Citizen journalism is a sticky subject, when you speak to individuals who have studied journalism there is a tendency to have a sense of hostility toward citizen journalists. Citizen journalists are viewed as useful, but also as outsiders because they lack formal training or exposure to the Society of Professional Journalist’s code of ethics. They are private citizens that predominately write online and they tend to get picked on by the mainstream media because they are seen as lesser journalists.
Despite this hostility, citizen journalists are just as capable of breaking big stories as any other journalist. Mayhill Fowler is a citizen journalist that broke two major stories during the 2008 campaign trail for the Huffington Post. She wrote about elitist comments Obama made at a closed event and snagged a fantastic rant from Bill Clinton where Clinton spewed vitriol about a Vanity Fair writer, Todd Purdum. Fowler would not have been able to get either of these stories if she wasn’t a citizen journalist. She was able to get the Obama quote because she was at an event for Obama supporters and was in attendance as a donor to his campaign. She was able to get the Clinton rant on tape because he just assumed she was a Clinton supporter and was being open and conversational with her.
Fowler managed to break these huge stories because she didn’t have major press credentials, because she was seen as a citizen and not as a threatening reporter. She was able to slip in and get the stories because she wasn’t viewed as a professional journalist.