Joe McGinniss: Stalking Sarah Palin or Plain Old Reporting?

Jeanne Sager
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sarah palin
Flickr photo by david_shankbone
Sarah Palin says reporter Joe McGinniss has moved in next door to her Wasilla home and she's looking forward to a "great summer."

Hey, she's taking it in stride, why can't the rest of the country?

Because Glenn Beck had to get into the mix -- doesn't he always? -- to decry McGinniss' rental of the house next door to the Palins as "stalking."

And if McGinniss doesn't move, Beck says he's going to refuse to mention any Random House books, the publisher of McGinniss' upcoming Palin biography, on air.

Aww, Glenn, you shouldn't have. No, really.

Because according to Palin's own Facebook post, she's planning to welcome him with a blueberry pie and just treat him like a regular neighbor (she'll even try to keep Trig quiet so he won't disturb the peace).

Isn't that what they call "no harm, no foul"?

Sure, McGinniss is being a bit unorthodox as he mines for information for his unauthorized biography.

Slate's Jack Shafer goes so far as to call it "journalistic assholery," and he means that in the nicest of ways.

As a reporter, it first struck me as plain old bizarre. Then a bit hilarious.

And yes, I would say that if this were a reporter trying to get close to, say, Bill Clinton or (post-presidency) Barack Obama.

It's striking in just how over the top McGinniss has gone. But if you've ever seen the so-so Richard Dreyfuss/Emilio Estevez Stakeout series, well ... let's just say it's not exactly a novel idea.

And it's admissible in court. Which makes the same information gotten through what is essentially legal spy techniques publishable in an unauthorized biography.

In fact, it's the Constitution that allows for this tomfoolery. As long as he doesn't trespass on the Palins' lawn, start shooting lawn darts over the fence, or actually stop the family from their usual day-to-day affairs, he has the same rights as any other renter of the house next door. 

This all supposes that anyone will want to read about who takes out the garbage in the Palin household (is it the First Dude? one of the kids?), whether she lets Trig cry it out, and how good her blueberry pie tastes (is it homemade? does she pick one up at the Wasilla grocery store?).

What McGinniss stands to gain by living next door to the Palins is really up to them. Just as my neighbors are protected from seeing my naked run to grab another towel out of the guest room by my decision to keep the shades drawn when I'm showering, the Palins have the power to share only what they would with any neighbor.

None of us gets to pick our neighbors, folks. If we did, fence companies would go out of business. And Court TV would be a lot less interesting.

Considering they're already under the microscope and we haven't heard much from their neighbors, the chances are pretty good they're already adept at drawing the shades on their own naked towel runs.

So the question is: Is this stalking or just a floundering reporter?


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