Feature

Palin: The ‘stalker’ journalist next door

Joe McGinniss, the veteran author working on a critical book about Sarah Palin, literally moved in next door to the Palin family in Wasilla, Alaska.

Just when you think the liberal media’s obsession with Sarah Palin couldn’t get any creepier, said Daniel Foster in National Review Online, along comes author Joe McGinniss. The veteran author, now working on a critical book about Palin, last week literally moved in next door to the Palin family in Wasilla, Alaska, having rented the place as his base of operation for the next six months. This exercise in “stalker journalism” prompted the Palins to raise the height of the wood fence that separates the two properties. “Wonder what kind of material he’ll gather,” the former Alaska governor asked on her Facebook page, “while overlooking [6-year-old] Piper’s bedroom, my little garden, and the family’s swimming hole?”
 
That’s a bit of an overreaction, said Ruth Marcus in The Washington Post. “Palin’s intimations of pedophiliac voyeurism are characteristically aggrieved,” and that “swimming hole” is a public lake. Still, in these circumstances, “I’d feel pretty aggrieved as well.” Everyone, even a politician, “deserves a zone of privacy, literal as well as metaphysical.” McGinniss could scrutinize Palin’s public record without spying on her “private domain.” His little publicity stunt may help sell books, said Michael Crowley in Time.com, but it will hurt serious journalism. At a time when the media’s credibility is under merciless attack from the Right, McGinniss’ attention-seeking gimmick “plays right into the hands” of people—Palin prominently among them—who have “an interest in portraying reporters as creeps with no sense of decency.”

Yes, McGinniss is being a real jerk, said Jack Shafer in Slate.com, but I mean that as a compliment. Good reporters sometimes have to do unpleasant things to get at the truth, especially when dealing with the powerful. In Alaska, McGinniss will comb through “the complete Palin paper trail,” including property records, tax assessments, and documents from her time as governor and mayor. And by moving in next door, McGinniss is essentially “skywriting for all of Alaska—and America—that he’s on Palin’s case and that he’s very available to sources.” Actually, I doubt Palin even minds this alleged “stalking” all that much, said Greg Sargent in Washingtonpost.com. After all, it advances the story line she’s been selling as she mounts a run for the presidency: “Persecuted, aggrieved real American mom just tryin’ to protect her kids from pointy-headed elitist lamestream media peeping Toms.”

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