Huffington Post to relaunch 'OffTheBus' citizen journalism initiative

Romenesko Misc.

OffTheBus, which made news in 2008 with blogger Mayhill Fowler's reporting on Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, is back with a new advisory board that will create a guide to the best citizen journalism practices. Jay Rosen and Arianna Huffington came up with the OffTheBus idea in 2007.

Press release

The Huffington Post’s “OffTheBus” Citizen Journalism Initiative To Relaunch for 2012 Election with Expanded Reach, Greater Coverage and More Engaged Platform

Pioneering Distributed Journalism Program Announces Senior Editorial Team and New Advisory Board

OffTheBus to Augment Coverage of The Huffington Post’s National Reporting Team and Patch’s Hundreds of Hyperlocal News Sites Across the Country

New York, NY – July 7 – The AOL Huffington Post Media Group today announced the relaunch of OffTheBus (, an innovative citizen journalism initiative of nationwide bloggers and citizen journalists that empowers and provides a platform for citizen journalists to report on all aspects of the 2012 presidential election.

OffTheBus will leverage the reach and user engagement of AOL Huffington Post Media Group’s powerful platform and augment the coverage of The Huffington Post’s DC-based political team and Patch’s network of over 800 hyperlocal news sites nationwide, including 33 new locations in the early primary states of New Hampshire, Iowa, and South Carolina. OffTheBus will expand on Patch’s existing nationwide community-outreach programs, including PatchU, its multifaceted college engagement initiative.

OffTheBus’s senior editorial team will include: Mandy Jenkins, Social Editor of AOL Huffington Post Media Group; Andi Morrison, PatchU Relationship Manager of Patch; John Ness, Director, Multimedia & News Integration of Patch; and Laura Paull, Supervising Editor for Citizen Journalism of AOL Huffington Post Media Group. Arianna Huffington, President and Editor-in-Chief of AOL Huffington Post Media Group, and Howard Fineman, Editorial Director of AOL Huffington Post Media Group, made the announcement.

In addition, OffTheBus announced an advisory board that will create guidelines and advice for contributors, as well as the creation of a guide to the best citizen journalism practices. The board is comprised of a wide swath of experts in the field of journalism, including: Doris Kearns Goodwin, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and presidential historian; Nicholas Lemann, Dean of Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism; Jon Meacham, executive editor and executive vice president at Random House and Pulitzer Prize-winning former Newsweek editor; Teresa Rodriguez, award-winning Univision correspondent; Shelby Coffey, trustee of the Newseum and former editor of the Los Angeles Times; and Paul Steiger, editor-in-chief, CEO and president of ProPublica.

“When we launched OffTheBus in partnership with Jay Rosen in 2008, our goal was to tap into the desire of citizens to help report the news, not just to consume it. And we were elated by the enthusiastic response we received from thousands of eager contributors from across the country,” said Arianna Huffington. “Working collectively, OffTheBus was able to significantly impact how the election was covered, and we’re excited to build an even more engaging and dynamic citizen journalism platform for 2012. OffTheBus will be enhanced by the broad scope of The Huffington Post and Patch and a talented, experienced and savvy editorial team. We’re also delighted to be working with an advisory group of esteemed journalists who will hopefully inspire citizen journalists while helping provide them with guidelines on how to contribute most effectively.”

OffTheBus was founded during the 2008 campaign as a collaboration between The Huffington Post and NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen. The pioneering citizen journalism project tapped into the eagerness of citizens across the country who wanted to be involved in reporting the election. They were part of a wide network of campaign bloggers with diverse views and beats, and other contributors who “distributed” reporting projects, from under-the-radar campaign events in small communities to assisting with a superdelegate project to shed light on that pivotal yet little understood group of decision-makers. More than 12,000 people participated in OffTheBus in 2008.

Said Howard Fineman: “OffTheBus was a groundbreaking way of covering an election that not only altered how we look at citizen journalists but the 2008 campaign itself – who can forget ‘Bitter-gate,’ a game-changing scoop by one of our contributors, Mayhill Fowler. We want to combine an innovative approach to campaign coverage – including crowd-powered methods of newsgathering – with The Huffington Post’s singular engagement platform, plugged-in DC team, powerful distribution capabilities and Patch’s amazing breadth across the country. OffTheBus will be well positioned for even greater heights this time around, powered by a sense of civic duty in people all across the country who want to be active participants in covering the 2012 campaigns.”

The Huffington Post’s national editors will work closely with Patch and the senior OffTheBus team, which includes:

Mandy Jenkins, Social Editor, AOL Huffington Post Media Group – Prior to joining AOL Huffington Post Media Group, Ms. Jenkins was Social Media Editor at TBD, a local news startup in Washington, D.C., where she acted as the “voice and ears” of TBD on social media channels. She was previously the Social Media Editor at the Cincinnati Enquirer, where she helped develop several social media and community journalism initiatives, including a local blog network. Ms. Jenkins uses her social media expertise to engage prospective citizen journalists nationwide, as well as to promote the work of OffTheBus across all social channels.

Andi Morrison, PatchU Relationship Manager, Patch – In her position at Patch, Ms. Morrison is a key member of the Patch U team where she is involved with college outreach initiatives, including editorial collaboration, social media coordination, relationship-building, and Patch job recruitment. For OffTheBus, Morrison will be leveraging her expertise with college communities nationwide to grow and manage the college contributions to the citizen journalism initiative.

John Ness, Director, Multimedia & News Integration, Patch – Prior to joining Patch, Mr. Ness launched over a dozen successful blogs at NBC Local Media, including "The 20." Mr. Ness was Senior Producer at FanHouse, which was named “Best Sports Blog” by Mediaweek in 2008, under his editorial leadership. Mr. Ness oversees OffTheBus’s editorial and outreach efforts, as well as coordinating coverage with The Huffington Post’s national politics desk and Patch’s network of sites.

Laura Paull, Supervising Editor for Citizen Journalism, AOL Huffington Post Media Group – Ms. Paull, a former reporter for the San Francisco Examiner and the Stanford News Service, comes to AOL Huffington Post Media Group with 15 years of experience as a journalism and film studies professor at Modesto Junior College in California’s Central Valley. Prior to teaching, Ms. Paull directed public communications projects on environmental health in Toronto, Canada, and in public health education in Cali, Colombia. She wrote and directed an award-winning documentary film, “Havana Nagila: The Jews in Cuba,” which was shown on PBS and at film festivals around the world. Based in AOL Huffington Post Media Group’s new San Francisco office, Paull will help ensure that OffTheBus coverage includes the most promising ideas and submissions of citizen journalists.

The expanded OffTheBus initiative complements the recent announcement by Patch of the launch of 33 new sites in New Hampshire, Iowa, and South Carolina – the first three states to hold a caucus or a primary in 2012. Said Ms. Huffington about the targeted Patch rollout: “With its hyperlocal focus, Patch has the ability to be the eyes and ears for what is happening at the grassroots level all across the country. By expanding to key primary states, Patch positions itself squarely on the front lines of the presidential campaign and will be able to deliver a real-time snapshot of how pivotal communities are reacting to candidates – as well as immediate feedback on whether the issues that matter most to these towns are being addressed.”

The new primary state sites will reflect the traditional Patch model of local news, information, and community interaction, and provide a platform for citizens, candidates, and influencers to discuss local issues and events, including the impact of national and state issues on the local landscape during the 2012 election season. Designed as a non-partisan forum, the sites will utilize Patch's team of local professional journalists to offer comprehensive coverage of the issues in play, instead of a “horse race” approach to reporting. Additionally, the sites will offer interactive features like blogging and polls, social media tools, candidate questionnaires and video interviews.

  • Jim Romenesko

    From 1999 to 2011, Jim Romenesko maintained the Romenesko page for the Poynter Institute, a Florida-based non-profit school for journalists. Poynter hired him in August of 1999, after seeing his, a hobby site he started in May of 1999.


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