Literary Journalism, Creative Nonfiction, & Immersive Journalism

What are these things?

Literary Journalism, Creative Nonfiction, and Immersive Journalism could essentially all be seen as the same thing. According to Purdue Owl, they are more closely related then the names suggest:

Literary journalism is the creative nonfiction form that comes closest to newspaper and magazine writing. It is fact-driven and requires research and, often, interviews.
Literary journalism is sometimes called “immersion journalism” because it requires a closer, more active relationship to the subject and to the people the literary journalist is exploring. Like journalistic writing, the literary journalism piece should be well-researched, focus on a brief period of time, and concentrate on what is happening outside of the writer’s small circle of personal experience and feelings.

This style of writing blends the stylistic art of storytelling and narrative construction and conventions of fiction with the real world gathering, interpreting, and researching information that is associated with journalism.

According to Mark Kramer’s article Breakable Rules for Literary Journalists, literary journalism is nothing new. The style can be traced back as early as the 1700’s with fiction writer and journalist Daniel Defoe being the earliest cited to use the conventions. Over the centuries, great writers such as Mark Twain, Stephen Crane, James Agee, Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck have all tried out the form.

Only recently, in the last 50 years, has the form been assigned a name and created its own genre. In the mid 60’s, writers such as Thomas Wolfe, Norman Mailer, and Hunter S. Thompson began to create conventions for this style of writing. Wolfe called it New Journalism. Mailer called it creative nonfiction. While Thompson called it Gonzo Journalism. All essentially the same thing. A style of writing that blended fiction and journalism together.

This longer form of journalism is hard to come by. Most newspapers and magazines are often hesitant to publish work of this caliber. Largely due to concerns with objectivity, time, and space constraints. Although publications such as The New Yorker, Esquire, and Rolling Stone usually welcome the form.

Literary journalism has been assigned a list of traits that distinguish it from other forms such as:

  • The journalist immersing themselves in the world of their subjects
  • The journalist writes in a more intimate and informal voice
  • The journalist is apart of the story, addressing both the subjects in the story as well as the reader

These are just some of the things that one can use to distinguish the form.