Editor’s note: This article continues a series of profiles on The Nerve’s Citizen Reporters.
Seneca resident Donna Linsin says The Nerve’s Citizen Reporter program offers Nerve readers something rare: the nonprofessional but informed perspective of everyday citizens who have intimately witnessed or been directly affected by the political system.
“You get a different perspective from someone who has seen it in action and lived it,” says Linsin, adding, “Someone closer may have more insight” than the typical journalist who is expected to be objective.
In an effort to promote government accountability and transparency, the Citizen Reporter program provides grassroots activists like Linsin with a channel to voice the concerns of the people, particularly those who live outside the state capital and often find their local issues overlooked.
The Citizen Reporter program allows participants to contribute to The Nerve in various ways, tailoring their interests with the site’s mission to expose government. These ways include, but are not limited to, writing traditional news stories, filming public meetings and interviewing elected officials.
The objective of the program is to create a collaborative, statewide network of local watchdogs who monitor and report on government.
Although Linsin originally hails from North Island, Calif., the 67-year-old former business owner has lived in Seneca for nearly 10 years. She and her husband have immersed themselves in Oconee County’s local politics. Linsin says the couple attends almost all Oconee County Council meetings.
Linsin also has attended several meetings of the S.C. Budget and Control Board and local economic development groups in her community.
“We felt we weren’t being informed,” she says, “so we have taken it upon ourselves to learn about what’s going on in our county.”
Linsin was not always interested in politics. “Unfortunately, I trusted newspapers,” she recalls. “I was more concerned with being young. I didn’t have a clue what was going on until I woke up one day and realized something is wrong with our country.”
Linsin has since joined Seneca’s TEA Party chapter and a Republican In Name Only (RINO) Hunt group.
She credits her four grandchildren with driving her to aggressively pursue a more open and transparent government. “What we’re doing today will affect future generations,” she says. “We have to fight the things that will make it harder for them.”
“We’re not always going to agree,” Linsin says of the people’s relationship with their government. “We don’t always agree with our friends. But we are honest and open whether we disagree or not.”
Before she delved into the business world, Linsin once pursued a career in children’s literature, including taking a correspondence course writing articles for children’s magazines. But her eventual involvement in the political realm ultimately took her away from her literary pursuits.
“I’ve got a working knowledge of what’s going on in county politics,” she says, adding, “I have many, many years of research experience.”
It was fellow Citizen Reporter Brit Adams who encouraged Linsin to put her skills to use, and the pair subsequently collaborated on an article about a zoning case in Oconee County.
The article detailed a lawsuit brought against the county by Jean Jennings and David and Michelle McMahan, three residents who, thanks to the county’s re-zoning process, “cannot make a profit off their land,” according Linsin. The suit, however, was dismissed by a judge. “Their livelihood has been harmed,” says Linsin.
She says the case exemplifies the importance of local issues. “The fight is at the local level. We have to straighten things out here, because it’s the foundation of state and federal government.”
“I care about anything that violates our U. S. Constitution,” Linsin says. “I think our County Council has forgotten it exists.”
Among several issues she is interested in tackling, Linsin names wasteful spending and the influence of lobbyists and other special interests as two of her primary concerns.
As a Citizen Reporter, Linsin says she can inform readers about lesser-reported goings-on like those in Oconee County. “What goes on here will more than likely go on other places,” she says.
Linsin says she hopes to not only expose government, but also to increase awareness and, ideally, encourage more people to get involved. “We have to get more citizen participation.”
Most of all, Linsin says the Citizen Reporter program is an exercise in democracy. “If I ever cannot breathe a breath of freedom, I do not want to be here,” she says, “because if you ever taste a breath of freedom, it’s something you don’t want to lose.”
Reach Weston at (803) 254-4411 or firstname.lastname@example.org.