Blogger Mayhill Fowler recently resigned from the Huffington Post because she had grown weary of working for free. Fowler gained national exposure during the 2008 presidential campaign for a couple of scoops – Obama‘s statement about on “bitter” small-town Americans, and Bill Clinton‘s outburst against Vanity Fair writer Todd Purdum. But Fowler was a “citizen journalist,” HuffPo speak for the 6000 bloggers who write for the website with little oversight and no pay.
Mayhill Fowler says that she is “resigning” from the Huffington Post. How do you resign from a job you never had? Mayhill was one of over 15,000 citizen journalists who took part in our OffTheBus project’s coverage of the 2008 race. In the process, she scored one of the biggest scoops of the campaign, recording and reporting on Sen. Obama’s comments about “bitter voters.” In recognition of the work she’d done, HuffPost paid Mayhill’s not-insubstantial expenses for the rest of the 2008 campaign.
When OffTheBus ended, HuffPost invited Mayhill to continue blogging on our site whenever she wanted â€” which she’s done, posting 25 blog posts over the ensuing 22 months (including posting excerpts from her book). In that time, she also pitched us a few ideas for far-flung stories she’d hoped to cover (these included an extended tour in Afghanistan and a cross-country move to Washington, DC). We passed on these pitches â€” far from an unusual occurrence, as we get dozens of story pitches a day.
Now she is trying to turn that rejection into something that exemplifies a fault line between new media practices and traditional media practices. Hardly. HuffPost pays close to a hundred staff editors, reporters, and writers – and helps fund the work of many others through the HuffPost Investigative Fund. At the end of the day, Mayhill Fowler asked for a paid position; we chose not to offer her one. Nothing new media or old media about that.
One recommendation: in the future, she should refrain from publishing private emails with her editors without their permission. This happens to be both an old media and a new media ground rule.
True… but then, you shouldn’t expect an unpaid amateur to behave like a discrete professional, should you?
Hat tip Romenesko