On June 20, I speculated about whether Stillwater was destined to become the next Wasilla as a result of clueless national reporters looking for the heart of Bachmann Country here in the St. Croix Valley. It only took two days for Rolling Stone celebreporter Matt Taibbi to prove my point when he posted his cut-and-paste story on Bachmann online and took the hatchet to Stillwater as well.
Taibbi has never set foot in Stillwater, but that didn’t stop him from coming up with this long-distance description of us, and how we are somehow responsible for producing Michele Bachmann:
“Moving back to Minnesota, she and Marcus settled in Stillwater, a town of 18,000 near St. Paul, where they raised their five children and took in 23 foster kids. Stillwater is a Midwestern version of a Currier & Ives set piece, complete with cozy homes, antique stores — and no black people. In short, the perfect launching pad for a political career built on Bachmann’s retro-Stepford image. Stillwater’s congressional district is the whitest district in Minnesota (95 percent) and one of the wealthiest in America (with a median income $16,000 above the national average).”
But that wasn’t Taibbi’s only crime. Virtually his entire article was based on Bachmann background information, stories and quotes from previously published work by local writers, including myself. Yet there was not one attribution or link given to anyone else. In fact, many of the quotes and passages like the one above leave the reader with the clear impression that it was Rolling Stone Correspondent Matt Taibbi who conducted the interview and on-the-ground research and not some unpaid blogger or alt-weekly writer.
Abe Sauer took note of the simmering controversy over Taibbi’s piece and ran with it on The Awl. He chased down Rolling Stone Executive Editor Eric Bates, who told him he cut out the attributions to Taibbi’s sources due to space constraints. Really? Space constraints in an online article? Does this guy think we just rolled off the rutabaga truck?
Bates did agree to provide some links to original sources in the online version, but those won’t appear in the print edition.
Sauer also talked to Taibbi, who ‘fessed up to never having visited Stillwater. That was obvious. But I’d still like to know how the Big City reporter came up with his racially-charged profile of Stillwater-as-Stepford.
Taibbi took some well-deserved lumps from Sauer for his theft of other writers’ material. But that won’t matter to the millions of others who read his piece or saw him on Keith Olbermann’s show bragging about how he found all this stuff on the internet.
Matt Taibbi may know how to use the Google. But he seems to have forgotten how to use his ethics manual. The next time he wants to become an insty-expert on a Minnesota politician or her hometown, he should look a little beyond the Hudson River.