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Exposing Mayhill Fowler, citizen journalist, who scoops the pros

June 6, 2008 |  2:28 pm

OK, give yourself a little treat for making it through to Friday afternoon and in a couple of minutes go read the revealing and entertaining interview by our colleague, James Rainey, of one of the neatest bylines going these days in online or print journalism -- Mayhill Fowler.

Sound familiar?

Huffington Post's gotcha writer Mayhill Fowler at her desk in Oakland, Calif.

She just happens to be the Huffington Post media writer who revealed that "inartful" bitter small-town guns and religion crack of Barack Obama's some weeks back at an allegedly private fund-raiser in a San Francisco mansion that got the Ivy League-educated lawyer in so much trouble for an elitist streak that didn't go over too well with central Pennsylvania's small-town voters.

Imagine politicians saying one thing in San Francisco and another in a Keystone State bowling alley. And while the professional ...

... media were in their hotel rooms thinking they had a day off or trooping back aboard their campaign bus to complain about another long day and check their e-mails, a writer pretending to be a regular person insinuates herself into the crowd to be the eyes and ears for the distant public who didn't pay $2,300 to get into that mansion.

Fowler is very open about her plans to vote for Obama, but after some thinking, she put the damaging story out anyway.

Mayhill (we call her that because we've never met) is an energetic 61-year-old so-called "citizen journalist" who goes around collecting, and in her case making, news disguised as, well, a citizen. Who just happens to have a tiny tape recorder in her hand.

This week she got Bill Clinton to go off over the allegedly unfair Vanity Fair profile of him. That tape full of words like "sleazy" and "scumbag" and some not that nice will be great on the former president's audition tapes for his MSNBC show called "Tantrums."

But he had to apologize later for his exploding mouth, though not for yet again distracting attention from what many of us thought was supposed to be his wife's campaign.

Politicians' staff are constantly reminding them just before an event that every word, every gesture, every wink or grimace is now being recorded by friend and foe and can, in a matter of minutes, be on the Internet for voters, enemies and these despicable bloggers to write about.

Now, every person in a crowd could be a Mayhill Fowler.

A lot of regular journalists are now trying to interview the allegedly amateur one. But Rainey was first. And his delightful, insightful report is here. Salud!

And when you get done with that, click here to read our fellow LATimes.com blogger David Sarno's take over on Web Scout on the kind of micro-recording equipment out there today.

One tip from experience: When hanging around ex-presidents in jostling crowds, be careful what you have hidden in your hand that's small and shiny metal. Those Secret Service guys with the large sunglasses and open suitcoats are closely scrutinizing the hands of everyone. And they like to see empty ones.

--Andrew Malcolm

Photo Credit: Los Angeles Times / Robert Durell

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