HuffPost Launches OffTheBus Citizen Journalism Project

It’s hard to believe, but the 2012 elections are right around the corner. With that in mind, The Huffington Post announced today it is launching OffTheBus, an open-source, citizen-based reporting project.

“The idea is simply to offer a vehicle for Americans (and anyone else) to take part in the process of covering politics — as an act of citizenship, if they view it that way; for fun, if they view it that way; as a means for joining forces with other like-minded people to shed light on the 2012 campaign in ways other forms of reporting can’t,” writes Howard Fineman, editorial director at The Huffington Post.

Readers can sign up for the site and submit anything from photos to their own reviews of campaign events to information about robocalls or campaign leaflets. To make sure things run smoothly, the project will be overseen by John Ness, who previously worked at Aol, Newsweek and NBC, Mandy Jenkins, who has worked for and The Cincinnati Enquirer on social media outreach, and Laura Paull, who recently ran the journalism program at Modesto Junior College.

The “Off the Bus” concept was created in 2007 and made headlines during the 2008 presidential elections when blogger Mayhill Fowler sent in controversial remarks to “Off the Bus” that then presidential candidate Barack Obama had said. To paraphrase, Obama said, during a private California fundraiser, people in the midwest feel threatened by the economy and that frustration leads them to turn to guns and religion. The quote spread like wildfire across media outlets, all thanks to Fowler.

“If you are like most people, you don’t much like the way the “national media” cover politics,” Fineman said. “If you don’t like the way we professionals cover politics, we invite you to do it yourself — and we will show your work to the world.”

Here is your chance to stop complaining about how the media covers politics and report on it yourself — presumably the “correct way” — and have it shared with the world. Write about campaign events, a campaign mailer or just a robocall. Submit a photo you think the public should see. Use the HuffPost’s brand to your advantage and share your views with the millions of people who visit the site every month.

So, what’s stopping you from signing up for OffTheBus and becoming 2012’s star citizen journalist?