As I stare blankly at my Dell laptop screen, the word “professional” bounces around my lexicon, trying to find some personal meaning in a sea of my firing neurons. They nip away at it like piranhas in the Amazon. The letter F is devoured as the O clings for dear life onto the serif of Mr. R.
I don’t like the word professional. Professionalism scares me. In my opinion, you do not have to be “professional” to be successful. When I think of a professional journalist, I think of someone typing their life away in front of a glowing computer screen. Their eyes are bloodshot, as they chug Starbucks and fill their Marlboro-flavored ashtray for the second time. They are awake at an hour during which most people are hitting the REM cycle. They are writing another article about the failing U.S. economy under a hard deadline. They hate their life.
Speaking from a societal viewpoint, a journalist is someone who can analyze an event, slap words on paper to form coherent and comprehensible sentences, remain aware of ethical issues in media and jump through all of the necessary hoops to earn a respectable degree. And that, folks, is also the difference between journalism and citizen journalism.
Everyone has their own idea of what a journalist should be. Each person’s opinion is obviously swayed by the authors they are drawn to and their own personal writing style. Writers have the ability to construct their own reality by picking out the specific nuts and bolts of information that they find important and expressing them through words. For example, my friend and I are sitting on the same bench. She sees the blue Mustang whiz past us, while I am distracted by a conflict between two squirrels near an oak tree. I never notice the existence of the Mustang. She doesn’t see what happens to the acorn. Thus, different people have the ability to write about any situation or experience in a new, fresh way.
My opinion sways in the opposite direction of most. I am drawn to sarcasm, obscenity, irony and wit. Hunter S. Thompson is my hero. Thompson is most well-known for the novel Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas, but he has written other pieces worthy of reading. He started “Gonzo journalism,” which is journalism written from the most subjective, vulgar and bizarre viewpoints. There are no limits in this genre, as Thompson so eloquently exhibited during his lifetime. He wrote stories under the influence of a vast array of substances, was often late to work, dressed like a tourist bum and usually disobeyed his editors; in fact, they would sometimes have to beg him to send anything in time to be printed while he made adventures out of his assignments.
Now, I know I won’t be B-lining through Barstow with a head full of acid anytime soon, but it’s nice to know that good journalism sometimes stems from the limitless. Was Hunter S. Thompson professional? Not really, unless you’re rating him on a scale from one to… insane. Was Hunter S. Thompson successful? Legendary.
I want to be a journalist so I can write about the world in my own crazy style, without having to peel off my professional “society face” at the end of each day. I can’t be professional. I can write. When I try to be prim and proper, I cannot. I want to share my views with the world as I travel it. I want my job to be an adventure, not a chore or “something I’m gonna have to do tomorrow.” I want to be able to dive head-first into the media abyss from whichever angle I choose. I want this or I won’t have much else.