How far can reporters reasonably dig into newly selected Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin's personal history?
That question is moot on the Webernet. Bloggers respect no boundaries. So a story like BabyGate - suspicions that Palin's fifth child is really the first-born of her pregnant, unwed teenage daughter - was completely foreseeable.
But after blogs like Daily KoS questioned Palin's seemingly erratic truth-telling and even more erratic behaviour during her most recent labour, media roundly condemned the "Internet rumours" as nasty or unfair. And, as is the nature of the Internet, there was certainly some unnecessary vitriol around BabyGate. But as the twisted cover-up theory continues to grow, showing that Anchorage papers raised the same questions earlier, the baby controversy is dominating news feeds.
Nasty or not, blogs have produced strong research on the Alaskan governor. For instance, she sold an Alaskan state plane on eBay, supports aerial bear hunting and once hacked into a colleague's computer. And her strategy for the war in Iraq is to follow "God's plan."
Or, these interesting items from BabyGate: Palin bypassed hospitals while in labour to get to her hometown hospital, where Internet records of the baby are missing; in a picture of her just days before the birth, she looks decidedly unpregnant. She claims that 17-year-old daughter Bristol will marry the soon-to-be father of her child, while that soon-to-be father complained on his MySpace about being forced into a shotgun wedding.
All of the above was ripe for press-picking, but what emerged was the vicious side of BabyGate (which will not be repeated here). For that, it's not the blogs that need to be reprimanded, but the mainstream media for repeating it.
BabyGate makes Palin look as sympathetic as Sally Field's character in the 90s movie Not Without My Daughter. Worse, it distracts from serious issues and tarnishes the mostly diligent investigative reporting on the Internet.