I’ve discussed the never ending debate of who is considered a real journalist in previous posts. I want to briefly return to the subject, prompted by an LA Times article about a citizen journalist. Her name is Mayhill Fowler and she decided to cover the Obama campaign for Huffington Post‘s “Off the Bus” project of 2008. Through an act of accurate, honest citizen journalism, Mayhill reported Obama saying, “And it’s not surprising, then, they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations,” of the Midwesterners who have suffered from the lack of employment and job security of the 2008 economy. The remark made Obama look elitist, and as a strong Obama supporter, Mayhill was dismayed. Regardless, she submitted the report to Huff Post and they posted it, backing her 100% of the way. Naturally, Mayhill received all kinds of harsh, even violent, comments from Obama supporters – some even accusing her of switching sides.

This is a perfect example of beautiful journalism. The kind of journalism that should be coming from all reporters – professional and amateur. Mayhill conducted herself exactly as any reporter should. She was transparent about her views and did not hide the fact that she was an Obama supporter. As a journalist, you can favor whatever you want – there is no rule saying you can’t have an opinion. But if you want to report the facts, it is purely unethical to allow those views to taint your report. Mayhill understood her responsibility and submitted the quotes verbatim.

To further her influence, Mayhill recorded Bill Clinton denouncing Vanity Fair writer Todd Purdum for his article on Mr. Clinton. Clinton had no idea 61-year-old Fowler was a journalist – she technically isn’t, with no formal training. Everyone with a cell phone is a journalist these days, however, and nothing is really “off the record” anymore. If you are in the public spotlight, especially in the realm of politics, you should know by now that anything you say and do will eventually end up on the Internet. No one can hide anymore, and for a journalist, that concept can be refreshing. For everyone else, maybe not so much.

It infuriates me that anyone had the nerve to threaten such an honest person for reporting accurately. We are not meant to be cheerleaders for one side or the other, we are meant to prepare you with enough information to make your own educated decision. It is not our job as journalists to tell you what you want to hear. It is our job to tell you the truth, regardless of whether you want to hear it or not.

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