I always thought Hunter S. Thompson was used in a totemic manner by the journalism community to show that, since he was a journalist, they too were cool by association.
The newspaperman loosens his collar after a long day, "Heh heh, yeah I met him once..."
There are countless anecdotes on the 'Net that begin like this, after which the teller crawls back into his/her hole and keeps his/her opinions to him/herself. This is journalism, after all.
P.S. -- If you're a writer, DON'T settle on a ranch/farm/compound in a sparsely populated western state in your twilight years. (i.e. Thompson, Hemmingway, et al)