[IWAR] INTERNET Drudge impact on news

From: 7Pillars Partners (partnersat_private)
Date: Fri Jan 23 1998 - 10:04:21 PST

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    It's a Drudge World, After All
       by Steve Silberman 
       4:00am  23.Jan.98.PST
       Drudge, Drudge, Drudge. One can only imagine the particular kind of
       loathing the Dickensian music of that name must inspire in White House
       staffers by now. Sure, the Lewinsky scoop was all-but-bursting out
       everywhere before Matt Drudge published the allegations to his Drudge
       Report Web site and mailing list. Newsweek had it and fumbled it; the
       scandal was all over Washington. But one more time, it was Drudge - a
       walking caricature of the pale, oddly accoutered, obsessively plugged-in
       Net geek - who broke the story. And if Clinton goes down for this,
       Drudge will deserve the footnote.
       It's nearly forgotten history by now, but in the earliest incarnation of
       Wired News, Matt Drudge was a regular columnist. I hated his column. To
       run the Drudge Report on our nascent news service seemed, to me, to
       drag-and-drop the ugliest aspects of print journalism into the new
       Drudge - with his tabloid mentality, his Hollywood datelines, his smarmy
       scandalmongering about old-media mega-celebrities like Madonna. Drudge -
       the self-styled "conservative" in a cartoon of a Walter Winchell hat.
       Drudge - with his mawkish hyperbole ("executives were running up and
       down 6th Avenue nearly screaming the news" of Ellen's coming-out
       ratings," he reported), his cracked crystal ball (Drudge's "veteran"
       source predicted that the shot of Dirk Diggler's mammoth penis would be
       chopped out of the final edit of Boogie Nights), and his endless
       self-serving citing of deep-throat sources ("top intelligence has the
       unedited tape...").
       Worst of all, when I asked him why Wired News - his new employer -
       wasn't linked on his high-traffic Web page, he said, "Because I don't
       read Wired News. I only put links I use." (I had already figured out
       that Drudge didn't read us when I introduced myself - having bylined a
       story a day here for a couple of months - and he gave me one of those
       nonplussed, am-I-supposed-to-know-you? looks.)
       I was impressed by his honesty, but I still felt superior. I predicted
       that Matt Drudge's brand of reportage wouldn't fit in with the noble
       Wired News vision, and that his byline would soon disappear from our
       site. When he signed a distribution deal with AOL, it did.
       And then, of course, Drudge became a household word - at least around
       the White House. Dontcha just hate that?
       What I didn't realize was that Matt Drudge wasn't some kind of perverse,
       Net-irradiated mutation of an old-media meme: Entertainment Tonight
       crossed with the Weekly World News on methedrine. Drudge was the
       Internet - a walking homunculus of alt.fan-dom, conspiracy sniffing, and
       "unofficial" celeb-dish Web sites. Matt Drudge was the future, an
       embodiment of a frantic, redundantly networked world in which everyone
       knows everything at once - even things that aren't true.
       In Drudge's world, which is our world now, the act of uncovering what
       was formerly hidden - of getting the skinny, routing around bureaucratic
       firewalls, defying the spin-doctors to tap the loose-lipped confidant -
       is paramount. Second to the act of uncovering the dirt is the enthusiasm
       to spread it around. Garbage in, garbage out - and as quickly as
       possible. The velocity is largely the point.
       Living on hyper-instant time
       Drudge calls his product "hyper-instant news," news for those (like me)
       who spend hours a day online, who can't wait for their email programs to
       tick through another intake cycle. Control-M, control-M, control-M.
       After all, you might miss something, or - horrors - have to learn about
       it from one of those talking heads on CNN.
       "Ohmygod, So-and-So died!" I shout several times week in the newsroom,
       scanning the wires, or the Well. Immediately the appropriately aggrieved
       battery of email goes out, widely cc'd. What's the rush? So-and-So will
       most likely still be dead by the time an announcement is made on the
       radio. But I want my friends to hear it from me.
       What are they supposed to say? "Hey, did you hear So-and-So died? And
       boy, that Steve guy must really be well-connected."
       There was a great moment in one of Drudge's columns last March, when he
       was describing the chain of events triggered by another of Clinton's
       falls - this one, down golfer Greg Norman's steps. After the initial
       news flash, Drudge wrote, "There was a 26-minute void when nothing else
       was known."
       26 minutes? On hyper-instant time, that's an eternity. Control-M: Still
       nothing more on that fall?
       When Allen Ginsberg was diagnosed with liver cancer last spring, I sat
       by a fax machine waiting for the press release from Allen's office that
       would grant me permission to break the sad news to the world. I had my
       piece already half-written and up on my screen, ready to be fired off to
       my editor as soon as the fax came through.
       As the slick paper eased through the machine, I felt a rush: Wired News
       was going to beat AP, UPI, CNN, and the Times, and I'd grab my own
       little footnote in Beat history. The only thing queering my buzz was
       that I'd loved Allen as a teacher and friend for 20 years, and I knew
       that every moment the world was aware of the poet's fatal illness was
       another moment when his phone would be ringing off the hook.
       No time for sentiment - this was news!
       Anybody's dossier
       In an interview with scholar James McKenzie 24 years ago, Ginsberg
       pondered how the spread of government corruption, and the extent of
       surveillance of private citizens by the CIA, the FBI, and the NSA in the
       name of enforcing drug laws, could be accurately "diagnosed."
       "Where's the X-ray machine for that?" the interviewer asked.
       "Well," the poet replied, "the X-ray machine is, you have to get access
       to all the computer material, find out who's on the computers, and see
       everybody's files. ... I think rather than attempting to destroy the
       computers and files, there should be a move to make all that information
       public, to open up the libraries of dossiers on everybody, so that
       anybody can see anybody's dossier - which means that not only can Nixon
       read my dossier, but I can read his."
       In a way, Ginsberg was describing the world we ended up with - Matt
       Drudge's world.
       And the corruption? The surveillance? Even Drudge's "top intelligence"
       agents may never root out the sources of those cancers in the body
       But until then, we have Monica Lewinsky to talk about.
    Copyright  1993-97 Wired Ventures Inc. and affiliated companies.
       All rights reserved.

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