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French Enlightenment thinker Voltaire once said, “To hold a pen is to be at war.” Voltaire’s writing has been credited by some as the basis for the French and American Revolution.
Tony Lollio, a 34-year-old U.S. Army veteran, has been a watchdog warrior for the state of Michigan for a long time. I first got to know Tony when he joined Watchdog Wire in May 2013 and he started reporting on local issues of free speech, policy, and politics. Tony is also a father, husband, and a Tea Party member. But up until recently, I found out something that I had never known about Tony: he is paralyzed.
With the recent Veterans Affairs scandal sweeping the news cycle, Tony was compelled to open up to the public and write about his personal experience with the VA in Michigan as a disabled veteran. He states, “I don’t write about [being disabled] much because I try not to let it define me.”
Watchdog Wire is proud to work with such dedicated watchdogs like Tony, who has continued to make his voice heard through citizen journalism despite his personal challenges. Instead of making excuses, he stands ever vigilant, guarding the mission of watchfulness. That’s why we are featuring Tony as this month’s Citizen Spotlight:
What motivates you to be a citizen watchdog? It’s not easy and you don’t get paid. What keeps you going?
Because of my physical limitations, blogging about state and local government has allowed me to be involved in issues effecting my community. I’d like to think that, in some small way, my words can help others find their voice.
How did you get started as a citizen watchdog?
I was covering a book challenge in a local school district for my blog, and I remembered attending a Franklin Center conference on citizen journalism. I submitted a copy of my story to Watchdog Wire, and was impressed with the response I received. I have been a citizen watchdog ever since.
What issue(s) are you most passionate about and why?
I believe all politics is local. I concentrate on small town stories that fly under the radar of larger, mainstream media outlets. Freedoms often disappear incrementally, and I like to shine light on obscure stories that highlight how abusive government can be when they think no one’s looking.
What has your experience been with the mainstream media? What advice do you have for them to better serve their audience?
Twenty-four hour cable news had almost killed real journalism by filling time with theories and opinion. Americans now tune in to whichever news broadcast fits their ideological bent. It’s nearly impossible to find a news outlet that simply reports the facts, and leaves intelligent people to their own opinions.
Who is your favorite founding father?
Like John Hancock, my way of standing up for liberty involves writing big letters.
How has Watchdog Wire helped you as a citizen watchdog?
Watchdog Wire has brought my writing to a much larger audience. Working with professional editors has helped me deliver a more polished, visually appealing product to my readers. Izzy Lyman, my Michigan editor, even sends me links to good stories for my blog. The staff has been very supportive, and the resources available to citizen watchdogs has made me a much better writer.
What advice do you have for others who want to get involved?
Be a part of the new media revolution. The Internet is a giant mixing bowl of facts and lies, opinion and partisan punditry. It is currently dominated by young, tech-savvy progressives. The web can be a tool for transparency and open debate, and a platform for speaking truth to power. More citizens need to be involved, and Watchdog Wire is a great place to start.
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- Citizen Spotlight: Tony Lollio, Watchdog Warrior