Drudge Report

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Drudge Report
The Drudge Report
Type Private
Founded 1998 in Miami Beach, Florida, United States[1]
Founder(s) Matt Drudge
Key people Matt Drudge, Joseph Curl,[2] Charles Hurt[3]
Industry News
Owner Matt Drudge
Employees 2
Slogan(s) Those in power have everything to lose by individuals who march to their own rules
Website DrudgeReport.com
Alexa rank Steady 425 (April 2014)[4]
Type of site News aggregation, blogging
Advertising Yes
Registration No
Available in English
Launched 1997
Current status Active

The Drudge Report is an American news aggregation website. Run by Matt Drudge with the help of Joseph Curl[2] and Charles Hurt,[3] the site consists mainly of links to stories from the United States and international mainstream media about politics, entertainment, and current events as well as links to many columnists. Viewpoints expressed on the website are often considered conservative.[5][6][7][8][9]

Occasionally, Drudge authors new stories himself based on tips. The Report originated in 1996 as a weekly subscriber-based email dispatch.[1] It was the first news source to break the Monica Lewinsky scandal to the public after Newsweek decided not to publish the story.[10]

Origins[edit]

The Drudge Report started as a gossip column focusing on Hollywood and Washington, D.C.[11] Matt Drudge began the email-based newsletter called Report from an apartment in Hollywood, California, using his connections with industry and media insiders to break stories, sometimes before they hit the mainstream media. Drudge in its early days maintained the website from his home in Miami Beach, Florida, with help from his assistants, who assist in story selection and headline writing. His first assistant was Andrew Breitbart.[12] Breitbart, who described himself as "Matt Drudge’s bitch",[13] worked the afternoon shift at the Drudge Report,[14] as well as running his own website (breitbart.com), and another website (BigHollywood.com) providing a conservative perspective for people in the Los Angeles entertainment industry.[15] John Ziegler has said that Drudge blocked Breitbart from posting content critical of Barack Obama during the 2008 campaign for the Presidency.[16]

Drudge added former Washington Times columnist Joseph Curl to the Drudge Report staff in 2010;[2] he followed that in 2011 with the addition of Charles Hurt, most recently the Washington bureau chief of the New York Post and a columnist for the Times, to the staff.[3]

Drudge, who began his website in 1997 as a supplement to his $10/year email newsletter,[17] received national attention in 1996 when he broke the news that Jack Kemp would be Republican Bob Dole's running mate in the 1996 presidential election. In 1998, Drudge made national waves when he broke the news that Newsweek magazine had information on an inappropriate relationship between "a White House intern" and President Bill Clinton (the Monica Lewinsky scandal), but was withholding publication.[18][19][20] After Drudge's report, Newsweek published the story.[21]

Content[edit]

The Drudge Report site consists mainly of selected[22] hyperlinks to news websites all over the world, each link carrying a headline written by Drudge or his editors. The linked stories are generally hosted on the external websites of mainstream media outlets. It occasionally includes stories written by Drudge — usually two or three paragraphs in length. They generally concern a story about to be published in a major magazine or newspaper. Drudge occasionally publishes Nielsen, Arbitron, or BookScan ratings, or early election exit polls that are otherwise not made available to the public.

The site carries advertisements that generate the site's revenue. The Drudge Report's advertising is sold by Vienna, Virginia-based ad firm Intermarkets.[23]

In April, 2009, Associated Press announced that it would be examining the fair use doctrine used by sites like Google and Drudge Report to justify the use of AP content without payment.[24][25]

On May 4, 2009, the US Attorney General's office issued a warning to employees in Massachusetts not to visit the Drudge Report and other sites because of malicious code contained in some of the advertising on the website.[26] In March, 2010, antivirus company Avast! warned that advertising at the Drudge Report, New York Times, Yahoo, Google, MySpace and other sites carried malware that could infect computers. "The most compromised ad delivery platforms were Yield Manager and Fimserve, but a number of smaller ad systems, including Myspace, were also found to be delivering malware on a lesser scale," Avast Virus Labs said.[27]

Design[edit]

The site's design has seen few changes since its 1997 debut, and remains entirely written in unscripted HTML with a mostly monochromatic color scheme of black boldface monospaced font text on a plain white background. The Drudge Report was described by Cheryl Woodard, co-founder of PC, Macworld, PC World and Publish magazines, as "a big, haphazard mishmash of links and photos"[28] and by Dan Rahmel as "popular despite a plain appearance".[29] The Report website is simple and, according to Paul Armstrong of webwithoutwords.com, retro in feel.[30] Jason Fried of 37signals.com calls it "one of the best designed sites on the web."[31] It consists of a banner headline and a number of other selected headlines in three columns in monospaced font. Most link to an outside source, usually the online edition of a newspaper, which hosts the story. When no such source is available, either because the story is 'developing'[32] with little known details at the moment or is an exclusive scoop, a special page is created on the Drudge Report servers which contains text and possibly images.

There are different importance levels a story could appear as on the site, the rating of which relies on Matt Drudge's editorial discretion. The Report almost always holds one major story above the logo, usually just one sentence hyperlinked to the most important story of the day. Other stories surrounding the main headline can be found in the upper left hand side of the page and link to more specific articles dealing with aspects of the headline story. The standard story, either the headline or links below the logo, are written in black. The stories Drudge considers most important are in red, all under a single major headline in large, bold type. For especially important breaking stories, especially if still emerging, Drudge places art of a flashing red light on the screen.[33]

Although the site initially featured very few images, it is now usually illustrated with five or six photographs. Generally the images, like the linked headlines, are hotlinked from other news agencies' servers.

Political leanings[edit]

Matt Drudge has said that he is a conservative, but "more of a populist".[34][35] Some regard the Drudge Report as conservative in tone,[36][37][38][39][40][41][42] and has been referred to in the media as "a conservative news aggregator". More recently Richard Siklos, an editor of Fortune magazine, called the Drudge Report a "conservative bullhorn",[43] the Los Angeles Times labelled Drudge a "well-known conservative warrior",[44] the New York Times referred to him as a "conservative muckraker",[45] and Glenn Greenwald called him a "right-wing hack".[46] Greenwald also wrote that the Drudge Report (inter alia) is part of the "Bush/Cheney right-wing noise machine",[47]

The New Republic's Jesse Swick notes that the Drudge Report frequently links to stories that cast doubt upon global warming. "[Drudge] loves a press release from Senator Inhofe almost as much as he loves taking pot shots at Al Gore...It’s like flashing tasty images of popcorn and sodas between frames at movie theaters, only much less subtle."[48] Ben Shapiro of townhall.com wrote "The American left can't restrict Internet usage or ban talk radio, so it de-legitimizes these news sources. Ripping alternative news sources as illegitimate is the left's only remaining option -- it cannot compete with the right wing in the new media....They call Matt Drudge a muckraker and a yellow journalist."[49]

A 2005 study (see details) placed the Drudge Report "left of center." "One thing people should keep in mind is that our data for the Drudge Report was based almost entirely on the articles that the Drudge Report lists on other Web sites," said Groseclose, the head of the study. "Very little was based on the stories that Matt Drudge himself wrote. The fact that the Drudge Report appears left of center is merely a reflection of the overall bias of the media."[50] The study was criticised by Mark Liberman[51][52] and liberal media watchdogs.[53][54]

Influence[edit]

According to Quantcast, the site has more than 3 million page visits per day.[55] According to Mark Halperin, "Drudge's coverage affects the media's political coverage", effectively steering the media's political coverage towards what Halperin calls "the most salacious aspects of American politics."[56] In The Way To Win, a book written by Halperin and John Harris, Drudge is called "the Walter Cronkite of his era."[56][57] Democratic Party strategist Chris Lehane says "phones start ringing" whenever Drudge breaks a story, and Mark McKinnon, a former media advisor to George W. Bush, said that he checked the site 30–40 times per day.[56] Matt Drudge has been criticized by other media news personalities: Bill O'Reilly twice called Drudge a "threat to democracy" in response to Drudge disclosing his book sales figures,[58] and Keith Olbermann referred to Drudge as "an idiot with a modem".[59]

Drudge (and his website) was labelled one of the "Top 10 anti-Barack Obama conservatives" by the US editor of The Daily Telegraph in February 2009.[60]

In addition to the media influence, Drudge Report also has influenced design elements on other sites. Some with opposing view points [61] and some who use the same format of listing news. A left-leaning[62] parody site called Drudge Retort was founded in 1998 as "a send-up of Mr. Drudge's breathless style".[63][64][65] According to the Newspaper Marketing Agency online analytics data for April 2010, the Drudge Report is the number one site referrer to all online UK commercial newspaper websites.[66]

Archives[edit]

Many reports from 1995 to early 1997 are available in the Usenet archive provided by Google Groups. A more extensive archive of the website is provided by Drudge Report Archives, which has archives since mid-November 2001 and stores snapshots of the Drudge Report homepage every two minutes.[67]

Notable stories[edit]

Monica Lewinsky scandal[edit]

The Drudge Report attained prominence when it was the first to report what came to be known as the Lewinsky scandal. Drudge published the story on January 17, 1998, alleging that Newsweek had turned down the story.[68]

Swift Boat Veterans for Truth[edit]

During 2004 U.S. presidential campaign, the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth group made claims about John Kerry's war record, which were mentioned by Drudge and investigated by major newspapers and TV networks.[56] The book, Unfit for Command: Swiftboat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry, became a best-seller in part due to its promotion on the Drudge Report.

Obama photo[edit]

Drudge [69] published a photo of Barack Obama in Somali tribal dress on February 25, 2008,[70] and reported that the photo had been sent to him by a Clinton campaign staffer.[71] The publication of the photograph resulted in a brief war of words between the Clinton and Obama campaign organizations.

Prince Harry in Afghanistan[edit]

On February 28, 2008 Drudge published an article noting that Prince Harry was serving with his regiment in Afghanistan. Prince Harry was ten weeks into a front-line deployment in Afghanistan that was subject to a voluntary news blackout by the UK press.[72] The blackout was designed to protect Prince Harry and the men serving with him from being specifically targeted by the Taliban.

An Australian weekly women’s magazine New Idea broke the story in January,[73] but it was not followed up at the time. New Idea editors claimed ignorance of any news blackout.[74] Then a German newspaper, the Berliner Kurier, published a short piece on February 28, 2008, also before Drudge. [75] Drudge subsequently claimed the report as an exclusive. Chief of the General Staff Sir Richard Dannatt, professional head of the British Army, said: "I am very disappointed that foreign websites have decided to run this story without consulting us".[76] The Prince's tour of duty was prematurely ended, since his unit might be targeted by large-scale suicide attacks intended to kill the Prince.[77]

U.S. Senate Problems[edit]

On March 9, 2010, The Senate Sergeant-at-Arms claimed the site was "responsible for the many viruses popping up throughout the Senate...Please avoid using [this] site until the Senate resolves this issue...The Senate has been swamped the last couples (sic) days with this issue." The Drudge Report countered stating "it served more than 29 million pages Monday without an e-mail complaint about 'pop ups,' or the site serving 'viruses.'"[78]

Controversial stories, errors and questions about sourcing[edit]

Exclusives[edit]

Research by the media magazine Brill's Content in 1998 cast doubt on the accuracy of the majority of the 'exclusives' claimed by the Drudge Report. Of the 51 stories claimed as exclusives from January to September 1998, the magazine found 31 (61%) were actually exclusive stories. Of those, 32% were untrue, 36% were true and the remaining 32% were of debatable accuracy.[20]

Sidney Blumenthal lawsuit[edit]

In 1997, the Drudge Report reported that incoming White House assistant Sidney Blumenthal beat his wife and was covering it up. Drudge retracted the story the next day and apologized, saying he was given bad information, but Blumenthal filed a $30 million libel lawsuit against Drudge. After four years, Blumenthal dropped his lawsuit. Blumenthal said the suit had cost him tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees. He agreed to pay $2,500 to Drudge's Los Angeles attorney for travel costs, claiming that Drudge was "backed by unlimited funds from political supporters who use a tax-exempt foundation."[79][80][81][82] The Individual Rights Foundation, led by conservative activist David Horowitz, paid Drudge's legal fees in the Blumenthal lawsuit. A federal judge noted in the judgment that Drudge "is not a reporter, a journalist, or a newsgatherer. He is, as he admits himself, simply a purveyor of gossip."[11]

Alleged John Kerry intern scandal[edit]

During the 2004 Presidential campaign, Drudge ran a story quoting General Wesley Clark, where Clark claimed that the John Kerry campaign would implode over an intern affair. Drudge reported that other news outlets were investigating the alleged affair. He removed it from the site shortly thereafter when the other news outlets dropped the investigations.[83]

Alleged Bill Clinton illegitimate child[edit]

In 1999, the Drudge Report announced that it had viewed a videotape which was the basis of a Star Magazine and Hard Copy story. Under the headline, Woman Names Bill Clinton Father Of Son In Shocking Video Confession, Drudge reported a videotaped "confession" by a former prostitute who claimed that her son was fathered by Bill Clinton. The Report stated, "To accuse the most powerful man in the world of being the father of her son is either the hoax of a lifetime, or a personal turmoil that needs resolution. Only two people may know that answer tonight." The claim turned out to be a hoax.[84]

Alleged CNN reporter heckling of Republican Senators[edit]

On April 1, 2007 Drudge cited an unnamed "official" source saying that CNN reporter Michael Ware had "heckled" Republican Senators McCain and Graham during a live press conference.[85] Drudge reported that:

An official at the press conference called Ware's conduct "outrageous," saying, "here you have two United States Senators in Baghdad giving first-hand reports while Ware is laughing and mocking their comments. I've never witnessed such disrespect. This guy is an activist not a reporter."
 
— The Drudge Report, Matthew Drudge

Video hosted by Rawstory shows that Ware did not make a sound nor ask any question during the press conference.[86][87]

Oprah and Sarah Palin[edit]

On September 5, 2008 the Drudge Report reported that Oprah staffers were "sharply divided on the merits of booking Sarah Palin." He said that he obtained the information from an anonymous source. Winfrey responded in a written statement to news outlets that: "The item in today’s Drudge Report is categorically untrue. There has been absolutely no discussion about having Sarah Palin on my show. At the beginning of this presidential campaign when I decided that I was going to take my first public stance in support of a candidate, I made the decision not to use my show as a platform for any of the candidates." Oprah Winfrey's public statement came after she had already endorsed Barack Obama for president on Larry King Live in 2007.[88] Drudge was accused of planting a false story for political ends by some commentators.[89] [90]

Ashley Todd attack hoax[edit]

On October 23, 2008, Drudge published an unconfirmed exclusive story regarding Ashley Todd, the 20-year-old employee[91][92] of the College Republican National Committee (CRNC) and John McCain volunteer who had allegedly been attacked by a black male for having a McCain sticker on her car in Pittsburgh. Drudge reported the story without a link but as 'developing', titling the headline "SHOCK: McCAIN VOLUNTEER ATTACKED AND MUTILATED IN PITTSBURGH - "B" carved into 20 yr old Woman's Face".[93] The story set off a "storm of media attention",[91] being quickly picked up by many conservative bloggers and right-wing talk radio show hosts, all citing the Drudge Report as their source. It was also reported in newspapers and TV both in the US and around the world.[94] The story was confirmed to be a hoax perpetrated by Todd and, according to Talking Points Memo, spread to reporters by McCain's Pennsylvania Communications Director.[95][96]

Drudge then printed a retraction of the story, including links to the news stories detailing that the attack had been a hoax and that Ashley Todd had performed a similar 'attack' on herself while volunteering in a local Ron Paul grassroots group. She was later asked to leave the group because of the hoax.

References[edit]

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