Mayhill Fowler broke two big stories during the Democratic political campaign: Obama’s description of marginalized working-class voters as “bitter” and Bill Clinton’s wild tirade against a Vanity Fair journalist in which he described the reporter as a “scumbag” among other derogatory terms.
What’s interesting about Ms. Fowler is her employer. She’s an unpaid volunteer in the Huffington Post blog experiment called “Off The Bus”, where volunteer bloggers follow the campaign and write stories that the mainstream media presumably might miss.
Ms. Fowler got herself into the closed Obama event for donors where he made his impolitic remarks because she is a Obama supporter, donating the maximum $2,300. This is certainly something that mainstream journalists wouldn’t be allowed to do, even those supposedly “in the tank” for Obama. Ms. Fowler muses that she hestitated in releasing the “bitter” comments because she knew the effect it would have on the Obama campaign. She also tried to minimize the effect of the “scumbag” remarks by dumping them onto the internet on Friday afternoon, but to no avail.
The question in my mind is what value does Ms. Fowler add to the campaign? As an Obama fan myself, I was upset at the attention paid to “bittergate” by the media. But its value is the focus that the Obama campaign needed to make on people not naturally inclined to support Barack. Of course, the mainstream media, the Clinton oppo reseach team and the Republican hate machine all tried to spin the story into the mainstream mold: elitist latte-drinking limousine liberal just doesn’t understand real folks. That Obama was able to refocus the campaign on what his Presidency would do to help all Americans was beneficial, despite the short-term blowback.
The Bill Clinton “scumbag” flap was more like the tripe the mainstream media throws out and calls news these days. Yep, Bill was increasingly losing his shit out on the hustings. Bill blames everyone for his wife’s slowly eroding campaign EXCEPT his wife, her handlers and himself. Big deal. The Vanity Fair article was also of questionable merit. Find upset staffers to squeal about the shortcomings inside the campaign and to throw innuendo on the fire about Bill’s personal life. Ms. Fowler’s piece had some staying power because a lot of people have fond memories of our former President and are not used to seeing ex-Presidents being that earthy.
I haven’t read much of the “Off The Bus” stuff, but what I have seen is relatively good–instead of just soaking up the stale campaign circus and reporting on the horserace, some of the bloggers actually seek out real voters and interview them. Now that’s some innovative reporting that I’d like to see spread out of blogging and into the mainstream media. Ms. Fowler’s batting .500: and that’s good in any league.