Talker is doing experiential journalism (formerly gonzo journalism). Join us

Talker is doing experiential journalism (formerly gonzo journalism). Join us

[(left to right) Sean Penn, Kate del Castillo, and Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán]

On January 16th on 60 Minutes, Sean Penn defended the October 2015 secret interview he and actress Kate del Castillo conducted with Mexican drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, later published on January 8th in Rolling Stone the day after Mexican officials announced the capture of El Chapo.

Hunter-S-ThompsonIn the 60 Minutes interview, Charlie Rose questioned Penn’s motivation for offering the story of an outlaw fugitive with blood on his hands, suggesting Penn was more interested in self-aggrandizement than furthering a meaningful discussion on drug and addiction policies:

Rose: What about those who say, “This is his [Penn’s] ego. He likes being in the center of this. He– he’s an adventurer. He thinks of himself as a writer in the tradition of Hunter Thompson with a kind of experiential quality to him.” Do you accept any of that? . . .
Penn: No, they’re not right.

Not wanting to be characterized as a modern day Hunter Thompsonesque Gonzo journalist, Penn describes his approach instead as “experiential journalism.”  In the case of El Chapo, Penn says his purpose was simply to experience in depth Guzman as another human being.  Penn added that he has ‘terrible regret’ that he himself may have became the story rather than the debate on “policy of the war on drugs.”

While the whir on the internet as to whether Penn successfully wore Hunter’s mantle was fascinating, the real point — if you got this far — is explain to those who wonder: what is Talker about and would I want to participate?

imagesWhile drawing attention to important community issues in which accuracy is paramount, the magazine is actually, in a way, gonzo for everyone.

A very good definition of gonzo journalism is:

An energetic first-person participatory writing style in which the author is a protagonist, drawing its power from a combination of social critique and self-satire.

(see examples below) In a less dramatic form, the latest related journalism buzzword term is In Real Life engagement

Gonzo (or experiential or In Real Life) for everyone means people create and contribute their own Rochester stories — in which you can play a starring role (or not).  And by doing so, build another community space for conversations digital that can lead to conversations virtual.

So far we have a fair amount of readers. But not really enough writers to be sustainable long term. So maybe that writer is you. Or someone you know.


Guys, dolls and apples at the Writers and Books Scavenger Hunt for Rochester Reads

Yoga on and off the mat with Mel Thomas

Talker loses his innocence, Rockily, at the Cinema Theatre

Stalker of the Town plays Jack the Ripper at the Rochester Candlelight Ghost Walk

On the Road. Destination Little Bohemia in the South Wedge.


A 1997 trip to deep Peru retracing the Shining Path.

About The Author

Welcome to Talker of the Town! My name is David Kramer. I have a Ph.D in English and teach at Keuka College. I am a former and still active Fellow at the Nazareth College Center for Public History and a Storyteller in Residence at the SmallMatters Institute. Over the years, I have taught at Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College. I have published numerous Guest Essays, Letters, Book Reviews and Opinion pieces in The New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Buffalo News, the Rochester Patriot, the Providence Journal, the Providence Business News, the Brown Alumni Magazine, the New London Day, the Boston Herald, the Messenger Post Newspapers, the Wedge, the Empty Closet, the CITY, Lake Affect Magazine and Brighton Connections. My poetry appears in The Criterion: An International Journal in English and Rundenalia and my academic writing in War, Literature and the Arts and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Starting in February 2013, I wrote for three Democratic and Chronicle  blogs, "Make City Schools Better," "Unite Rochester," and the "Editorial Board." When my tenure at the D & C  ended, I wanted to continue conversations first begun there. And start new ones.  So we created this new space, Talker of the Town, where all are invited to join. I don’t like to say these posts are “mine.” Very few of them are the sole product of my sometimes overheated imagination. Instead, I call them partnerships and collaborations. Or as they say in education, “peer group work.” Talker of the Town might better be Talkers of the Town. The blog won’t thrive without your leads, text, pictures, ideas, facebook shares, tweets, comments and criticisms.


Like what you see on our site? We’d appreciate your support. Please donate today.

Featured Posts


%d bloggers like this: