Wednesday’s Heroes: Abe Sauer

The credo that Real Journalism would not quail before the Internet, but would instead become a hardy amphibian that hunts in new waters, finds its apotheosis here. Abe Sauer is such a creature, plying the digital currents and explaining two-thirds of America to the other third while he’s at it.

Upper Midwest correspondent for in-the-know NYC blog The Awl, Sauer challenges the notion that coasties can’t be bothered to understand the middle ground between. To understand yourselves, he tells Manhattanites, understand us.

“I had been reading The Awl for a couple months, having been a fan of editors Choire Sicha and Alex Balk from their Gawker stints,” he told Taylor Carik’s Mediation last July. “Then, last summer, I finally got sick of their coastal bias and emailed Choire a proposal to cover flyover country, arguing ‘that The Awl readers might benefit from some short, funny but insightful dispatches from Flyover Nation, where the headline “Twins Rock the Lumber” isn’t a part of the DVD reviews section in the The Blade.’ That was my pitch, verbatim. A week or two later I covered a midget wrestling show at Borrowed Bucks Roadhouse in Grand Forks. I’ve been filing nearly weekly ever since.”

Sauer caught The Awl by the tail as it was on the rise, and became one of its most worthwhile contributors. In his year and half with the site he’s introduced its readers to real Tea Partiers, sniffed manure at the Minnesota State Fair, dissed the anti-Obama factions’ skillz at Photoshop, talked the requisite shit about blockbuster movies, wept over a Haiti abandoned to predatory “Christian charities,” pulled up the carpet covering Target’s donations to a homophobic Minnesota politician, championed a North Dakota gay rights activist, wallflowered at an insane new senator’s victory party, and assessed the potential political strength of six million unemployed Americans.

As with the best of the blog breed, his turns of phrase can be acidically lovely: “If our Congress can be measured on a scale of feces (and it should), Senator Byron Leslie Dorgan is closer to adorable rabbit droppings than, say, the diseased swine diarrhea that is Michele Bachmann (R-MN).” But there’s also a real-world reporting ethic that goes into his work. “Blog writers are excellent at chasing down details hidden in the ether, and then linking to them,” he told Carik. “They are generally less excellent at getting on the phone or even email to get input from other actual human beings. That is to say, for many bloggers, if it cannot be found online, it’s not relevant.”

Thanks for the relevancy, Abe. I’d buy your book.

Merle Haggard — I’m Bringin’ Home Good News

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