As the 10th anniversary of the untimely death of Hunter S. Thompson nears, I am reminded of some lessons he taught me early in my career that still resonate today, decades and several careers later.
These lessons were shared sitting at the bar when I was a cub reporter in Aspen. I was full of ideals and not very much experience, professional or otherwise. The gonzo journalist was solidified as nationally known author and political-social commentator who was still healthy, prolific and years away from ultimately giving in to his demons on Feb. 20, 2005.
During one of our conversations at the unofficial office (the bar next to the newspaper offices) I lamented about being the lowest man on the totem pole. He took immediate umbrage, and said that’s exactly where I should be. People will still trust you, and give you the best stories. You are not too jaded, will actively listen to them and not draw conclusions, he said.
It was true. To this day, my best stories and conversations were the ones I got as a rookie reporter.
Thompson’s lessons still apply today, even after trading in my reporter hat for the world of PR. Here are a few: