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Journo Joe McGinnis gets veeeeery close to his next subject...

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by 21, Jun 1, 2010.

  1. 21

    21 Well-Known Member

    ...renting the house next door in Wasilla. The new neighbor: Sarah Palin.

    Please to the Mods, hoping we can have a journalism discussion about the ethics/issues of this without calling it politics?

    McGinnis's next book will be about Palin, so he moved to Wasilla to do his research, ultimately renting the house next door. She put up a big fence and went on the offensive attacking him for spying, questioning whether he was peeking into her young daughter's bedroom.

    This morning on the Today show, he claimed it was just coincidence that he was living next door, that he just wanted a nice place for his wife and family to visit, the rent was cheap, and he had no other interest in living next door. To me, he came off as wildly disingenuous and intentionally obtuse, talking about meeting them and perhaps forming a cooperative friendship. By the end of the interview he was talking about Nazis and propaganda against innocent people like himself.

    Politics aside: I can't decide what I think about moving next door to the subject of your expose. Is this a valid and reasonable way to do research? No doubt you're going to get detail you wouldn't otherwise observe.

    But is it creepy to watch how people live, how they hang out in the yard, whether get the newspaper in their pj's, pondering why the exterminator is in the driveway? Can you avoid it? Should you? Have you red-flagged the whole project so massively that you (and not the book) have become the story? No chance you can work under the radar, quietly gathering research...you're the Guy Who Moved Next to the Palins.

    A couple of links with more detail below, there are plenty out there.

    Again, not trying to get into a Palin debate, but wondering what you as journalists think about McGinnis's methods.



  2. Football_Bat

    Football_Bat Well-Known Member

  3. On a strictly practical level, it seems like something that's likely to attract criticism and make people call your motives into question. And (assuming it was on purpose) I'm not really sure how much useful insight you're going to get from living next to someone, without their participation in your research (which doesn't seem likely in this case).

    If it was a calculated move, it seems like a bad one. And if it was just coincidence, I'd probably have tried to find a different place to live to avoid the hullabaloo.
  4. Mizzougrad96

    Mizzougrad96 Active Member

    Has McGinnis ever written a biography where he doesn't destroy the subject?
  5. playthrough

    playthrough Moderator Staff Member

    If that's just a coincidence, I'm the man in the moon. How the Today anchor kept a straight face with that remark is amazing.
  6. wicked

    wicked Well-Known Member

    I'm not familiar with McGinnis' work, so I can't speak to that, but I'm sure the publisher is not complaining about the press this is garnering.
  7. Mizzougrad96

    Mizzougrad96 Active Member

    The publisher should be jumping up and down.
  8. Football_Bat

    Football_Bat Well-Known Member

    Hopefully Sarah doesn't use uses a cordless phone.
  9. SixToe

    SixToe Active Member

    His "coincidence" and explanation is complete bullshit.

    Find a rental somewhere else in town if you want to immerse yourself in the research. But being a borderline creepy harassing stalker definitely isn't cool.
  10. Armchair_QB

    Armchair_QB Well-Known Member

    I don't by the coincidence line either but how big is Wasilla?

    I'm thinking the rental market is pretty thin.
  11. 21

    21 Well-Known Member

    http://www.rentalhouses.com/search/Wasilla-AK Just sayin.

    No question McGinnis likes to be the story....there's no shortage of material questioning his methods over the years, going back to the Fatal Vision bestseller about the MacDonald murders.

    My first reaction to the Wasilla move was, 'ok, why the hell not, get some detail you'd never get otherwise.' But after watching him on Today, I went completely the other way; he came off as a pompous loon. Instead of claiming he just wanted a nice place for his grandkids to visit, why not just say 'I'm here to do research and this is how it works.'
  12. Ben_Hecht

    Ben_Hecht Active Member

    Yes. His book centering on thoroughbred trainer Phil Johnson was anything
    but a hatchet job. There may have been a quote or three in there which
    Johnson might have preferred not be published, but it was hardly a slashnburn
    effort. I'll be the first to admit that if you're not a fan of the thoroughbred
    game, you probably won't get all the way through it.
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