Updegrove never claimed to know PJ - who she specifically is, where she lives, etc. He claimed, based on his communications, that he felt comfortable with 2 things:
1. PJ is a person. Not a he or she, not old or young, but a person. As apposed to an AI or a collective. Most likely through consistency of voice, quick turnaround, etc (I don't know specifics, ask Andy).
2. PJ is passionate about what he/she is interested in. Again, tone, consistancy, etc.
Neither of these require face to face meetings or phone calls.
Regarding balance. Gee, I have no clue of most of the reporters in the NY Times, either. In the case of Groklaw, since PJ back everything up with documentation, I can judge for myself whether she is right or not (or for that matter where on the white-black scale things are, since some of the stuff is ambiguous). I don't need to "know" PJ, or find out about her private life to judge that. No one does. I need to know her arguments and the facts behind them, which she provides in more detail than any other news source. That's the transparency that's needed, and that she provides.