On citizen journalists and the validity of accounts

The fireball that has erupted over a comment made at a fund raiser has knocked me off my feet. Over the past few days, what amounts to a standard, though creatively written account of another political event/fund raiser by a citizen journalist has become the fuel for an insane amount of intolerance described here that is almost as hateful as the thinking Barack Obama is being labeled for with his remarks on economically disadvantaged small-town people.

Do I need to get into all the reasons why one might expect a man who has campaigned for last 15 months or so all over the U.S. to know better than to phrase his remarks as such? Well, that is not where I’m headed, and quite frankly, I say this with all honesty, it often falls on deaf ears. However, I do intend to speak out for my citizen journalist colleague, Mayhill Fowler, with whom I, and a number of other of other contributors, have written on The Huffington Post’s Off the Bus since June of last year.

Mayhill, as far as I have known, is unabashedly supportive of Obama. She also has very keen eyes and ears as her writing attests. She is very artful at describing the scene and the atmosphere as well as the reaction she experiences at campaign events. Over the last several months, I have read her many posts, of which a vast majority are favorable to Obama’s campaign efforts. And I have followed with a slight sort of envy her outright dedication to covering the campaigns, which isn’t always possible when you have young children under foot as I do.

Therefore, I am appalled at the amount of backlash she has received for having written her account of this expensive San Francisco fund raiser. I have attended numerous campaign events and throughout my years training as a journalist, I’ve covered events, people, issues I did and did not care about, much as a citizen journalist or any journalist for that matter would cover. Some were favorable to an idea or candidate I supported, some were critical. But, all were written from the truth as I believe Mayhill’s account was written.

What I don’t understand is how ordinary Americans can go on the defensive over the work of a citizen journalist, who is more like they are, than any big name paid reporter on any big news operation anywhere.

The value in the citizen journalist’s account is that, unlike the paid reporter, they work for free. They are beholden to no one but themselves. And therefore, they are under no  obligation to write, cover or opine about subjects but from their own unique perspective.

We must remember the amount of varying viewpoints, accounts, thoughts and questions citizen journalists may pose is the very cornerstone to the idea a free press, most crucial in this age of corporate controlled big media.

Let us not become so embedded in our support of a candidate at the expense of free thought and dissent that we forget the underlying foundation that allows our candidate his or her platform in the first place.


~ by heykids on April 14, 2008.

4 Responses to “On citizen journalists and the validity of accounts”

  1. What you fail to realize is that there is a fundamental difference between citizen journalism and professional journalism. Professional journalism presents fact without bias; CJ conflates fact with ‘artful’ commentary.


  2. Funny, that this comment about “failure to realize” can’t comprehend what is true about journalism in the first place. Nor can this commenter offer his/her own ideas and can only take from someone else’s. First off, you don’t need to be a so-called “professional” to be a journalist. Journalism is to report what is seen, factual, not sensationalize and free of any biased or corporate control. To me, “bad journalism” equals falsification of a report or not reporting fully or not getting to heart of matters or looking at what “AP” has and then re-circulating because one is part of what I call “lazy” journalism.. Think of it partner and think hard about what you are saying. You are actually discrediting the essense of “free thought” of reporting outside mainstream media control. Do you question what you see? If so, then you should re-think you’re definition of journalism. If not, then go ahead and keep posting someone’s else link to drive your idea.

    And one last thing.. You have to care deeply about your own conviction and be passionate about justice and progress if you are willing to report without compesation. This “so-called” citizen journalism, is true reporting..

    Not many professional journalist will admit it. Why? Because they will be out of a job.

  3. “Journalism is to report what is seen, factual, not sensationalize and free of any biased or corporate control. To me, “bad journalism” equals falsification of a report or not reporting fully or not getting to heart of matters or looking at what “AP””

    According to the aforementioned description of the role of a journalist, Fowler has failed to meet even the most standard. She not only failed to provide objective, full and accurate accounts of the Obama campaign, she attempted to influence public perception by passing off personal judgment and opinion as fact. That is not artful writing, it is subjective, opinionated, judgmental commentary disguised as journalistic reporting.

    Contrary to what some people believe, the so-called Bitter-gate uproar is not centered entirely on Fowler’s April 11 article.

    Most of the readers commenting on the Web wrote that they were already uncomfortable with Fowler’s narrative and suspicions of her motives because of what had already been published in her previous posts.

    In at least 5 previous posts, Fowler used offensive, condescending and insulting language to describe her thoughts about Sen. Obama personally and his campaign in general.

    Following are several examples:

    In one instance Fowler wrote about a conversation she had with the editor of Harrisburg’s Morning Call following an Obama campaign rally in PA. She recalled describing Sen. Obama as someone “who does not have a sweet tooth” while suggesting that his visit to Wilbur’s Chocolate shop was inauthentic. Fowler wrote; “he [the editor]laughed and said, no one there is going to vote for him anyway.”

    In other entries Fowler characterized Sen. Obama as “vain”, “cocky” and flirtatious. Also in a blog entitled; “Obama: No Need For Foreign Policy Help From V.P.” Fowler wrote: “there are a number of interesting things about Senator Obama’s remarks. If Senators Clinton and McCain have not passed “those tests,” likely they will be surprised to hear it. Secondly, even though I’ve researched and written on Hillary Clinton’s trips abroad and consequently been critical of her claims, my estimation of her foreign travels is that they were sometimes quite a bit more than a dance, a briefing and a tour. What Barack Obama’s remarks last night in San Francisco reveal, however, is his self-confidence–to the point of cockiness–right now”

    Obviously, Fowler’s strengths are not in the area of journalistic reporting.

    When Fowler boldly predicted; “Obama the easy-going candidate likely will disappear long before the day of the Pennsylvania primary.” Many people wondered what she would come up with next. Ultimately, the April 11 blog proved to be the answer to our question.

    Lastly, the uproar over Fowler is not only about what she wrote. We understand the “newsworthy” nature of Sen. Obama’s comments. We also understand his effort to broaden the national dialogue on race relations to include a discussion of the economic hardships of middle America and the politics of division.

    The backlash against Fowler is also a response to the way she obtained an invitation to the private, closed fundraiser, the fact that the audio was surreptitiously obtained and that it was published against the request of the event organizer and the Obama campaign staff.

  4. Somehow i missed the point. Probably lost in translation 🙂 Anyway … nice blog to visit.

    cheers, Announcer.

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