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.