So far, the absorption of “citizen journalism” into the mainstream news-gathering process has mostly resulted in keeping CNN stocked with shaky (and free!) cell-phone videos of tornadoes. Well, the genre just got its first superstar: Mayhill Fowler, the woman who taped Bill Clinton calling a Vanity Fair reporter a “scumbag” the other day, is the same Mayhill Fowler who immortalized Barack Obama’s “bitter” remarks in San Francisco, two months ago. Mayhill Fowler, Girl Citizen Reporter? The paperback cover draws itself.
According to her HuffPo profile, the Tennessee political scion is “an over-educated sixty year-old woman” (now sixty-one; ahem: citizen reporting!). She calls Houston “Hoo-town” and generally exudes folksiness. Before Scumgate, she was widely assumed to be a militant Clintonite in the lefty blogosphere, despite her donations to Barack (she also gave a few hundred to Fred Thompson, but that’s gotta be a Tennessee thing). Fowler’s new coup restores her hit list to an almost eerily perfect balance, but at a cost. Her big break, which pretty much defined the arugula-eating-elitist line of attack on Obama, came from merely taping a public appearance (albeit at a private fund-raiser). The situation with Bill is not nearly as cut-and-dried, since it’s unclear whether Fowler had introduced herself as “press” or simply let the ex-president relax into his Arkansas patter while the recorder whirred under her coat. Expect a few hundred thousand words on the meaning of “journalist” by tomorrow in all the usual places.
Meanwhile, Fowler’s HuffPo handlers, suddenly stuck with a major-league kingmaker–dragon slayer on their hands, say she’s “not doing press.” Yeah. Tiptoeing away from the limelight right about now is a wise move for the woman who has just become synonymous with the notion that there is no such thing as a private moment or off-the-record remark. —Michael Idov