The Drudge Manifesto, Matt Drudge & Julia Phillips

New American Library, 2000, 247 pages, C$32.99 hc, ISBN 0-451-20150-7

I’m a news junkie. Always was, always will be.

Can’t resist the flow of info. Plugged in every evening for the news; acute withdrawal symptoms if I can’t get my fix. Hit me, feed me, I need to know.

Give me the latest update. News aren’t just news. They’re the most important story of our lives. Heck, news are the soap of our lives. We’re not reading about it in history books.

This is here. Now. We’re lucky to live history.

I know the Drudge Report. Ugly layout, monospace typeface, right-wing leanings, often sensationalist headlines. Rather doubtful authenticity.

But it brings the news. Links to the news. Breaks the news. Drudge is on top of things as they happen.

Drudge is a junkie like me. But whereas I’m wired, he’s superplugged in the middle of the web. He slurps the news wires and links to the interesting stuff. From time to time, he’ll uncover a presidential scandal.

Naturally, sooner or later he’d write a book about it.

This is it. The Drudge Manifesto. 250 pages of free-form stream-of consciousness musings on himself, conventional media, the internet and associated subjects.

Short paragraphs. Sentence Fragments. POAs (PlentyOfAcronyms). MashedUpWords. Sweeping generalisations. Bing. Bang. Pow. J-school jargon at the speed of thought.

This is today’s style. Bing. Bang. Boom. No time to edit. Or even use the space bar. You can always upload the corrections later.

Drudge says he’s better than the New York Times.

Says print media is dead.

Says TV is dead.

He might not believe it, but it’s his job to make us argue against it.

Drudge says: Anyone can now be his own journalist. Publish any story. Reach the world.

Sure.

But not everyone deserves my belief. My attention. My eyeballs.

I still love the CBC, state-sponsored journalism institution as it is.

But then again, I’ve never watched FOX News.

His manifesto is a screed against the so-called staid old institutions.

His readers (see endnotes/links/appendices) think they’re getting the whole story. Without interference from “the staid and leftist drivel from the TV.” [P.241], they think they read something “IMPARTIAL, UNBIASED and TRUTHFUL”.

The irony here is so thick you couldn’t cut it with a cigar.

Drudge thinks of himself as a journalist. Does he make mistakes? He says it’s not important, because old media also makes plenty of mistakes.

Some rationale.

I could have fun with it, but I think I’ll just move on.

(Don’t believe your fan-mail, Matt.)

Drudge is not journalist. He’s a well-connected web surfer with the guts to re-print rumours people send him.

He stands above, besides, under, outside the system.

It doesn’t make him a superhero. He’s the spider at the center of the news web, but he would quickly starve without the flies getting caught in his net.

Without traditional media, he’d starve to death. Without the newswires, he’d have only rumours to report. Without the attention given to him, the rumours would go someplace else. His much-lauded revelations about the Lewinski affair are diminished in the telling; the story would have gone out anyway. Just maybe a few hours later.

If your main reputation is that you crack stories by minutes, you may want to re-think your line of business.

We can’t have all Drudges and no journalists; no one would be able (understand; paid, trained, given the time) to present the rough draft of history that is journalism.

But let’s not be too dismissive of Drudge. He may be bombastic and overly confident in the Internet, but he’s useful. As an overseer of media. A check and a balance on another set of checks and balances. When he points out that the convergence of media acquisitions can’t be good, he’s speaking the whole truth.

At his most lucid (see Appendix A, the transcription of an interview at the rather sceptical National Press Club), Drudge is a knowledgeable media pundit.

But even Drudge can’t fight a bigger force than old media; time.

2000 seems so far away, barely twenty-five months after its last few days. As of January 2003, we’ve got global terrorism, a moron in the White House, a right wing left to curtail civil liberties in the name of homeland security and a bunch of civilian hawks anxious to start a war without UN approval.

One president wants to have sex with curvy young women. The other wants to bomb a foreign country for no good reason at all.

Guess which one I identify with.

Yes, 2000 seems so far ago. And among other things, Drudge now has to content with a powerful opponent.

It’s called news.google.com

It spiders thousands of recognized news sources, sees what’s hot and presents the most popular material in a single page. Without fuss. Without bias. Heck, without human intervention, because everything is run by algorithms.

You may be obsolete, Drudge.

What you do, the computer can do too.

But the computer can’t be a journalist.

Maybe that’s your way out.

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