First New York bloggers were incensed by Rex Sorartz's caddish self-promotion in the New York Observer; now fellow Midwesterners are raising questions about the life story he floated in the paper.
After two Minnesota-based publications linked to the Observer profile, some persistent anonymous commenters came out of the woodwork to raise questions about the ambitious blogger's purported background — on the Minnesota website, under the original Observer piece and on our tips email account. Given Sorgatz buddy Lockhart Steele's statement to the Observer that the aspiring Web mogul is "prone to outsized statements," we thought some of the questions warranted further examination.
Did Sorgatz really co-found the High Plains Reader and make $100,000 off its sale?
According to to the Observer, Sorgatz started this alt-weekly "after college" with two friends and cashed out two years later.
Sorgatz, who has positioned himself as the expert on self-promotion, has not referred to himself as a founder of the publication previously — not on LinkedIn, not on Facebook and not in a comment to the MNSpeak discussion thread about the Observer piece. He is alternately "editor," "co-editor," and "editor/publisher."
In his MNSpeak comment, Sorgatz wrote that he started at the publication — as an editor — "maybe a month after it was launched."
Maybe that's why his online resumes list his involvement as starting in 1995 when the paper's Wikipedia entry says it was founded in 1994.
But that doesn't explain why Sorgatz is not listed among the High Plains Reader founders on Wikipedia. And it doesn't explain how he could have started theReader "after college" when this newspaper article indicates he was still a University of North Dakota student in 1997 and even his own resumes state he did not finish school until1996.
Was he a founder of Web Guide magazine? Does such a thing exist? Did he really make $750,000 off of it?
According to articles by the Associated Press and Computer Publishing & Advertising Report, as well as another company's press release, there was a Web Guide magazine in operation at the time Sorgatz has indicated he worked there. It has been described as being started by Dan Beaver, former magazine buyer for Barnes & Noble. It was sold at the time Sorgatz said he cashed out.
Again, Sorgatz does not appear to have been mentioned in the press (based on Nexis searches) in connection with the publication, as a founder or otherwise. On his own resumes, he is "editor," never "co-founder" or such.
It also seems odd that Google can't find any mentions of Web Guide or WebGuide on Sorgatz's oversharey, long-running website. Nor can the site's internal search engine. You'd think if Sorgatz got sorta rich off something like that, he would have mused on the experience at some point.
Did he really buy a condo in an old mansion in Minneapolis?
A comment repeated on both the Observer and MNSpeaks sites claims, "I lived at the Pillsbury house for a few months. We all rented - he did not own it." Sorgatz did not address this statement in his later comments in the same MNSpeaks thread.
The inconsistencies in the Observer article do not prove Sorgatz is a liar. The Observer's Spencer Morgan could have misquoted the press-friendly microcelebrity expert, and indeed Sorgatz has already written, in the MNSpeaks thread linked above, "Oh god, you want an error count? Too many!" It's unlikely, for example, that Sorgatz told Morgan he bought Nintendo Wii game consoles for his nephews when, in fact, he only has nieces.
But it's equally unlikely misquotation and misunderstanding can entirely explain why the Observer's story about Sorgatz is so at odds with the published record.
What's most probable is that the attention-loving fameball took his self-promotion a few steps beyond the boundaries of truth. In the same Observer piece, after all, Sorgatz had no trouble pushing the envelope on discretion, good taste or basic interpersonal decency.
One does not bullshit in a community of pervasive self-publishing — on Tumblrs and Twitter streams, in comments sections and Flickr accounts. Rex Sorgatz, of all people, should know that.
(Photo via Sorgatz's Flickr stream.)