Michael Joseph Gross Defends Himself

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Sept. 8 2010 10:02 AM

Michael Joseph Gross Defends Himself

There was enough heat on his Vanity Fair profile of Sarah Palin to get him to publish a defense of the article. He ends by looking for solidarity with other members of the press whose coverage of Palin is hampered by her control of information.

After the 2008 election, Sarah Palin and her advisers decided thatit was time to "go over [the] heads" of the media, as one of her formerpress aides told me, and, in effect, invent a new way of doingpolitical business. Palin began using Facebook and Twitter to sendmessages directly to the public. At the same time, she and her staffmade themselves virtually inaccessible to reporters. Palin, moreover,is the most powerful person in a sparsely populated, geographicallyisolated community. She has often used intimidation. Many who have beenclose to Palin say they are frightened of her. They claim they haveseen her ruin reputations. To speak out against such a person in asmall community is risky.

This reality presents reporters with a choice: either repeat theofficial statements and official facts that are made in Palin’s name,or find a way to report other information under the terms that sourceswill permit.

I made the latter choice—very cautiously.

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Sure, I'm sympathetic to that. It's just not clear what Gross got from this approach. Rumors about her family life? Vanity Fair already had that when it gave the unreliable Levi Johnston lots of space in 2009. Details about Conservatives 4 Palin blogger Rebbeca Mansour's work for Palin? OK, I guess.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.