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Christine Escobar Headshot

On citizen journalists and the validity of accounts

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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 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 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 attack the work of a citizen journalist, who is more a person like they are than is any big name paid reporter at 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.