Buffalo, NY – I was driving home one day in May 2007 when my cell phone rang. It was the Communications Director of the Iowa Democratic Party returning my call about the upcoming Democratic political dinner in Cedar Rapids. She said that my blog, Brilliant Politics, had not been published long enough to qualify for press credentials, but . that I sounded like a nice guy, so she would grant credentials for me and my photographer, Martin Saunders.
When we arrived at the hotel in Cedar Rapids, the lobby was buzzing with journalists, film crews, and political bigwigs. We stepped onto an elevator with Senator Tom Harkin. I said to him that we were from Brilliant Politics and he replied, "Brilliant Politics ...that's an oxymoron. I've never seen that animal." The hallways were jammed with hordes of volunteers chanting slogans that echoed off walls plastered from floor to ceiling with campaign posters. Press scrums mobbed Bill Richardson, John Edwards, and Hillary Clinton. I asked Edwards a question about global warming and captured his answer on my new digital voice recorder. Later we chatted amiably with our fellow reporters at the press table. We were now members of the press because...well...we had asked to be.
We were back in Iowa for the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner in November 2007. As Barack and Michelle Obama strolled through the street that afternoon with a marching band, I jogged with the roving press pack at the head of the parade, with secret service agents pushing and pulling on me to keep moving backwards, as I strained, and failed, to get the great political photograph. It was one of the most exciting experiences of my adult life. Later Martin stood only a few feet from the stage, with photographers from all over the world, and got fantastic photos of Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and the other candidates.
I was among the press corps at rallies for Obama, Edwards, and the guitar-playing Chuck Norris sidekick, Mike Huckabee, in New Hampshire. On November 2nd, I was in the press tent as 80,000 people cheered for Bruce Springsteen and Barack Obama in downtown Cleveland. Two days later President Obama proved Senator Harkin wrong: brilliant politics was no longer an oxymoron.
It was remarkably easy, as a blogger, to join the press. If I could do it on an occasional, part-time basis, with a full-time job in another field and a busy family life, then so can you. College and high school students, retirees, unemployed workers, and anyone else with an interest - I am talking to you. You can start your own news organization with little or no money as long as you have a computer and an internet connection. You can start a blog today on Blogger.com for free, and it can be seen all over the world. A Flip video camera can be purchased for a hundred dollars, a digital voice recorder for another hundred dollars, and a decent digital camera for $200. If you don't already have a computer, you can buy a small laptop, or netbook, for $3-400. Newspapers are going bankrupt at a record pace. The country needs curious and persistent citizen journalists to dig through the constant barrage of corporate and government spin and to publish the truth ---the truth about your town or city, your college, or your neighborhood. So, get to work. It is the age of the Internet, and the press needs you.
Charles Pierson works as a psychologist in Buffalo. Check out his new blog, The Unimaginable Life.