In a Mediabistro interview, Colbert explains:
I have a piece that I think captures the kernel of what I try to do as a correspondent. It's a piece called "Death and Taxes." And in Saratoga Springs, New York, on the annual tax forms for the county employees, the printer put the X in the wrong box on all of the tax forms and the 1040s said that everyone was deceased. They checked deceased for everyone, three hundred people -- dead -- in one fell swoop. So we went up there and we covered it as if there had been a disaster, three hundred people had died. We were there to cover the grief and the rage about it. And what I liked about it was that it highlights the reporter as single-minded idiot. The reporter desperately needs the story to be what he thinks it is. The story is written before you leave; you're just going there to verify what you already want it to be. In this case, the reporter gets there and it is not what he thought it was but he won't let it go. He cannot let go the idea of this tragedy and that the people there are filled with rage, and I actually eventually got people to say that they were sad and that they were filled with rage. And it was a great triumph for me as a fake reporter to get them to buy into my idiocy.
Thanks for the pointer!
I poked around on mediabistro and found an entertaining thread on weblogs: threat or menace in the discussion forums.