Matt Drudge is a legend in his own mind. And certainly, given that his website, Drudge Report, has received more than 3 billion hits in the last year, it would appear that he's a legend in the minds of many others as well. But Americans have been noted for their notoriously short attention spans. It's not even been a decade since Drudge first appeared in the national spotlight with his announcement of Bob Dole's running mate and again in 1997 when he reported the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, before more conventional sources. Drudge may have passed into obscurity had it not been for a story he posted on his website about a story Newsweek chose not to run: a story about a White House intern and her inappropriate relationship with former President Bill Clinton. Once Drudge broke his story, Newsweek really had no choice but to run theirs. Thus began one of the costliest and most pointless investigations in the history of this nation. Congress spent more than $4 billion dollars and untold hours trying unsuccessfully to impeach Clinton for lying about a personal matter Congress had no business sticking their nose in to begin with. (And yet this current president has lied, violated laws, international treaties and only now are we even beginning to hear the word "impeach". Go figure!)
There's no question that Drudge has often scooped more established news organizations, but there is considerable question as to whether that's a good thing or not. Most of the time, what appears on the Drudge Report are nothing more than links to stories found elsewhere, written by others, along with a whole list of links to syndicated authors, headlines news sites, network sites and newspaper front pages. There are many who see Drudge not so much as the muck-raking reporter he wants to be (he launched his site by posting the gossip he overheard while working in the CBS Studios gift shop) but as simply an editor— and not a very challenged or talented editor at that. There's also the matter of the spin that Drudge— who claims to be more of a libertarian but sounds more like a conservative— puts on the headlines of his stories. For example, in today's column (12/1/04), one of the article titles reads "PRO-ABORTION FILM SWEEPS BRIT FILM AWARDS..." The film in question, "Vera Drake", is "a film about a back-street abortionist in 1950s London" and really has nothing to do with modern day abortion rights.
Supporters of Drudge point to a study by Tim Groseclose and Jeff Milyo called "A Measure of Media Bias", which finds the Drudge Report to be one of the most centrist "news" gathering organizations out there. However, the criteria the researchers used to determine "bias" was how closely the news agency was to the position of the median member of the House of Representatives by comparing their ADA scores. Most media came out to the left of the median member of the House.
I personally fail to see how this proves anything since the median member of Congress is now so far to the right that it skews the results. A source could still be conservative yet because they were to the "left" of that median member, they are considered flat out liberal. This kind of "measurement" reminds me of the tests they give our kids in school. The kids scores are compared to other kids in their grade across the state and the kids are ranked by percentile. Someone in the 95th percentile did better than 95% of other students in his grade across the state. But that really tells you nothing if there is no objective, unchanging (or at least not decreasing) standard. What does it matter if your child is in the 95th percentile if the average scores are 30% lower this year than last? Had he made the same score last year, he'd have only been in the 66% percentile. Or maybe a better way to understand it would be to compare it to speeding. If I'm going 20 miles per hour over the speed limit, how dangerous that is depends on what the normal speed limit is. If it's normally 20 mph, I've doubled the safe speed. If it's normally 75mph, then I'm only going 1.13 times faster than the legal speed limit.
Another fault I find with the study is that the researchers assumed that the elected members of Congress actually represent the views of the electorate. There is no question that the radical religious right has undue influence in Congress in that their point of view is represented far more often than their small numbers would imply. The average American isn't represented by the likes of Bill Frist or Tom DeLay or Marilyn Musgrave. But I digress. The point here is that while supporters of Drudge can point to this report as "proof" that he is centrist, there are a lot of arguments that can demonstrate that "centrist" by the definition of the report is still more conservative than most Americans.
Drudge sees himself as the first of a new generation of reporters and there's no denying that he's done well financially. Some estimates place his yearly income from his Drudge Report website and related enterprises in the seven figure range. But whether Drudge is really a reporter or a gossip depends on who you talk to. He seems to have a habit of printing unsubstantianted rumors and then retracting them— sometimes with an apology— after the damage has been done.
In 2000, Drudge felt what it was like to be on the receiving end of "unsubstantiated rumors" that proved to be true (unlike many of Drudge's rumors....). The rumor was that Drudge is gay. In May of 2000, buzzflash.com ran several editorials about Drudge's purported orientation. Normally, a reporter's orientation wouldn't matter, but Drudge is notorious for advocating the agenda of the radical religious right through their puppets, the conservatives. Here he was, a gay man helping to promote an agenda that disenfranchises gays. In fact, someone who has "outed" other gays. "As you reap, so shall you sow".
Just recently, Drudge was up to his old tactics again: posting inaccurate information about someone that gets read by his many readers and then quietly pulling the story when called on it. This time, his victim was Al Gore and about an hour after "Think Progress" posted their article about his unsourced accusations, Drudge pulled his report. I'm utterly amazed that any still gives this guy any credibility at all!
Why, when the actions of these mouthpieces go so against the grain of the American ideals, when their hypocrisy is exposed over and over again, do so many people still listen to and— worse yet— believe them? For an answer to that, please read my thoughts on the subject.
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