Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Job Hunting, Gonzo Style

Hunter S. Thompson wasn’t yet famous in October 1958, and he had not yet become the father of “Gonzo journalism.” However, as the Ottawa Citizen points out, he could be “brutally honest.” You can see that by reading his application for a job with The Vancouver Sun newspaper in British Columbia, Canada. Said missive appeared in a 1998 collection of Thompson’s correspondence called The Proud Highway: Saga of a Desperate Southern Gentleman, 1955-1967 (The Fear and Loathing Letters, Vol. 1). Here is part of what he had to tell Sun editor Jack Scott half a century ago:
Since I haven’t seen a copy of the “new” Sun yet, I’ll have to make this a tentative offer. I stepped into a dung-hole the last time I took a job with a paper I didn’t know anything about (see enclosed clippings) and I’m not quite ready to go charging up another blind alley.

By the time you get this letter, I’ll have gotten hold of some of the recent issues of The Sun. Unless it looks totally worthless, I’ll let my offer stand. And don’t think that my arrogance is unintentional: it’s just that I’d rather offend you now than after I started working for you.

I didn’t make myself clear to the last man I worked for until after I took the job. It was as if the Marquis de Sade had suddenly found himself working for Billy Graham. The man despised me, of course, and I had nothing but contempt for him and everything he stood for. If you asked him, he’d tell you that I’m “not very likable, (that I) hate people, (that I) just want to be left alone, and (that I) feel too superior to mingle with the average person.” (That's a direct quote from a memo he sent to the publisher.)

Nothing beats having good references. ...

As far as I’m concerned, it’s a damned shame that a field as potentially dynamic and vital as journalism should be overrun with dullards, bums, and hacks, hag-ridden with myopia, apathy, and complacence, and generally stuck in a bog of stagnant mediocrity. If this is what you’re trying to get The Sun away from, then I think I’d like to work for you.

Most of my experience has been in sports writing, but I can write everything from warmongering propaganda to learned book reviews.

I can work 25 hours a day if necessary, live on any reasonable salary, and don’t give a black damn for job security, office politics, or adverse public relations.

I would rather be on the dole than work for a paper I was ashamed of.
You can read the full letter here.

Oh, and by the way, Thompson didn’t get the job.

(Hat tip to Boing Boing.)

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