There is no denying that citizen journalists need to be taken seriously. Anyone can be a citizen journalist, and many people are taking advantage of that opportunity. All people need is an internet connection and they can entire the journalism industry full force.
Mayhill Fowler is an example of a citizen journalist who has exemplified the power they can have. As a reporter for the Off the Bus project for The Huffington Post, she has broken stories that only she had access to. Her reporting on bitter and elitist comments that then campaign-hopeful Barack Obama made and nasty comments Bill Clinton made about a Vanity Fair reporter contributed to national headlines. These stories didn’t just stay on her HuffPost blog. Mainstream journalists picked up the stories and her journalism was being followed.
This is just one example of a citizen journalist who covered important issues that professional journalists weren’t covering. Citizen journalists tend to have different interests and agendas when they are covering issues, compared to professional journalists, which influences the topics they cover. They also tend to have access to different people and events that traditional journalists don’t have access to or don’t know about.
This was also the case with Fowler during some of the campaign stops. In a Salon article Alex Koppelman brought up the ethical issue of Fowler having access to a non-press event and not disclosing herself as a journalism to Clinton. Had Fowler distinguished herself as a journalist she may not have gotten access to the stories she covered. Even though she is a citizen journalist, she should still hold herself to the same journalistic standards professional journalists follow, if she wanted to be treated and respected as a journalist. While not every journalist discloses their agenda or their profession in a given situation, it is something journalists, even citizen journalists should strive for. Getting the hard-hitting important story is important, but it is also important to conduct yourself ethically and with integrity.
Fowler may not have conducted herself as I would have put in her situations, but it is undeniable she did important journalist work when she was only considered a citizen journalist. Citizen journalists have just as much opportunity and potential to cover the important stories as professional journalists.