Back in July 2007 I showed up at HuffPost's Manhattan office with a suitcase packed with enough clothes to get me through the month while I looked for an apartment and launched OffTheBus. Even before our official launch many of you were peppering my inbox with emails, wanting to know what you could do to help. Among that initial circle of my newfound friends and acquaintances were Mayhill Fowler -- who later rocked the campaigns and campaign journalism with what we now know as "Bittergate"; Beverly Davis -- a veteran reporter who provided invaluable insight into the role that citizen journalists could play on the trail; Richard Riehl -- the editor of the much loved Roadkill, that tasty, daily collection of candidate gaffes; and Ethan Hova -- a Shakespearean actor from Los Angeles who co-wrote our first big story, "Romney Buys Conservatives."
Sixteen months later and our network has grown by the thousands. The staff also grew, as I was joined by Marc Cooper, Neil Nagraj, John Tomasic, and Hanna Ingber Win and intern Gabriel Beltrone. Mayhill, Beverly, Richard, and Ethan have been joined by a remarkable cast of home-makers, retired journalists, aspiring journalists, lawyers and doctors, actors and actresses, some curmudgeons and, yes, a few professional journalists. New friends are now old friends, and old friends are friends forever.
Together we have been credited with creating the genre of citizen journalism (New York Magazine). You have broken some of the election cycle's biggest scoops. You have also been described - by none other than the New York Times - as a "force in journalism."
We -- Marc, John, Hanna, Neil, Gabriel, Amanda -- couldn't be more proud of what we have all achieved together.
For just this once we are not going to ask you to write or report anything. Celebrate! Break out that champagne, beer, or wine (or for those young enough or so inclined, a coffee or chocolate cake) and make a toast! Or two. Or three.
Journalism isn't and never has been a monolithic craft. The profession has a rich and varied history that often gets lost in defensive justifications of the status quo. In this election cycle journalism as we know it evolved tremendously, and you played no small role in it. A unique breed of citizen journalists -- at OffTheBus and elsewhere -- opened up public access to information that conventional reporters cannot.
If that toast turns you tipsy and you're inclined to express yourself in print, make your way to the comment thread below.
Here's to OffTheBus!
~ Amanda, Marc, John, Hanna, Neil, and Gabriel
Follow Amanda Michel on Twitter: www.twitter.com/AmandaRMichel