I've been saying that "bloggers aren't journalists" for a while now. I still believe it; the most vital role of bloggers is independent opinion and analysis, because while only a few journalists will have access to a story, anybody can try to figure out what it means. Whereas a journalist has to worry about access and timing, a blogger doesn't. They can be pretty much anybody, anywhere, so they can write whatever they see as appropriate.
Would Russert pick up on the novelty of the situation? An Obama supporter and donor, who also wrote regular dispatches for Huffington Post's pro-am campaign news site, OffTheBus, recorded Obama's words at an April 6th San Francisco fundraiser, and then wrote about what concerned her in them. From there it exploded. Pretty good story! (As the Guardian recognized today.) Plus, it would allow Russert to sound a savvy warning: "Heads up, candidates, your supporters include bloggers and they exercise their First Amendment rights. Barack Obama found that out this week...."
Tim and his staff decided on erasure. You'd have to ask them why. Mayhill Fowler's Obama quotes were shown on screen, but Meet the Press made no mention of her, or OffTheBus, or the Huffington Post. Like most surgeries of this kind it was done with the passive voice:Last Sunday Barack Obama went to a fundraiser in San Francisco, made some comments. They became public late on Friday afternoon....
They became public because Mayhill Fowler reported them for OffTheBus Friday afternoon. Russert used Mayhill's quotes again on another story she broke earlier in the week. The Boston Globe became the "source" on that one, a designation wholly fictional.
It's not surprising to me that Tim erased Mayhill. And it's not a shock that some misguided Obama supporters tried to turn her into an enemy of the regime, which she is not. Or that Jay Newton-Small of Time magazine changed her scoop into a leak from someone inside the campaign to the Huffington Post.We're in uncharted territory here.
That said, though, if a blogger does break something, they deserve credit. Sorry, but that's just a basic rules of citation, and Russert broke it. He should definitely apologize to Mayhill. What interests Rosen, though, is a bigger question of what, exactly, a blogger or "citizen journalist" should do. After all, Mayhill donated to Obama, and Huffington's site is filled with loyalists, so the journalist's prized objectivity is out the window. Does that make it valid? Does that make it news? Does that make it journalism? Well, now, that's the question, isn't it?