choose the level of detail and accuracy they're comfortable with. If they slide the indicator toward "troglodyte", then the article replaces certain nouns with aphorisms and factual statements with questionable analogies ("...a series of tubes"). If they slide it toward "industry insider", then all the technical jargon reappears and item names transform into well-known acronyms.

    • And rather than studying up or discussing the issue with their friends, like an average reader might do for a political or religious story, they completely lose interest.

      You must not live in the same world that I do...
    • by AndersOSU (873247) on Monday July 31, 2006 @09:23AM (#15816641)
      I don't think it is impossible for a significant portion of the population to understand tech, I don't think that it is impossible for any one to understand anything. I think you are perpetuating the real problem with the media today - they think everyone is an idiot.

      Because the media caters to the lowest common denominator no on really thinks they need to learn anything, because after all, CNN can package stories about net neutrality in 2 minute segments. I personally believe that a lot of the "masses" are more than capable of understanding the issues, we just need someone to raise the bar.

      I don't think this is unique to tech either. I think we see the same problem in politics, i.e. wiretaps, and DMCA. Rather than explain the real issues, have two talking heads barking at each other. It just so happens that this gets really ugly when technology and politics merge.

      All these failings come down to one thing - money. Let's face it news is big buisness, and journalism has known for a long time that sensationalism sells papers - they, by and large, just haven't managed to preserve the noblility of their profession while selling papers. And as a result we're suffering, and the average American is more poorly informed, they're suffering, and newspaper subscriptions are falling and news segments get squeezed out for human interest, or entertainment news.

      But hey, the politicians love it. Instead of debating on the merits of, say NASA funding, they get to preach about flag burning and gay marrige.
      • "...the real problem with the media today - they think everyone is an idiot."

        In the case of Fox News it is just a matter of they know their audience.

        "You'll never go broke underestimating the intelligence of the American Public" - Attributed to PT Barnum
      • by jandrese (485) <kensama@vt.edu> on Monday July 31, 2006 @12:33PM (#15817974) Homepage Journal
        The thing is, with mainstream news sources like that, their audience IS an idiot, at least with regards to that specific discussion area. If the news was talking about Dog Breeding or Wedding Planning then your average Slashdotter would be an idiot too. Well, idiot isn't really the right word, but the result is that they're completely uninformed about whatever you're talking about so you have to start at the beginning, and since you only have 2-5 minutes to talk about it, well, there's just not much room for giving people an in-depth understanding of the problem.
      • I couldn't agree more. I'd go as far as to say it should be easier to write about hings that people don't know everything these days. I have as much hubris as the next guy, probably even more, but I'm more then willing to admit that I do not know everything. Does this make an article less worth reading? No, just the opposite! If you stumble across something you do not understand then head over to google, wikipedia or your other favourite place-of-all-mankinds-knowledge. Read up on things, gain a better unde
      • There's a difference between intelligence and education. Most people probably could understand technology, if they'd received an adequate education. But our education system has been under attack and/or allowed to fall into disrepair for so long that most people alive right now haven't the basis for using their own intelligence.
    • It sounds like your idea, (which is pretty nifty), might be implementable with XML to tag the paragraphs and javascript to control the display on the web. - a bit like the expanding comments system here on /. .... it'd be something that properly takes advantage of the web as a medium, too.

      Of course there is a large extent to which an author would need to write and rewrite the content, but that's hardly your fault, is it?
    • And rather than studying up or discussing the issue with their friends, like an average reader might do for a political or religious story, they completely lose interest.

      An average reader would lose interest in all 3, and just read about N Sync band members coming out of the closet. That's all they want to know about anyway.
  • A word to the wise (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Black Parrot (19622) on Monday July 31, 2006 @08:37AM (#15816378)
    > Pitchfork has an article on how being unable to write about technology has dumbed-down the media.

    Now consider whether they can write about other topics, where you happen to be less capable of spotting any flaws.
  • Ignorance = cool (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Gothmolly (148874) on Monday July 31, 2006 @08:37AM (#15816382)
    It's a US cultural thing, look how geeks are reviled & marginalized. People expect technology to just work, with no effort on their part, and any failure in the execution of technology MUST be on the part of the technologist or the tool, never the user. People have been taught for the last 40 years that causality is just a conceit, that logic is optional, that feeling good about yourself is better than getting good grades, that fashion trumps form, and basically that brains are for losers. The able must serve the unable in our culture, so where's the benefit to being one of the able?

    My only consolation is that your children will reap the world that you've built for them long after I'm worm-food.
    • by Opportunist (166417)
      The benefit of having a brain becomes obvious when you see on which side of the counter you're standing at when the phrase "do you wanna have fries with this" is uttered.

      My consolation is that I will be the one saying "no thank you", not "ok, sir".
    • by Oligonicella (659917) on Monday July 31, 2006 @09:08AM (#15816547)
      Geeks are not reviled and marginalized by society. They do it to themselves, then whine about how all the other members don't respect their superiority.

      Just look at the commentary here at /.; where geeks spout about things of which they have absolutely no clue as to the facts, presented with grammar and logic becoming a five year old and yet pontificate as if they are just as accurate as they are talking about the innards of some router.

    • It's not clear me to whether you do or don't realize this -- what you're complaining we have too much or too little of is precisely the opposite of the assertion made in the article. That "fashion trumps form" is exactly what it's calling for.

      Anyway, someone else hit it on the nose: that "gonzo" stuff was clever for maybe a year or two, decades ago. Wanting more of it is like wishing more people would wear raccoon coats and do the Charleston. Actually, I'd much rather have that than a new Lester Bangs.

    • yeah nowadays: ignorance = cool

      it seems to be a worrying trend even for the thinkers / those who used to be bothered to think.

      it's almost as if not-thinking has become the new black, or something.
    • Re:Ignorance = cool (Score:3, Interesting)

      by gutnor (872759)
      It is not like the US has always been a society of Engineer and Scientist that suddenly would turn to other interests. There have best and worst period like everywhere else.
      The majority of people everywhere in the world have always expected the technology to just work. It is only from period to period that being a scientist/engineer in a specific field has really been fashionable, mainly when a breaktrough in science produce huge impact on everyday life and for a while look like magic.
      When the magic is over
    • The able must serve the unable in our culture, so where's the benefit to being one of the able?


      $80,000-$100,000 a year.
    • It's a US cultural thing, look how geeks are reviled & marginalized.
      Geeks are reviled and marginalised because they're arrogant, unsociable and boring.

      People expect technology to just work, with no effort on their part
      Yeah, it's as if the point of technology was to make things easier for everyone. Don't they realise technology is supposed to be awkward and complex, and the whole point of it is to give geeks employment?
    • The able must serve the unable in our culture, so where's the benefit to being one of the able?

      Being able to make the unable suffer... painfully.

      Well at least until they pay large sums of money.
    • Originial poster is absolutely right! Thankfully, there is still a pretty strong/vocal minority that doesn't agree. But I was reminded of the trend just last week while listening to the radio. One of our city's most popular morning radio shows featured the DJ's bragging on the air about their lack of ability to use or understand computers. (I think it got started because the station was running an iTunes-related promotion, and these guys started in on the "What the heck IS iTunes anyway?" thing.)

      They st
    • Man, you must get invited to parties a lot.

      Hate to say it, but attitude counts for a lot. I sympathise with everything you said, but what I DO about it is different. I explain to people, patiently, NOT condescendingly, how technology works. I defend logic, casuality, and self-critisicm as being vital to our existence and experience of the universe, and that brains are fun, and that it is worth understanding the world, and worth doing something to change it. In being a living example of how a geeky perso
  • by uioreanu (554486) *
    probably as just many members of the techno-gizmo brain-washed generation, I can't follow the historical part of the article. However I can read the Times, and Michael Elliot [time.com] and the others still create pieces worth mentioning. It's maybe a part of the "old media" that couldn't be yet digested by the junior?

    Anyway, the raised points are valid and makes you wonder: what is it worth writing about? Seth Godin (video [google.de])gives no clues, but makes you think about it.
  • But I don't think he's qualified to talk about it and, personally, I'm not qualified to comment on it.
  • ...is that the media puts so much pressure on "getting the scoop." Journalism contributes to the speed of society by hyping everything in the hope of discovering the next big thing.
     
    The stark reality is that all of these things - ALL of them - will be "mama's stuff" in about twenty years, give or take.
  • Just look at what happens here. Someone posts anything technical, and a flame war starts. If you leave out the details, it becomes unlikely that the flame war will start, because there's not enough there to decide if the author is on the opposite side from "you" and "your" tech ideology.
  • by Trurl's Machine (651488) on Monday July 31, 2006 @08:48AM (#15816434) Journal
    pop culture today is primarily a technology story

    Is it really? I think the problem is that we want it to be. Lester Bangs wrote about rock. Rock would not exist withoug electric guitar, tape recorder and analog amplifier. Could Lester Bangs fix a broken tape recorder? Was he a great critic because he understood how a guitar works? No. He wrote about rock music as a cultural phenomenon, not a technological one. I see crisis in videogame criticism precisely in the fact that there are too many technofetish geeks covering it. We read too many reviews focusing on technical details - what 3D engine was used, how many frames per second you get in given resolution, what are the system requirements etc. We read too few focusing on the storyline, character development or the background information. It's like art criticism focusing only on chemical composition of the paint used by the painter. Ever since Gutenberg, culture ALWAYS was a technology story, but what we need now are critics writing about stories and meanings, not about the 3D engines, pixels and frames per second.
    • There's no gonzo today because people aren't interested in culture. Why? The media isn't. People get their view of the world from the media and if the media doesn't present cultural nuances as an option people aren't going to know it's there, at least not in numbers significant enough to revive interest in it.
    • by Hrodvitnir (101283) on Monday July 31, 2006 @09:46AM (#15816780)
      I agree wholeheartedly. And might I offer the possibility that this is an extension of the current climate of video games. Namely that it's becoming more and more about making it look cool and less about making a great story.

      We may even be able to expand that to a societal issue, as it seems movies are having the same problems [slashdot.org].
    • Is it really? I think the problem is that we want it to be.

      You had me. :) I'd almost clicked to the next story, content that you'd made a comment that put this in perspective, but something nagged at the back of my head. In the end, I think I have to disagree this time. Let me explain.

      Rock would not exist withoug electric guitar, tape recorder and analog amplifier. Could Lester Bangs fix a broken tape recorder? Was he a great critic because he understood how a guitar works? No. He wrote about rock music

  • There's not a great deal of good tech journalism in the maintream press, but I'd guess that there wasn't a great deal of good drugs journalism in the mainstream press in the 60/70s either. That doesn't mean that it's not out there.

    Look at magazines like Edge in the UK - 'serious' games journalism for serious gamers. They seem to 'get' gaming, and I rarely read an article in there that strikes me as dumbing down (and if you want Gonzo-style journalism, there's always the Biffovision or Jeff Minter columns).
  • It's out there. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rob T Firefly (844560) on Monday July 31, 2006 @09:00AM (#15816507) Homepage Journal
    Unfortunately, the only place you'll see this kind of writing these days are sources seen as fringe by the mainstream. You could either distill the .005% of blogs with so-called journalistic value, or you could follow things like Indymedia, [indymedia.org] or to a much lesser degree the bland-by-consensus Wikinews. [wikinews.org]

    The only reason Hunter got published at all in his day was he sold media. Then as now, the elderly media corporations aren't taking any editorial interest in what they print beyond how many papers/ads/commercials it'd sell. In Hunter's day there was the old Rolling Stone magazine (not yet a totally hideous corporate parody of itself) which ate his work up as long as it sold well to its target audience of hippies, armchair revolutionaries, and other stoned people.

    Unfortunately, the things that sell the most homogenized corporate papers and magazines these days usually mention "Brangelina" picking something out of their teeth or Britney Spears drop-kicking another baby while driving. Average Joe Sixpack doesn't want to be bothered with anything more than whether his favorite useless overpaid sports team won, who his favorite useless overpaid movie stars are getting it on with, and possibly a feel-good local piece about Granny Gums Magillicuddy who turns 103 years young this week and swears it's all thanks to a lifelong diet of yogurt and aquarium gravel.

    This could well shift as more people turn to the customizable, user-publishable news sources on the Internet, but the old school are not going to leave quietly. One result of this is newspapers' web sites renaming their columnists' writings to "blogs" and setting up RSS feeds.
    • The only reason Hunter got published at all in his day was he sold media. Then as now, the elderly media corporations aren't taking any editorial interest in what they print beyond how many papers/ads/commercials it'd sell.

      It might also have something to do with the younger generation being less interested in print media. It's hard to sell papers/newszines to people who would rather go to MySpace, YouTube, or watch The Daily Show.

      In my own little world, there IS one gonzo journalist. His name is Matt D


    • So, were hippies as common as Joe Sixpack today?

      I don't think so.

      Trust me, there is still fringe stuff out there, but the current trend is for there to be fringe stuff that gets bought out by some big corp and then converted into a brand name, rounding off the edges, and then selling said brand name to the masses. Yes, Rolling Stone is a perfect example. To some degree, Netscape and Napster are other more recent examples. All three of these really only have one thing in common with the original -- the na
  • by SimDarth (975287) on Monday July 31, 2006 @09:09AM (#15816554)
    I really don't get his point. He's writing like Hunter S. Thompson was universally accepted and Gonzo journalism was some sort of popular revolt that was loved by all. Afraid to say that it has never been like that. Honestly, can you see the average American in the 60s or 70s clamoring for a copy of Rolling Stone to read Hunter's latest? Gonzo appealed to a certain group and Thompson was seen as the greatest by THAT group. Sure, a lot of people today love good ole Hunter, but most of that is just because he's trendy these days. Sort of like philosophy classes in college... people take them so they can feel educated not because of any REAL interest in dissecting the human condition. There are plenty of good (and an extrememly small number of great) writers out there who cover different aspects of "pop" culture. However, video games are not the same as music or movies... those writers who are great video game writers will not seem like great writers to music or movie critics as they deal with totally seperate subjects. Just like Gonzo would not appeal to the average person of the 60s or 70s.
  • by X_Bones (93097) <danorz13.yahoo@com> on Monday July 31, 2006 @09:14AM (#15816583) Homepage Journal
    The author of this piece isn't looking for a great technology writer, they're looking for a great gadget reviewer. That's a huge difference. There's no way a Thompson or Burroughs or Bangs could emerge by writing about TCP packets or water desalinization. The highly specialized nature of those fields means the background knowledge needed to frame a common allegorical or metaphorical experience just isn't there.

    Maybe the reason nobody is able to discuss pop culture to the satisfaction of the author is due to pop culture itself, or more specifically its ever-shortening average attention span and its ever-increasing demand for the Next Big Thing. The fact that technical knowledge provides the objects of pop culture's current desire is entirely coincidental.
  • by Opportunist (166417) on Monday July 31, 2006 @09:21AM (#15816621)
    Look back. The 60s were the "pop/rock decade". For a whole decade, teenagers wanted music that was, essentially, unchanged for the whole decade. Sure a critic could emerge, maybe even one that was a teenager himself when the decade began.

    The 70s? Disco, Glamrock, and so on. And again, a whole decade was in Saturday Night Fever.

    80s? New wave, Synthpop.

    Sure, there were some counter-cultures, by-cultures, trends that went along and against the mainstream, but trends held their ground for years.

    The 90s started to change things. Trends started to emerge, get hyped up and disappear just as quickly again. And it didn't slow down in the new millenium. Quite the opposite. Things that are on top of the coolness list are just SO outdated within a few months or even only weeks.

    Who can keep pace? Additionally, what adds to the problem (for the writers, that is) is that today, more and more people detest the media hype and instead rely on "peer" reviews. What's hot on YouTube is not up to the editors of the RollingStone or some other pop culture magazine, but it's the other viewers. You could well end up with some crap video being the pinnacle of entertainment, because it is just SO crappy that it's rolled over to being cool.

    Badger,Badger,Badger, anyone...? Hey, ow, stop hitting me! Yeah, sure, it's over. Been over for LONG. The French Erotic Film is over (in case it ever started, that is), but that's today. 2 weeks of fame. MAYBE three if you're really exceptional. If you land 2 hits right next to each other, you're a star. For the month they are known.

    What critic could keep up that pace? The only thing this has to do with technology is that technology offers the means to spread it faster. The content as well as word about it, the ability to let others know about something cool you found, encountered or did. But aside of that, technology plays a minor role. It's just the development of pop culture, not something miraculously technological that pushes the writers aside.
    • by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) * on Monday July 31, 2006 @10:01AM (#15816872) Homepage Journal
      For a whole decade, teenagers wanted music that was, essentially, unchanged for the whole decade.

      No.

      Top 40 hits for:
      1960 [cylist.com]
      1965 [cylist.com]
      1969 [cylist.com]

      Distance in time reduces our level of resolution just as surely as distance in space; we tend to think of recent decades as homogeneous chunks of time (and, if we go back a century or so, we think of centuries the same way; go back further, and it's millennia.) But they are not homogeneous at all to the people living in them. In the case of 1960's music, what made it an exciting time for music journalism was that it was changing so fast.
    • 80s? New wave, Synthpop.

      The 80s came in with disco, had a huge dose of hard rock/heavy metal/glam metal/pop hard rock and turned to new wave and then past that to alternative & "college rock" (REM, U2, etc.) and a subcurrent of industrial and dance industrial.

      I'm not as familiar with the 70s, as I was a lot younger then. But the early 70s had folk, the Beatles and the leftovers of the summer of love. The middle 70s moved to guitar rock and black R&B (Earth, Wind and Fire FTW) and then the later 70s
  • ... and the first thing I thought of was Ted Nugent. The second was the Muppets.

    I think Gonzo would be good journalist and commentator... certainly a lot more dignified than Dan Rather or Bill O'Reilly and a lot less shrill and cartoon-like than Sean Hannity or Katie Couric.

  • Extrapolation. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Jerk City Troll (661616) on Monday July 31, 2006 @09:22AM (#15816630) Homepage

    Whenever I see journalists talking about technology, I notice that most of the time they are completely wrong or way off the mark. When I think about it, I cannot recall any instance of mainstream media getting a technology story right. Whether it is ignorance or an overwhelming need to sensationalize, I do not know. But that is besides the point.

    If they are getting all of this stuff wrong, what are they getting wrong about topics in which I am not well-versed? Could it be that everything they are reporting is as erroneous and confused yet we take it at face value because we know little about the subject matter? I think that if you find reporting on technology to be crap, you should be a little concerned about everything else you read and hear on the news. But then, you should be sceptical regardless.

  • Simple solution ... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jc42 (318812) on Monday July 31, 2006 @09:24AM (#15816644) Homepage Journal
    We don't have a new Bangs or Thompson yet because pop culture today is primarily a technology story. And we don't know how to write about technology.

    That's why we read /. and all the other fine online tech-news sites.

    Really, this is hardly a new problem. Print journalism has long had high-quality sources of scientific and other tech news, though most of them are now online [sciencenews.org]. The fact that 99% of the general public, including the mainstream media (MSM), were unaware of them didn't change the fact that good information was available to anyone at all interested. We've had weekly publications like Science and Nature for more than a century, and note that both are much fatter than Time or Newsweek.

    We do have a bit of a problem with the commercial consolidation in the MSM, which naturally goes with reducing costs by dumbing down. But anyone with access to a computer and the Net can easily spend their entire day reading good quality tech news. And that's probably where we'll find the next Hunter Thompson.

    Or maybe (s)he's already here, blogging away. Anyone got any nominations?

     
  • He's so wrong. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gorehog (534288) on Monday July 31, 2006 @09:26AM (#15816666)
    When Thompson wrote Hell's Angels he went out and learned what the life of the Angels was like and he spent months doing it. Then he spent a long time writing a book that challenged people to open their minds in order to accept what he had to tell them. Why didint Thompson address videogames? I imagine he found the experience of playing Counter Strike to be too sterile and too far removed from the hum,anity of armed conflict.

    Imagine...

    So finally I've learned all the little tricks to surviving in this hellish desert village and I've just started to rack up some meaningful kills. The avatars of children and adults lay strewn everywhere with the walls painted red from the splatter of bullet impacts. I crouch down in a corner and plant the bomb when I hear a boom and the inevitable HEADSHOT. And it's over...until someone reveals to me that he'd been watching though the eyes of he who slayed me and that I had been cheated. My assailant had been using wallhacks and aimbots, prfire scripts and quick reloading tricks, speed hacks and he'd painted a dot on his monitor. What kind of rat bastard cheats at a kids game I thought? What kind of slimy son-of-a-bitch would stoop so low? I had MONEY riding on this for God's sake!

    ok, stop imagining...

    hunter Thompson saw nothing there because of the sanitized nature of the game. When you walk away NOTHING is changed. It's why I stopped playing RPG's. If I spent all the time I wasted pretending to blacksmith online ACTUALLY BLACKSMITING I would know HOW TO BE A BLACKSMITH BY NOW.

    As for music criticism? Who needs it when I can LISTEN to the album and decide if I like it.

    There is no gonzo journalism about games because games do not deserve it. Games are what you do between doing significant things. Where's the gonzo journalism about Monopoly?

    And there's ons more thing. You cannot marginalize the far left and still expect to see crazy, status-quo shaking arguments.
    • Blacksmithing (Score:3, Interesting)

      by sir_montag (937262)
      Real life blacksmithing is incredibly fun. I started out when I worked at Philmont. I even made my own knife [flickr.com]. It's really not that hard. There's a bit of a learning curve, but as long as you know someone who's done it before and can answer questions when you have them, it's not hard at all.

      (Flickr set of all my Philmont photos [flickr.com])
    • When you walk away NOTHING is changed. It's why I stopped playing RPG's. If I spent all the time I wasted pretending to blacksmith online ACTUALLY BLACKSMITING I would know HOW TO BE A BLACKSMITH BY NOW.
      Fucking excellent point. I hope other readers give this some serious thought.
  • Gonzo, please no. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gonzorob (820987) on Monday July 31, 2006 @09:33AM (#15816708)
    About 4 months before his death I was lucky enough to have a few drinks with Hunter. Whilst pecking at a slice of pizza and a handful of drinks his mobile phone starts ringing. He takes it out of his pocket, stares at it.. then just drops it on the floor

    'I hate that shit...' he muttered.

    Not a man of technology ...

    Politics , yes [sex, drugs] . Music, yes [ rock and roll]. Technology - no ..

    Not medium for gonzo journalism.

    I work for the British national press and, although it saddens me to say it, the last thing journalism needs right now is more people humping the 'gonzo' thing. There are so many kids out there who think that any thing that crawls into their ADD ridden brain is 'gonzo' and therefore worthy of print. Well, it's not. It's just verbal vomit.

    In the current media climate, what journalism needs is FACTS backed up by well researched and thought out opinion. Not ten million myspace blogs.

    Anyway, that's my 2c.

    Cheers

    Rob

    PS : in my humble opinion, Matt Taibbi [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matt_Taibbi] is doing an excellent job are carrying on the beat/gonzo thing.. check out his article in the Stone on Iraq [http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/story/106871 89/fort_apache_iraq/] . It's well researched and well written..

    PPS: if this post doesn't deserve a modding up - I don't know what the hell does.. Also, my nickname was chosen years ago - before becoming a journalist. (to stop the trolls calling me a hypocrite ;) )

    • PPS: if this post doesn't deserve a modding up - I don't know what the hell does.

      In the current Slashdot climate, what you need is FACTS backed up by well researched and thought out opinion.

    • Remember what is was like to go out to eat in the non-chain world? If you wanted a burger, you went to this place. If you wanted fish and chips, you went to that place. The whole blogosphere has done to media what chain restaurants did to food. There are now too many choices, and no one knows what to order. Dang! I sure wish McDonalds had stuck with burgers, fries, and shakes. No, I don't want six kinds of chicken and salads and whatnot. When I go to McDonalds, I want an artery-clogging burger. When
  • http://www.theinquirer.net/default.aspx?article=27 139 [theinquirer.net]

    'They' just don't know where to look.

                -Charlie (who is off to Vegas, coincidence?)
  • Gonzo journalists? My favorite thing to read. Especially considering that regular journalists constantly lie anyway, while the War Nerd will tell the truth even if he doesn't like it.

    Let's see, off the top of my head, Gary Brecher [alternet.org], Matt Taibbi [rollingstone.com], Mark Ames [alternet.org] or John Dolan [mokk.bme.hu].

    Of course, those are all eXile [exile.ru] alumns, and one of them is probably a Nom de Guerre, but I'm sure others can be found if you look hard enough.

  • The problem is I have to insert myself into the story like HST did. That turns people off and annoys them. Which is why Gonzo Journalism isn't that popular anymore. I write it on various forums, scoop sites, etc. I do cover technology and other things.

    While not on drugs like HST, I do suffer from mental illnesses that give me a HST type style.
    • You do not have to be on drugs. You do not have to be insane. You have to be a hell of a lot smarter than average to pull it off, substance abuse and insanity is then optional. You do not have to be on drugs. You do not have to be insane. You have to be a hell of a lot smarter than average to pull it off, substance abuse and insanity is then optional. How many times do I have to fucking say it? Show me the definition where it says, "You must be THIS HIGH to write gonzo style."?
  • I may have gotten this link from /. originally but it's apropos here - Ten unmissable examples of New Games Journalism [guardian.co.uk]

    These articles are written in a chronological, personal style that you might call Gonzo, though I'm not sure I'd call it all "journalism". My favourite is the insanely long but utterly fascinating account of an enormous heist in Eve Online, The Great Scam by Nightfreeze [circa1984.com], which will be a hit with the Slashdotters. Any roaming Diggers will want to skip directly to the also well written S [gamegirladvance.com]
  • Really, I think this is a multiple part problem and I believe most of the solution will come with time. Some of these have already been pointed out by others, but I'm going to re-iterate them anyway. Keep in mind, I am not saying these are facts, though they are more or less stated as such, these are just my feelings on what's going on.

    1) It's hard to write about technology. If you write about it in a way those who understand the technology will appreciate, the majority of your audience won't get it. If
  • Who needs the gonzo writers anyway? They served a role when access to the public was channeled through magazines, books, and tv. Now (for better or worse) anyone can put their writing on the web. It has become much more democratic. Why do I care what some guy named Hunter Thompson thinks any more than some guy ranting on "Answer Me!". Thompson became popular not just because he could write but because Rolling Stone and others published him while other potential good writers weren't. Now the web has an
    • Sure, anyone can post their opinions on the web. I don't believe that is the point, however.

      Yes, we can now log on read any number of opinions from any number of "experts". We can develop our own short list of sites and blogs that we use when cultivating our thoughts. That is the benefit of the Internet, but I believe that the author would also see that as its Achilles' Heel.

      Finding a strong voice that captures the attention of many, inside and outside of the primary subculture, is something that hel
  • This seems to assume that journalism on non-technology subjects is wonderful and, e.g:
    • Rarely makes mistakes, or simplifies a subject to the point of inaccuracy
    • Values in-depth discussion over sound-bites
    • Is concerned with facts and evidence, rather than rhetoric and opinion
    • Seeks genuine debate and inquiry rather than encouraging conflict and mudslinging
    • Asks interviewees sensible questions that they can be reasonably expected to answer clearly, and avoids accusatory or leading questions
    • Is more intereste
    • What's special about technology is that this is slashdot and most of us understand technology. If this were an audience that had the same common level of understanding of the politics of the Middle East, or Japanese Martial Arts, we;d be complaining about how reporters covered them instead.

      This reminds me of something I wrote in 1998 after Harlan Ellison announced that there was something particularly broken about journalism on the Internet.

      I used to be a big fan of newspaper reporters. Jimmy Olsen was my h

  • ..... I thought that gonzo was a porn related trend.
  • "Gonzo Journalism" was the logical, and final, step in the evolution of print reporting. HST, and some others, attempted to expose their readers the immediacy of events. "F&L on the Campaign Trail '72" is the most remarkable work on American politics I've ever read. Thompson was able to avoid the filtering process of PR men and editors, and brought to life the actual process of selecting a candidate.

    Now, with even CNN and the NY Times offering reporters' blogs up for perusal, Gonzo has lost its reason f
  • Gonzo is gone (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Sqreater (895148)

    It's just not possible anymore. I've been an adult in the pre-internet, pre-tech-explosion world and the post. And I'll tell you this: that world is gone, never to return. The outsider who has an overview is a thing of the past. The massive communications and tech explosion that started in the 70s and accelerated thereafter every year has added so many layers to the onion of life that no one can possibly pull it all together, even in the superficial sense of clever and entertaining social commentary. He won

  • Quality (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Troutrooper (959315)
    Ah, the pitfalls of a consumer-driven economy. We don't care who's writing the news, we just want to know. Quality is tertiary to primacy and radicalism. And most people simply stop at primacy, the first article they read is all they want to know about the subject.

    Someone mentioned the lack of tech understanding, and I think that's another big reason for the lack of good tech writing. How many tech journalists can discuss at length and in depth the difference between AAC and mp3 file formats? Or the advan

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