The Times’ Katherine Q. Seelye takes a look at the Huffington Post blogger, Mayhill Fowler, who first reported on Obama’s “bitter” comments. In the Times, her story as she believes it and professes it, is that she was doing her job as a journalist in reporting comments Obama made off the record at a fundraiser, to supporters in that region. But the story as she tells it is different: she attended as a supporter, who heard him say something she didn’t like, and she decided to go live with it.
The discourse in the article is as to whether she was disobeying or obeying a journalistic ethic, and then which one at that. What stands out to me is that she wasn’t doing her duty as a journalist at all. She was doing her job as a blogger: reporting something a journalist is kept from reporting, fighting unfair, and doing it in a personal way, typically out of one passion or another, by which we really mean rage. Her words:
“Immediately, the remarks just really bothered me…”
..Then she stewed for several days over whether to write about the comments about small-town voters. “There are no standards of journalism on the Internet,” she said. “I’m always second-guessing myself. Is this the right thing to do? Am I being fair?”
The answer is left open, in the Times article. She claims she didn’t know that after following the campaign as long as she had that she was not, if she was a journalist, supposed to report on what she heard at the closed-to-media dinner. Disingenuous, I think, but possible–as a “citizen journalist”, part of the netroots revolution of new media, with “no standards”, and as likely, no formal education in journalism. She’s what her fans hope she is, and what her new enemies fear she is–and by doing what she did, she essentially supported the idea of “no standards”, rather than keeping to one standard or the other.
It’s just as likely she knew that the closed part didn’t refer to her as a blogger in the same way (though it likely will now). And while it is surprising that the campaign didn’t know she was media, they could be understood as confused: she’d contributed 2300.00 of her own money to him. They might easily think she was a supporter.
Did she or didn’t she do her job? That’s what people are asking, and I think the answer is, Yes, she did her job: as a blogger. She also did her job as a supporter: she was critical, if supportive unintentionally: the comments themselves appear to have helped Obama there, an unforeseen possibility. His numbers are up in the aftermath, there and in Indiana (as are Huffington Post’s numbers, and Mayhill Fowler’s). Fowler might have thought he was an elitist, but the people Obama spoke of seem to be saying, Yes. We’re bitter. Thanks for noticing.
“Ultimately, she said, she decided that if she didn’t write about it, she wouldn’t be worth her salt as a journalist.”
As someone who did go through the professional training to be a journalist, what burns me about that statement is, one, that she thinks she’s a journalist, and two, that she thinks this makes her “worth her salt.” All it does is give me heartburn.
Mayhill Fowler contributed to the campaigns of Sen. Obama and Fred Thompson. An Obama campaign insider told Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross at the San Fransico Chronicle’s SF Gate blog that “Mayhill Fowler had tried to get into one of two Obama fundraising events in the Bay Area a couple of months back where former New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley stood in as a proxy. She was turned away, even though she had offered to pay, says our source.”
Fowler was unable to get an invitation from either the Obama campaign or the hosts of the event. She contacted the event organizer persuaded that company that as a campaign donor she was entitled to a ticket to the private, closed fundraiser.
Jay Rosen, co-founder of Huffington Post quoted Fowler as saying:”I know, from a phone conversation with the person who issued me an invitation (after my first post about Obama’s comments on choosing a running mate went up on Monday), that the assumption was, even though the campaign knew I was a ‘citizen journalist,’ I would always put the campaign before the reporting.”
After the “bitter” story broke. Fowler told a reporter of the NY Times:”This [no recorders, etc.] was never conveyed to me,” … “I was invited to the event, I had written on fund-raisers in the past, why wouldn’t I this time? We had a fundamental misunderstanding of my priorities. Mine were as a reporter, not as a supporter. They thought I would put the role of supporter first.”
Then Jay Newton-Small of Time magazine (which supports Sen. Clinton) changed Fowler’s “scoop” into a leak from someone inside the campaign to Huff Post.
reporting off-the-record comments. inability to distinguish oneself as an objective journalist from a paying supporter. fingernail-biting over the difference between journalist and blogger.
this is about as much “journalism” as a blog entry on america’s next top model. if she was “worth her salt,” at the very least she would have gone back to obama for followup. i’m not saying that obama’s comments should not have been reported, but the way they were handled seems self-aggrandizing at best, malicious at worst.