I began mass-mailing letters like the following one to the abovementioned business connections, using the storied technique of following up a true piece of information with a scandalous lie:
Dear Mr. Carr [executive editor of Network Magazine],
My name is Matt Taibbi. I'm the editor of an American newspaper based in Moscow called the eXile (www.exile.ru). I'm writing to you to ask if you might have time in the upcoming days to grant an interview about one of your columnists, Thomas Nolle, who is the subject of an investigative piece we're preparing.
Mr. Nolle is the subject of a sort of journalistic experiment, in which we picked an "expert" cited in a major publication more or less at random, and worked to determine exactly how much of an expert that person was -- the goal being to test the reliability of newspaper sources...
In our research into Mr. Nolle's past, we discovered that he himself has not always complied with basic economic laws. His previous company, Telemetrix, was voided by the State of New Jersey for failure to file two consecutive corporate tax returns. The company was placed under tax suspension in June of 1993. The interesting part about this information is that we've been able to determine for a fact that the company was active until late 1992, which means that Nolle failed to pay taxes on a functioning business entity for at least one full year.
If you would like to verify this information yourself, all you have to do is click on "corporate status reports" at the New Jersey Treasury site:
Click on "browse business entities" from there and enter the name "Telemetrix."
We also have information that Mr. Nolle was brought in as a material witness in a 1996 prosecution of a federal narcotics-related money-laundering case brought forward in Trenton, New Jersey, "U.S. vs. Daniel Higgins." He was not charged in the case, but Telemetrix documents were impounded into the public record.
I'd like to talk to you about your relationship with Mr. Nolle, and the criteria you used in assessing his credentials to be an expert columnist. If you have some free time to talk, please send me an e-mail with the date/time I should call, and a telephone number. Either that, or we can communicate via e-mail. I'd be very interested to speak with you.
While some correspondents wrote back angrily declining the interview request, others, like Carr, took it seriously and immediately started passing the buck. In this answer, Carr makes it a point to let me know that he wasn't the one who hired Nolle:
Thanks for your email, but I'm not really the person you should contact for this. I've only quoted Tom Nolle in a couple of stories -- and only one as a senior editor for Network magazine -- so I am not the person who hired him as a columnist. For your story, you should communicate with Network magazine's editor in chief, Steve Steinke.
The Domino's Secret
After generously ordering our friend Tom four large pepperoni and sausage pizzas from Voorhees' only Domino's Tuesday afternoon, we decided to follow up with a Wednesday call, as by this point Tom was surely hungry for more of the same.
Domino's: Domino's, can I help you?
eXile: Yeah, I'd like to order a pizza.
D: Phone number?
D: 6 Andover Court?
D: We can't deliver there. You guys beat us yesterday.
eX: Excuse me?
D: You beat us.
eX: We beat you?
D: When we showed up with 4 pizzas yesterday, you guys said that Papa John's had already been there and didn't pay us.
eX: So you won't deliver to me?
eX: I guess I'll call the other guys.