Who is Matt Drudge?
Working from a small apartment in Hollywood, Matt Drudge became one of the country’s most notorious journalists when he reported that Newsweek had spiked a story about a sexual relationship between President Clinton and a certain White House intern.
Of course, there are many (mostly professional reporters) who argue that Drudge should not be labeled a journalist at all, and it is upon this issue that the Drudge Manifesto is based. As Drudge notes, he has “no budget, no bosses, no deadline,” and as a result of this independence he is both feared and reviled, admired and respected.
Ostracized by the establishment he may be, but his popular appeal is undeniable: the Drudge Report Web site received over 240 million hits in 1999, and the numbers are rising. Members of the White House staff check in daily, as do many of the media elite who viciously denounce Drudge in public.
Like it or not, he has become a force in Internet journalism.Drudge collaborated with Julia “You’ll Never Eat Lunch in This Town Again” Phillips to produce a writing style that reads like a breathless and often disjointed e-mail. But the book is a vehicle for ideas, not sparkling prose, and its value lies in Drudge’s assessment of the current state of the media as well as his take on its future.
One of the most interesting (and certainly the clearest) parts is a transcript of a Q&A session conducted at the National Press Club on June 2, 1998, which lays out Drudge’s manifesto better than the book itself. The NPC is hostile territory for Drudge, and, unsurprisingly, he is grilled by moderator Doug Harbrecht. In the end, Drudge makes a strong and thoughtful case for his methods and his right to be a reporter.
And he gets in plenty of zingers of his own: “You know, these questions are pretty tough, and I think if you directed this type of tough questioning to the White House, there’d be no need for someone like me, quite frankly.”
This is also a chance for Drudge to sound off. He boasts of beating CNN (by eight minutes) to the announcement of Princess Diana’s death; of being the first to report Bob Dole’s selection of Jack Kemp as his running mate; of his scoop of the Microsoft-NBC merger. He replays the events surrounding his decision to release the Lewinsky information on January 17, 1998 (the book is dedicated to Linda R. Tripp), and volunteers his favorite Web sites and sources.
His book is not only a manifesto but a manual for anyone interested in following his lead. “With a modem, a phone jack, and an inexpensive computer, your newsroom can be your living room, your bedroom… your bathroom, if you’re so inclined,” he writes. In today’s media climate, that’s the way it is. –Shawn Carkonen