I find that Slate.com’s Jack Shafer often articulates my inchoate instincts about journalism. I only have vague feelings about a lot of issues until Jack Shafer spells things out for me.
I’m often accused of obsession in my blogging. It’s a cheap shot, a negative way of portraying dedication. “Stalking” is a similar putdown.
I’ve often wondered why female journalists aren’t prettier. I think the answer is that journalism is often hard work that involves a lot of bother and legwork. This does not tend to produce babes.
Jack Shafer writes: Compared with the journalistic investigation that I assume McGinniss has commenced of his subject, sharing a property line with her is trivial. Right now I’ll bet that McGinniss or a research assistant is combing the complete Palin paper trail of court filings, property records, tax assessments, and official documentation of her governorship and mayoralty, including e-mails. High on the stack will be the Palins’ 1040 and other financial documents she disclosed as a vice-presidential candidate. He’ll run Palin’s name through every database he can find. And if there is a legal way to obtain Palin’s telephone records, school records, and even her medical records, McGinniss will get them.
It’s called legwork, it’s called immersion journalism, and it doesn’t look pretty. But it should come as a surprise to only naive newspaper readers that every day journalists treat the subjects of investigations the way McGinniss is treating Palin.
I’ll predict that McGinniss’ deck-side observations of the Palin family will not likely turn up much beyond atmosphere for his book. But that’s not the reason he rented the house. It’s his way of skywriting for all of Alaska