From Publishers Weekly
Today, it's routine for writers to go undercover to get a story; precedent for such experiential reportage really took off in the 1960s. It took outside-the-box reporters like Hunter S. Thompson to ride with the Hell's Angels, or Tom Wolfe to drop acid with Ken Kesey's Merry Pranksters, or John Sack and Michael Herr to go to Vietnam with the grunts to tell it like it really was. This "New Journalism," described as "journalism that reads like fiction and rings with the truth of reported fact," started a revolution in the publishing world, reviving old magazines (Esquire
) and inventing new ones (Rolling Stone
; New York
). Freelance journalist Weingarten tells this story in loosely chronological fashion, pausing to highlight key writers (Thompson, Wolfe, Mailer, Didion, Breslin) and editors (particularly Clay Felker) who developed the genre, right up to the end of the party in 1977, when Rupert Murdoch engineered his takeover of New York
. Bottom line trumped byline, although, as Weingarten emphasizes, great "immersive" reporting remains popular, not just in newspapers, but throughout the media. Weingarten's interviews with key players give his account energy and authenticity; he's far from gonzo, but this is still a good read.
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Weingarten captures the verve--and the nerve--it took to create and sustain new journalism from its breeding grounds at the Herald Tribune
to the assortment of writers and editors, including Clay Felker, Tom Wolfe, Norman Mailer, Truman Capote, and Hunter S. Thompson. He details the careers of these now famous writers as they tested the boundaries of conventional journalism, forever changing the way news and cultural trends are reported. Thompson's new journalism approach to the Nixon reelection bid was a refreshing change from more conventional coverage, while John Sack's Vietnam reports provided the first real look at the war in 1967 and severely departed from the World War II coverage, which emphasized heroism at the expense of realism. Weingarten also details the personal demons and vanities of these writers, the alcoholism and drug abuse of some, and the personal foibles of others. By placing these journalists in the broader historical context of advocacy journalism and the turbulent times in which they wrote, Weingarten provides a perspective on how journalism has changed. Vanessa BushCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved