Matt Thompson's manifesto for literary journalism



Reporting as a profession is becoming a virtual rust belt industry in Australia, the US, and many other parts of the developed world, its business models savaged by the glorious internet with the remaining skeleton crews too often left flinging shrunken, simplistic, fodder at their fickle, distracted audiences.

Yet while the newspages shrivel, the world and human nature have grown no less complex and we remain in great need of professional writers and podcasters with enough curiosity and endurance to roam with an open mind, to immerse themselves, to be confused and afraid and hurt and thrilled and informed, to lose their minds and change their minds, and finally to bear witness. And then to do it again. All of which is time consuming, expensive, personally demanding, and requires constant self-reflection. There are easier ways not to make a living.


This manifesto is for those who hear the call.  






1) Do not go to journalism school
2) Train in self defence and first aid
3) Pursue a wide range of experience
4) Accept damage
5) Open your senses
6) Learn to listen
7) Read widely, deeply and actively
8) Compare what you read and are taught with what you witness and experience
9) Become self sufficient
10) Dismiss materialism and accept relative poverty
11) Open to the fullness of love and death
12) Recognise your sentimentalism


In the field


1) Do not be an activist
2) Do not take a smart phone
3) Avoid other journalists
4) Eliminate your sentimentalism
5) Assume you are ignorant
6) Suspend moral judgement
7) Allow boredom
8) Listen to, and synchronise with, the tempo
9) Get out of your accommodation
10) Join your subjects in their intoxicants
11) Open yourself to your subjects
12) Rather than settling for talking, share as much experience as you can with your subjects
13) Learn to listen
14) Risk yourself as you ask others to risk for you
15) Open yourself to the unexpressed
16) Do everything as cheaply as good manners allow
17) Outstay your prejudices




1) Steel yourself against formula
2) Tell the truth
3) Tell your ignorance
4) Leave conclusions to the reader