Slate's generally excellent Jack Shafer today offers an impassioned defense of Matt Drudge's continued importance. Among his claims:
If you could access only one home page for breaking news and chose
Washingtonpost.com or CNN.com over the Drudge Report, you'd be a
blockhead. His newswire-meets-tabloid sense of story—hysterical and
playful at the same time—links to both what you need to know and what
you want to know, and he updates more frequently than conventional
media sites do.
To which I say: hmmmmm.
Let's take a look at the Drudge Report, shall we? The main item right now is a Bloomberg write-up of Obama's meeting with Bush. That subject isn't hyped on NYTimes.com, or CNN.com, or WashingtonPost.com. But I'm pretty sure I read about it on a couple of them yesterday, when it was actually fresh.
Here, meanwhile, are Drudge's top headlines:
BUSH AND OBAMA AT ODDS OVER AID FOR AUTO INDUSTRY...GM needs federal aid in coming weeks...Stocks Slump as Earnings Concern Overshadows Stimulus...Growing credit crisis claims more victims...STARBUCKS profit drops 97%...BAILOUT? Fed gives AMERICAN EXPRESS full bank status...Harvard seeking spending cuts...
That first story, re: aid for the auto industry, is the top item at NYTimes.com right now, though the Times's report suggests Drudge's hed is wrong. CNN.com, in contrast, gives top billing to Citigroup's decision to restructure $20 billion in mortgages--a story that seems to have escaped Drudge's notice. WashingtonPost.com leads with the ongoing struggles of Fannie and Freddie (nowhere on Drudge), but also emphasizes the aforementioned auto-bailout story and a piece on Obama's plans for the war in Afghanistan (again, nowhere on Drudge). As for Starbucks' and Harvard's woes, I learned about them on Boston.com yesterday evening.
Of course, there's always some content you get on Drudge that you won't get anywhere else. Like today's two stories--given prominent play on the top left corner of Drudge's front page--on the dopey Georgia congressman who's currently warning of Obama's coming Marxist dictatorship. Or the "Plans for [a] national holiday honoring Obama" (Drudge's words) which, upon further review, seems to be something a bit less dramatic. And remember: back when that big black guy knifed up a white woman for supporting McCain/Palin, Drudge also had the courage to run with the story when fuddy-duddys like NYTimes.com left it alone. Of course, it turned out to be bogus, but whatever. (Shafer acknowledges that Drudge got that one wrong, but his addendum to that acknowledgment--"give [Drudge] credit for correcting the record"--is oddly laconic, given the subject matter.)
Listen, Drudge is worth reading if you want to get a mix of legit headlines, right-wing talking points, and news of the weird. But he shouldn't be anyone's top source for breaking news--partly because he's not as brilliant as some of his fans think, and partly because, as Shafer acknowledges, Drudge almost never breaks his own stories.