Personal frameworks and subjective truth: New Journalism and the 1972 U.S. presidential election
This thesis examines the reportage of the New Journalists who covered the United States 1972 presidential campaign. Nineteen seventy-two was a key year in the development of New Journalism, marking a peak in output from successful writers, as well as in the critical attention paid to debates about the mode. Nineteen seventy-two was also an important year in the development of campaign journalism, a system which only occurred every four years and had not changed significantly since the time of Theodore Roosevelt. The system was not equipped to deal with the socio-political chaos of the time, or the attempts by Richard Nixon at manipulating how the campaign was covered. New Journalism was a mode founded in part on the idea that old methods of journalism needed to change to meet the needs of contemporary society, and in their coverage of the 1972 campaign the New Journalists were able to apply their arguments for change to their campaign reportage. Thus the convergence of the campaign reportage cycle with the peak of New Journalism’s development represents a key moment in the development of both New Journalism and campaign journalism. I use the campaign reportage of Timothy Crouse in The Boys on the Bus, Norman Mailer in St. George and the Godfather, Hunter S. Thompson in Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ’72, and Gloria Steinem in “Coming of Age with McGovern” as case studies for the role of New Journalism at this moment in literary journalism history. As writers who rejected the mainstream press’s requirement for objectivity, the New Journalists occupied a unique role in the campaign coverage by offering different agendas and more personal frameworks than the mainstream media. I examine the framework of each of these writers’ reportage, and how their secondary agendas shaped their consciously personal narratives of the campaign. These secondary agendas and personal narratives give the New Journalists’ reportage a lasting meaning and cultural significance beyond the initial context of reporting on the campaign, and beyond the victory of Nixon, whom all four of the New Journalists analysed in this thesis opposed. As my examination of Crouse’s, Mailer’s, Thompson’s, and Steinem’s New Journalism about the 1972 campaign establishes, this microcosm represents a key point in the development of New Journalism. The research and analysis in this thesis argues that the field of study devoted to New Journalism needs to re-think some of the ways the mode has been written about. There are assumptions in the critical discourse that have been consistently accepted but which should be questioned further. It is crucial to an in-depth understanding of the mode that New Journalism scholarship reassess some of the ideas that we have become certain about and make sure they actually fit the aims and output of the New Journalists at the time. The importance of understanding the role of personal frameworks and secondary agendas in campaign journalism reaches beyond New Journalism and, as I argue in the conclusion to this thesis, has been demonstrated to be keenly relevant by the role of the press in the 2016 presidential election and the striking similarities between the 1972 and 2016 campaigns.