New Journalism appeared and became very popular in the 1960-1970s. It was seen as something revolutionary as journalists had not employed techniques that came into existence at that period. This approach is characterized by the presence of a significant portion of fiction, an abundance of facts and details, and a focus on the psychological aspect. Truman Capote and Gay Talese are often regarded as major developers and users of this approach in journalism. Their works have been studied and analyzed as the main examples of New Journalism. It is possible to consider two works of these authors, In Cold Blood by Capote and “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold” by Talese, to understand peculiarities of this approach in journalism.
First, it is important to define the major peculiarities of traditional journalism. Journalists rely on facts and tend to refer to their sources that have to be reliable. A traditional report is crammed with facts and meaningful details, while many other details (that can be important as they provide a broader perspective) are often missing due to the lack of space. Traditional journalism is also characterized by a conventional structure as the reporter provides facts as they appear.
The retrospective structure is very rare in traditional journalism. There can be no fiction or assumptions. If there are some suppositions, the reporter underlines that those are not facts. Hence, the reader can see what actually happened, what people think about it. As has been mentioned above, there are always references to other people’s opinions. The reports are crammed with action rather than contemplations and psychology.
When it comes to the works in question, it is possible to identify particular aspects that differentiate them from traditional journalism. One of the most obvious differences in the structure of the two works. As has been mentioned above, retrospection is quite rare in traditional journalism, and if it is used, it serves to provide background information. In the two works in question, retrospection can be seen as an integral part. The plot is not linear as the journalists often refer to the past and then focus on the present.
Thus, when depicting Frank Sinatra, Talese uses a few days from his life. Thus, the author describes the great showman at a party and refers to Sinatra’s past talking about the achievements of the “embodiment of the fully emancipated male” (Talese 64). Capote also employs retrospection when he provides details of the crime. The plot is not linear as the journalist wants to provide a broader perspective. They were writing about things that were largely known to the public and, hence, they needed some striking details and specific order to make their works interesting for the reader.
Apart from the structure, the two works are characterized by great attention to psychology. Thus, Talese writes about Sinatra’s mood. The author also tries to explain such a psychological condition of the famous singer. He notes that Sinatra is a man of “many moods and great dimension” (Talese 71). The journalist does not simply tell about the actions of Sinatra, as he tries to describe his character. It is even possible to state that the entire story is an attempt to understand the character of the famous showman.
Capote goes even further as he tries to understand what two murders could feel. The journalist is trying to explore their characters. For instance, he adds such details as the memory of the laughter of Smith’s father that “increased his tension; his head hurt, his knees ached” (Capote 174). The journalist provides insights into the inner world of the murderer. This is one of the characteristic features of New Journalism as journalists do not remain on the surface, and they want to dig deeper. They want to understand the inner world of people rather than simply report on people’s actions or certain events.
At the same time, New Journalism is not ‘pure fiction’. The two stories in question rely on particular facts. The authors implement in-depth research. They study various documents (written ones, video, and audio records). They have interviews with many people. Hence, when writing the book, the journalist took information from various official records, and he had numerous interviews with people who were involved in the case. Talese also had many interviews with people who agreed to give one to the journalist.
Of course, no fiction has so many facts and real-life details. Fiction writing is not as precise as the two works in question are. Although some fiction works can be based on true stories, writers do not pay much attention to various details. However, Talese and Capote integrate facts and particular data in their writings. At the same time, they only occasionally refer to particular sources. This creates the feeling that writing is a journalistic work with some elements of fiction. This is another peculiarity of New Journalism as it is characterized by an abundance of facts and details that are wrapped in some elements of fiction.
It is possible to provide a brief analysis of some elements of fiction to understand the way they work in such conventional examples of New Journalism as Capote’s and Talese’s writings. One such element is the setting. Hence, Capote provides a detailed description of the place where the story is set. The author depicts “a lonesome area” in great detail, just as many writers of fictional works do (Capote 3). Talese also starts his story with a detailed description of the setting.
The journalist notes that Sinatra was standing in “a dark corner of the bar between two attractive but fading blondes who sat waiting for him to say something” (Talese 63). The setting helps create a certain mood and often serves as the necessary background for the development of the story. It often emphasizes the major idea of the writing. The two authors employ this element to the fullest as the reader is exposed to the atmosphere that has a significant impact on the main characters of the two stories.
Another element utilized in the stories is the plot. As has been mentioned above, it is not linear as a lot of retrospective accounts are used. However, it is still quite conventional as it has the beginning, climax and the ending. Capote provides details of the crime and tells about victims, the investigation and it ends with the trial. Talese starts his story with telling about Sinatra’s mood and his health, after that, some events that characterize the showman are depicted and the story ends with the restoration of health and good mood. The use of these and other elements are a characteristic feature of New Journalism.
It is also possible to consider the reason why the authors chose this approach. As has been mentioned above, Talese and Capote were writing about things the reader knew quite well and, hence, the stories had to be interesting. The authors had to provide details that were unknown (as traditional journalism often skipped many details). The way the stories were told could also make the stories more appealing. Besides, the authors tried to reveal the psychological aspect. The two writings did not simply report on some events or personalities. They revealed factors that affected people’s behavior.
For instance, Talese shows Sinatra as a man not as a celebrity. Sinatra’s dreams, desires, fears are revealed. The reader can see Sinatra as a person who has his life, which is often similar to the life of the rest of Americans. Capote’s story about the horrible crime makes people have a broader perspective on the US society and the reader can see that there are people who are outside the system that is based on certain values. The journalists use techniques of New Journalism to provide a broader view on the world.
In conclusion, it is possible to note New Journalism differs significantly from the traditional one. The two stories in question illustrate these differences. Thus, New Journalism is characterized by specific attention to details, the focus on psychological aspects, and the use of fictional elements. New Journalism enables authors to report on some events and provide all the meaningful details. It also helps the journalist to reveal a broader perspective on events, people, things that seem to be familiar to the reader. It is possible to note that contemporary journalists often resort to some techniques of New Journalism to attract readers’ attention.
Capote, Truman. In Cold Blood. New York: Vintage, 1994. Print.
Talese, Gay. Frank Sinatra Has a Cold: And Other Essays. New York: Penguin Classics, 2011. Print.