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Definition of Literary Journalism

According to Anthony Yanotti

Anthony Yanotti
Definition of Literary Journalism

With the introduction of a new type of journalism, New-Journalism, brings a lot of


debate. The genre brings with it the ability to put your own feel on a story that is supposed to be
factual and unbiased. With the introduction of a guided journey of the events in question, it
gives the author the ability to steer the reader into feeling the way the author intends them to feel.
What you actually read is a true story through the eyes of the journalist. He portrays the events
the way he wants, in the order he wants, to convey a certain and very specific message. Many
would say that there is no such thing as new journalism, or literary journalism. That the word
literary and journalism are contradictory. That you cant both be objective, as journalism is said
to require and also be subjective, mixing in fiction and stretching the truth, as well as the
introduction of the author into the piece giving his own opinion and interfering in the events
taking place; this is said to compromise the piece of journalism. Is there a new journalism? If so,
then what is it? Where and by who was it fathered? No-one has been able to answer these
questions, however this paper will attempt to shed some light on the subject.
The term Literary Journalism or New-Journalism became well known in the sixties,
however no-one really knows exactly where, when, or by whom the term was first used.
Seymour Krim, an American editor, author and literary critic recalls, certain that [Pete]
Hamill first used the expressionIn about April 1965 Krim goes on to say that after this,
he began to use the term in conversation and it stuck.[1] Others would argue that although the
term was new that the work was not. They argue that literary journalism was nothing more than

basic storytelling which has been around since before man even invented the alphabet. However
storytelling is usually never considered to be accurate and literary journalism, although
subjective and imaginative is just another vessel to deliver factual accounts. So what exactly is
this new type of journalism? The word literary is defined as, associated with literary works or
other formal writing; having a marked style intended to create a particular emotional effect. [2]
The word journalism is defined as, writing characterized by a direct presentation of facts or
description of events without an attempt at interpretation.[3] To further understand this
journalism is characterized by an unadulterated objective style of reporting. Whereas literary
works are typically the opposite. Literary journalism is essentially the mixture of the two styles.
Literary journalists essentially take the without an attempt at interpretation part of the
definition and throw it out of their figurative windows. They find a balance within the two
worlds where they incorporate literary terms and techniques with the facts. Giving us something
we could never obtain from a classic style journalism piece, scene, and emotion.
Indeed. The rats are deserting the ship at high speed. Even the dingbat senator from
Colorado, Peter Dominickthe GOP claghorn that nominated Nixon for the Nobel Peace Prize
less than two years agohas called the presidents 11th hour administration of complicity in the
Watergate cover-up sorrowful news.
We will not have Richard Nixon to kick around much longerwhich is not especially
sorrowful news to a lot of people, except that the purging of the cheap little bastard is going to
happen here in Washington and will take up the rest of our summer.[4] This excerpt from
Hunter S. Thompsons The Scum Also Rises is an example of what is literary journalism. It
contains a few key elements such as Subjectivity, imagination, presumption, literary techniques
and of course the facts. Dr. Thompson starts with an idiom The rats are deserting the ship at

high speed. Referencing that President Nixons supporters are all starting to turn their backs on
him. This technique would be something a classic journalism piece wouldnt include. He goes
on to call the senator a dingbat and that we will not have Richard Nixon to kick around much
longerwhich is not especially sorrowful news to a lot of people. Here we see the
subjectivity and the presumptions, all while stating the facts. Controversial yet entertaining and
factual, and certainly journalism mixed with literature.
It was a peculiar setting for watching a sporting event, although, oddly, it didnt seem so
at the time. The day consisted of such a strange succession of events that, by this point in the
evening, it was the most natural thing in the world to be watching a football game surrounded by
policemen: there was one on my left, another on my right, two directly behind me and five in
front. It didnt bother me; it certainly didnt bother the supporters, who, despite the distractions
where watching the match with complete attentiveness. And when Manchester United tied, the
goal was witnessed, as it unfolded, by everyone there (except me; I was looking over my
shoulder for missiles), and jubilation shot through them, their cheers and song suddenly tinny
and small in the great cavity of the Juventes football ground, its seventy thousand Italians now
comprehensively silent. The United supporters jumped up and down, fell over each other,
embraced.
But the euphoria was brief. In the last two minutes Juventes scored again. The
exhilaration felt but minutes before by that small band of United supporters was now felt
magnified many timesby the seventy thousand Italian fans who, previously humiliated,
directed their powerful glee into our corner. The roar was deafening, invading the senses like a
bomb.

And with that explosive roar, the mood changed.[5] This excerpt from Among the
Thugs written by Bill Buford again uses some key features. Firstly, the passage starts off with
an internal dialog from the author who is at this game and gives his own feelings as to the
presence of the police force at the game; these feelings are considered subjective. He goes further
to make presumptions of the people in attendance, as to what they saw and how they must have
felt. Towards the end of the excerpt he says The roar was deafening, invading the senses like a
bomb again using some literary techniques like similes, while appealing to the senses of the
reader by describing how loud it was. Again we see the elements of subjectivity, presumptions,
and literary techniques, all while delivering an imaginative view of the facts at hand.
The speeches and songs continued in the distance. They suddenly then stopped. There
was a violent grinding and a squealing soundthe familiar sound of an armored personnel
carrier. I heard screaming, and behind me, in the avenue, everyone started running. When I
finally spotted the vehicle, I could see that it was making its way with speed down the side of the
square. It seemed uncertain of its directionone moment driving straight for the square, and
then stopping, turning, stopping again, as if looking for a way to escape. There was suddenly an
angry roar, and I knew it was because the vehicle had crushed someone under its tracks. It then
turned in my directionit pointed at me and I felt a different kind of panic. The action was
starting and I was separated from my colleagues; it is an article of faith to stay with your camera
crew in times of danger.
The vehicle carried on, careering back and forth. It must have knocked down six or seven
people. By now it was on fire, being hit repeatedly with Molotov cocktails. Somehow, though, it
escaped and headed off to the west.[6] The quotation from John Simpsons Tiananmen
square again reflects the same basic characteristics from which a definition can be formed.

Many literary techniques can be found in the work using narration and stream of consciousness.
Personifying the vehicle that seems unsure and was trying to find its way. The author
presumes the angry roar of the crowd, was due to a man being crushed underneath it. Again the
piece uses imaginative details to depict the factual events that occurred there in Tiananmen
Square.
Through the careful and attentive reading of multiple works of literary journalism and
great amounts of reading and research, the following definition of literary journalism can be
made, Literary journalism is the personalized accounts of factual events through the
subjective and imaginative art of storytelling, with the uses of literary techniques and
presumptions.
Throughout the vast word of literature and journalism there are many ways to deliver
facts and to tell stories. Everything new and foreign to man will have critics and those who doubt
the work. However literary journalism has been around for more than fifty years and is still
growing; from non-fiction novels like Truman Capotes In Cold Blood to Hunter S.
Thompsons controversial books and magazine articles. Now in the golden age of computers and
social media, everyone has access to give the world their own little piece of literary journalism.
In fact as the nation gets lazier and more informal literary journalism will continue to grow in
popularity. These mediums give us a constant flow of detailed oriented and controversial, easy to
learn factual stories into the homes and minds across the globe. The reason it is so hard to define
the term literary journalism maybe in fact due to the ever changing methods and rule breaking
authors that seem to be implementing the style, and the internet giving an endless supply of
authors and knowledge from around the world keeping the works of art constantly varied,
delivered at high intensity.

Works cited
1. In a private letter to James E. Murphy, dated February 6, 1973 (see Murphy 1974,
p. 5.) Wikipedia, n.d. web 1 Nov. 2014
2. Literary Def.3. Oxford Pocket Dictionary, Oxford, n.d. web 1 Nov. 2014
3. Journalism Def.2. Oxford Pocket Dictionary, Oxford, n.d. web 1 Nov. 2014
4. Kerrane, Kevin, and Ben Yagoda. "Hunter S. Thompson from "The Scum Also
Rises." The Art of Fact: A Historical Anthology of Literary Journalism. New York,
NY: Scribner, 1997. 302-15. Print.
5. Kerrane, Kevin, and Ben Yagoda. "Bill Buford from "Among the Thugs." The Art
of Fact: A Historical Anthology of Literary Journalism. New York, NY: Scribner,
1997. 302-15. Print.
6. Kerrane, Kevin, and Ben Yagoda. "John Simpson from "Tiananmen Square." The
Art of Fact: A Historical Anthology of Literary Journalism. New York, NY:
Scribner, 1997. 302-15. Print.