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Gonzo-19: The Valedictory Essay

The following valedictory retrospection documents my fear and loathing journey as a university press multimedia journalist, which takes place over several semesters.

This essay is dedicated to my number one driver Tom Clementi, my history media teacher at Appleton High School West. Clementi threw me against a wall locker during class and told me I was a waste of his time because I would never get into the university.

From March 13, 2020, to March 13, 2022, I took several trips to Las Vegas as a freelance multimedia journalist.

I am a member of the National Press Photographers Association working as a consortium student entrepreneur surveying the Las Vegas sex industry and safety counter measures enforced by airlines throughout various stages of the pandemic. A consortium student entrepreneur runs several businesses while attending more than one school.  

Gonzo-19 is my ongoing recalling of the pandemic through the portal of firsthand documentary as a news reporter. The pandemic setting as a journalism student writes the profile of my fear and loathing experience through live streams on social media.

Gonzo-19 converges several mediums into one story.

The narrative requirement for Gonzo journalism writes under the use of a pen name. My pen name is Robert Cobert, which is the travelogue profile created by Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, who used the pen name Raoul Duke for storytelling.

The origins of Gonzo journalism began when Thompson picked up freelance jobs keeping the Rolling Stone happy with satirical stories about his trips to Las Vegas reporting about fear and loathing.

Fear and Loathing Pandemic Live Stream Storytelling

The Gonzo-19 documentary storytelling tutelage began through Professor Bradley Horn of the Washington Post, who taught documentary storytelling at Madison College.

Fear and loathing during the spring 2020 semester led to our first ever college experience into being homebound unable to attend school in person. The college classroom provided the canvas for developing Gonzo journalism into multimedia documentary storytelling.

The lockdown from the pandemic took our documentary class out of the workshop and lecture modality and flipped Horn upside down into teaching a new form of storytelling referred to as “the convergent media business model.”

The convergence between reporting about the pandemic and documentary storytelling happened while attending the News Reporting for Media 238 course at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.

The valedictory view of the virtual classroom tells a bizarre story of a middle-aged disabled veteran attending two schools.

Once our class finished the “profile of a friend” final project and was graded by Horn, journalism became my pursuit. Upon finishing News Reporting for Media 238 at UW Whitewater, the class provided me with reporter reel and a website portfolio utilized for picking up freelance jobs in Las Vegas.

Las Vegas became the proving ground for developing the use of all forms of storytelling rolled into one multimedia method taught by two professors simultaneously.

The Crucible of Consortium Student Entrepreneurship

Once returning from Las Vegas in 2020, Autumn Landmine Productions was created to converge newspaper ethics with documentary ethics.

The spring 2021 reflection shares both triumph and tragedy of a student entrepreneur attending three schools—one technical, one community and one university college, receiving a 4.0 grade point average across five classes spring semester 2021, where the business model for Autumn Landmine Productions developed the valedictory Gonzo-storytelling method for Outpost 422.

Outpost 422 is the logline of a totally and permanently disabled veteran rising to the occasion by overcoming the impossibility of ageism and microaggressions between the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, Madison College and Fox Valley Technical College’s E-seed course, where Autumn Landmine Productions launched for the final project through a nonprofit called 1 Million Cups.

All of my business plans take every class project out of creative commons and trademarks them as intellectual property including this essay.  

The fear and loathing valedictory essay documents an in-depth narration of the experience through the Feature Writing 303 worker profile format taught by Dr. Kathy Brady, who approved my request for writing journalism in Gonzo style.

The Gonzo-19 narrative is the reflection of a day in the life of a veteran who uses college journalism for treating his post-traumatic stress disorder condition.

The Valedictory Journey into the Field of Introspect: Survey and Analysis

The valedictory introspection tracks trauma-informed storytelling through mindfulness journaling and combines art with science through firsthand reporting.

The Gonzo-19 reporting method shares my view through the lens of being a middle-aged student, who holds back nothing in reverence to Dr. Hunter S. Thompson’s Gonzo narrative reflection.

I will recall the events that led up to this moment.  

On May 17, 2017, I left my job for a leave of absence seeking treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder. Little did I know after I left treatment that I would enroll at Madison College in the University of Wisconsin Liberal Arts Transfer Program.

I was expecting to meet professors who loved veterans. That was not the case. I met several who hated veterans, whose hatred dated all the way back to the University of Wisconsin-Madison ’67 Dow Riot.

I was slapped in the face with a wakeup call. Students of my volition and age were not welcomed.

I learned the University of Wisconsin transfer colleges expected department chairs to weed us out before we transferred.

I was shocked. How could they treat veterans this way? Especially when we went to war and earned these benefits?

I am a Veterans Crisis Line survivor who reports to the Veterans Administration through a program called the “Veterans Integration To Academic Leadership (VITAL).”

Dr. Kathy Brady and Dr. James Kates are my shining stars who guide me as a scholar. I am grateful for their investment.

Their leadership style influences me as a nontraditional student believing the truth that not all professors despise veterans.

Both have gone above and beyond carrying me through their courses with my disability.

Sadly, their example is among the few. The reality of college shares the truth that most professors don’t want adult students in their classrooms.

Their microaggressions during lectures indicate we are not welcome in the university.

Dignity and Respect: The College Expectation

I was expecting a welcoming experience after finishing Cognitive Processing Therapy, which is a treatment program provided by the Veterans Administration that provided me with a second chance at school.

After investigating veteran attrition rates, over half of veterans nationwide drop out. I must overcome many barriers when dealing with my disabilities that compete for my attention.

I majored in journalism after being hired as the general manager of broadcast at Madison College. The internship converged with my small business courses and began my talk show called “Outpost 422.”

We adopted troops in Afghanistan and guided those on the verge of suicide to safety.

Being the general manager of broadcast taught me that journalism is an intense field that offers a panoramic view of the reality of dark psychology found in human nature.

The program investigated the etiology of post-traumatic stress disorder and provided insight for finding mental health resources.

I came to the realization exploring the dark side of humanity would prove greater rewards than pursuing mechanical engineering after leaving the millwright field.

The college journey started out as a mechanical engineer pledging to the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. Core math and algebra challenged my brain injuries.

Mechanical engineering quickly disappeared, and journalism became my pursuit.

I have spots in my brain that no longer work. “Dead zones” are what the VA calls them.

Journalism provided me an outlet for practicing on-air speaking, which improved my writing and being objective. After taking Journalism for the Web 347, I quickly fell in love with the field.

My choice was sound because I now own a trademark for journalism canvassing and POW MIA feature writing that allow for mindfulness reflective writing that will eventually develop into an autobiography.

I am developing writing workshops for veterans like me who have a hard time meeting the need of the stringent university writing requirement.

I have angered many professors early on who read my material in a state of confusion as to why I am lacking in grammar. I keep writing and developing my brain by profiling fear and loathing found in Thompson’s Gonzo journalism.

Gonzo is like writing a diary of the madness of life and do so under the premise of being in the cockpit as a university journalist.             

Some understand Gonzo journalism. Most don’t. Thompson was a veteran like me, who lived his whole with untreated PTSD.

After reading his book “Hell’s Angels” I realized his writing was his treatment.

The most important lesson I learned came from my final project for Anthropology: Myth, Magic and Religion 261 after profiling the Lakota Sundance Ceremony and mescaline.

Mescaline research led me to Thompson. Thompson and the Lakota taught me damage control of dark thoughts by journaling ecstatic behavior that connected me to the journaling method taught by the VA.

Anthropology provided me the benefits of intersectionality and the concept of pragmatism, which taught me that in a public domain, nobody has the right to declare any space or public resource as ownership.

We share equally. As an equal share in journalism, we must never take sides or present an ideal that would offset the balance of both right and wrong.

What’s changed me as a person was the moment I learned about gaslighting from the course Intro to Ethics: Theory and App 267.

My professor taught us that gaslighting is unethical and must be called out through journalism inspection found in columns and opinion editorials. Journalists keep corrupt leaders in check when doing so.

The professor of my ethics class taught at Georgetown University and was not about any fooling around in any of my papers.

We investigated the “Hacking into Harvard” case and didn’t realize I was in a business ethics class. I took the side of the students who cheated to get into Harvard and didn’t realize the professor was upset over this. Whoops.

The concepts of Philosopher John Rawls’ Doctrine of Double Effect taught in his class became my method of rhetorical analysis.

Gonzo journalism inspection between the clutches of fear with introspect and loathing in retrospect led me to becoming a writer profiling the ethical decisions of dirty judges starting with Hon. David Cahill and ending with Hon. Julius Hoffman.

Ethics returned me to my military bearing and am grateful to have the pursuit of the prudential state.

Even though I have done some rotten things in my life, the prudential state is a daily commitment dedicated to being better than yesterday.

In pursuit of the prudential state, I have reduced my Facebook posting, which has exponentially improved my mental health. Online publishing is a delicate beast.

Journalism ethics develops intellectual commitment by influencing readers through multimedia aggregating and sharing work from authors who align ethically.

Aggregating converges many approaches between showcasing and spotlighting both good and bad effects in society, especially on social media.

What is intellect? Intellect is the gift of inheritance through the grooming process, which opens doors to the mind creating an illuminated state.

Illumination awakens the inept into a conscious being who can no longer say they think and feel the same as they did prior to reading a piece written according to ethical standards.

Same with ethical approaches between the social contract with students and faculty. Academia works like magic with opening the doors of the mind.

Thinking starts with open-mindedness and skepticism. Challenging the status quo makes for great journalism based upon the ability to see farther than what the reporter writes in the media.

A command of information would expect all who enter academia take accountability for their education. Students with disabilities are excused.

We bring three backpacks to class full of barriers and am grateful to write this essay. Having several disabilities requires hearing harsh rhetoric like “You don’t look disabled—why should I accommodate you? I am a doctor. I will be the judge.” Wrong.

The way I think depends greatly upon whether I am fighting migraines and severe pain while attending class. For what? Free college? Was fighting worth what I have had to go through to get here? I am a survivor not a victim.

The way I see the world determines whether I will allow those who stand in my way to stop me.

My world view changed the day I stepped foot into the third world and went knocking on doors disarming militants and citizens in Haiti.

You never forget the way a third world starving child looks to you for food and water. Serving in a combat capacity stretches the mind beyond capacity.

The best way to describe how I see the world is through the dystopian view of the hardship humanity faces with socio-economic depravation.

I have been bankrupted, divorced, evicted, removed from society through opioid pain management and understand my seat in college will only remain if I am determined enough to seek innovation and change to accommodate the needs of my professors.

If I went back in time to 2017, I would have chosen to finish my journey worker associate degree and become a shop teacher. No harm in being a shop teacher.

Just show up and do your eight hours and go home.

The day I chose a different path was the day I decided to compete as an entrepreneur in the Madison College Challenge to get my phone turned back on.

My kids racked up my bill and could not pay. The grand prize was $5,000. I scored a 55/100 as semifinalist.

 I lost and fought my way back being the person I am today. The project is now my registered trademark called “Outpost 422.”

I am training individuals how to canvass events and investigate records.

In closing, the best advice for anyone seeking college later in life, don’t do it. For the amount of dirt, you are going to eat with ageism I would not recommend taking on such a daunting task.

College is the way of the two-tiered system.

We are second rate in the field of first-rate scholars. The best you will get is a freelance desk job working for pennies on the dollar.

Go back to college because you want to learn. Not for the pursuit of becoming a millionaire. Student debt is like quicksand and one bad grade can ruin your life.

On a lighter note, college is not all that bad. Be humble and live in the moment.

Gratitude is the rites of passage with attitude. No matter where you journey leads, let your intuition be your guide. Money should never be the number one driver.

Only a fool chases money.

Be a philanthropist and watch your garden of knowledge grow into a magnificent feast of learning no matter what state you are in.

College will always be the sanctuary that saved my life. Hunter S. Thompson will always be my spirit guide.

My spirit guide kicks me out of bed when there is no hope of seeing the system change its ways. Let hardship be your driver to success.

Let your writing flow freely as both art and science through an objective point of view.

Bradley J. Burt serves the Dane County community as an American Legion Dane County Service Officer. Burt assists those in crisis with his multimedia reporter service as a blogger to distribute virtual information at his Social Media Writing final project called "Outpost 422." Burt returned as a Wisconsin State Certified Journey worker after finding out he could receive 39 credits for his journey worker certificate. The Technical Studies Journey Worker Associate's Degree helped him transfer to the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater where he received a waiver. The waiver allowed him to pursue the field of journalism bypassing general education requirements. In 2014, Burt uncovered information about the Wisconsin G.I. Bill as a Veterans Committee Chairperson. Burt joined the American Legion to investigate benefits further. After being elected to Service Officer in 2015, Burt began noticing college benefit opportunities in Wisconsin. In 2017, Burt left his job due to physical limitations from his military service-connected injuries. ​ The Wisconsin G.I. Bill became his life preserver. Burt returned to school to survive unemployability while waiting in appeal for VA benefit denial. Being a Service Officer taught him how to find resources to survive appeal. After interviewing Sgt. Gary Brynjulfson from "The Reflections of Vietnam" and reading Tim O'Brien's "The Things They Carried," Burt decided to develop a therapeutic writing style to help him cope with anxiety. Outpost 422 developed and journalism became his pursuit. ​ Burt works as an American Legion Service Officer who is surviving by going back to school and writing about his college experience. Burt's portfolio is his passion to pay forward to the next struggling veteran to offer avenues of hope to encourage veterans to try going back to school no matter where they are in life.

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