Critics argue if Drudge 'jumped the shark' or not
Ron Brynaert
Published: Tuesday November 11, 2008

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Slate editor: Drudge still trumps CNN, Post websites

In the week since Senator Obama's stunning victory, many political pundits have been postulating that it wasn't just Senator John McCain who went down in flames this election season. They believe that internet sensation Matt Drudge was burned too much during the long campaign season, and that he too may never recover his onetime powerhouse status.

However, Slate Magazine editor Jack Shafer believes that "once again," Drudge's demise has been "overreported."

Months ago, Shafer points out, the Drudge Report was considered "so influential that its proprietor, Matt Drudge, was thought to be in position to determine the fall election's results," but by "fall, Drudge had lost it, the press surmised."

Shafer continues,

"Does Matt Drudge, an unabashed conservative, still have huge clout in shaping the media's coverage?" the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz asked on Sept. 18. "Or is his influence overstated by those seeking a simple explanation for why MSM types do what they do?" Kurtz cited TPM's Greg Sargent, who had just chronicled the decline of Drudge's influence over cable news. By late October, Media Matters' Eric Boehlert was calling the Drudge Report "unplugged down the stretch." Cillizza expanded on Boehlert's theme in his blog on Oct. 30, quoting a series of wishful headlines on the Drudge Report hinting at a possible upset of Barack Obama by John McCain.

Shafer notes that this "isn't the first Drudge collapse to be recorded by the press," before noting a nearly decade old Frank Rich column from the New York Times written after the failure of Drudge's short-lived Fox show. At the time, Rich said that because Drudge's site had fallen from 228th to the 636th most popular his "brief reign as national press mascot" had concluded.

But Shafer argues, "If you could access only one home page for breaking news and chose or over the Drudge Report, you'd be a blockhead."

In his defense of Drudge, Shafer only takes a short detour to discuss mistakes, inaccuracies, or what some critics might call deliberate obfuscations.

Shafer continues,

Drudge has his critics, and he deserves them. For starters, here's FiveThirtyEight's recent takedown on Drudge's use of polls and's Josh Wolk on the Chris Rock "Oscar" blowup. He also fell for the "Attacked and Mutilated" McCain-volunteer hoax (but give him credit for correcting the record). He made entirely too big a deal about the mysterious John Kerry affair that wasn't and got overexcited about the "clues" of an Obama-Bayh ticket.

Shafer gives Drudge "credit" for "correcting the record" on the McCain volunteer's hoax, but he neglects to mention that even though right leaning commentators like Michelle Malkin immediately questioned the story for smelling fishy, the website known for being quick to link offered no countering opinions for nearly a full day.

Malkin's explanation for why she wasn't "jumping up and down with outrage over Drudge-promoted story of a McCain volunteer claiming to have been attacked by a black man whom she accused of carving a 'B' in her face after spotting her McCain bumper sticker," didn't get linked until it basically had to be linked.

Adam Reilly, writing for The Phoenix, thinks Shafer is way off.

"Listen, Drudge is worth reading if you want to get a mix of legit headlines, right-wing talking points, and news of the weird," Reilly writes. "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."

Weeks before the election, Media Matters' Eric Boehlert observed that the Drudge Report was becoming "completely neutered by current events."

"Four years ago, Drudge and the right-wing bloggers were at the peak of their political power," Boehlert wrote. "Today, they're pretty much watching the election pass them by, reduced to the role of frustrated sideline hecklers."

According to Boehlert, a "story like the unfolding credit crisis -- sober and complicated -- knocks Drudge completely out of his element of frivolous, partisan gotcha links."

Boehlert dismisses Shafer's defense intoning that, "Our original point about Drudge still stands: Instead of driving the news during the general election, he was an irrelevant bystander. If anybody thinks that's where Drudge wants to be and that he's happy just posting headlines that have no impact on American politics, than they're probably misreading him."