Is “New Journalism” really “new”?

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My first encounter with “New Journalism” occurred during my gap year. During a time when I was stuck in Hong Kong due to Covid restrictions, I was left with books to clench my travel thirst. I attempted to restore the “normal” order dismantled by Covid through a sense of imagination and escapism. I read everything from Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast which details his time in Paris, all the way to Patti Smith’s account of the 1970s artistic underground New York scene in Just Kids. I soon stumbled across Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, which details the decline of the 1960s counterculture movement. As a huge fan of the Beat Generation, I was intrigued. How does Thompson use real-life events to inform his fiction? But most importantly, what is “New Journalism” and is it really “new”?

Poet Matthew Arnold coined the term “New Journalism” back in 1887, notably focussing on Lord Northcliffe’s press empire from the turn of the century. It is extraordinary to think how Arnold and his contemporaries referred to the emergence of the penny press and the introduction of yellow press papers as “New Journalism”. A mere century later, the concept of “new” media encompassed all aspects of pop culture. The emergence of new wave music brought forth the success of bands such as The Smiths, Squeeze and the Ramones. Simultaneously, the literary landscape witnessed the ascent of influential authors, including Joan Didion, Tom Wolfe and Norman Mailer, emblems of this “new” era in journalism. The New Journalists characterised their style through the blend of journalism and fictional story-telling, incorporating traits such as intensive reporting with acknowledged subjectivity and dramatic literary techniques. Curtis D. MacDougal consequently adapted New Journalism’s descriptors as “Activist, advocacy, participatory, tell-it-as-you-see-it, sensitivity, investigative, saturation, humanistic, reformist and a few more”, a beautiful metaphor for this transformative century.

Here at Indigo, we heed our literary predecessors, utilising creative and innovative ways to showcase what it means to be a Durham student

Evidently, journalism is an ever-evolving craft, adapting to the dynamic landscape of information and societal changes. In today’s era of diverse media forms, it is easy to feel overwhelmed by the influx of information shared on multiple platforms, making it challenging to keep up with. Here at Indigo, we heed our literary predecessors, utilising creative and innovative ways to showcase what it means to be a Durham student. From sections such as Creative Writing to Interview, we strive to capture the diverse experiences and perspectives that define our vibrant academic community. So, I throw it back to you, Mr. MacDougal, to judge whether we have fulfilled the role of reformist and participatory through our magazine. To quote Hunter S. Thompson, “the best fiction is far more true than any kind of journalism—and the best journalists have always known this”.

In this edition, we share what Durham has to offer with a flair of creativity. From Food and Drink exploring a Burns Night Formal to Style showcasing current student fashion trends, we present the most unique aspects of Durham student life. If that doesn’t take your fancy, Features navigates how to manage friendships in your 20s, Music reviews this year’s Grammy nominations and many more articles await to be read by you. Sit back, relax and enjoy the myriad of creativity and beautiful artistry that awaits you within the pages of our magazine.

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