I do most of my business on that dirty Internet that you were just talking about, where I find there is a lot of freedom to report exactly what I want.” Matt Drudge
I have been noticing for quite some time that conservative media scion Matt Drudge, publisher of the Drudge Report has a penchant for producing sensational and sometimes misleading headlines to articles linked to his site. Sometimes the headlines twist the meaning of what was in the article so completely I have to believe that Drudge’s intent is to stir up and mislead an already paranoid readership who probably will not actually dig into the article to find out the truth.
Today’s entry was Town Considers Banning Smokers From Smoking — Outside Their Own Homes!
The article was from the local CBS News affiliate in Sacramento http://sacramento.cbslocal.com/2012/02/24/rocklin-considering-banning-smokers-from-smoking-outside-their-own-homes/
The headline on the CBS site read “Rocklin Considering Banning Residents From Smoking Outside Their Own Homes.” However the town is not considering that. The council was asked by a citizen to do it but the Rocklin City Manager Rick Horst said the city has “no intention of considering the matter.” This was actually mentioned in the article, but if you just read the headline you would think that the local town council is coming after smokers in their homes. The headline is a deliberate distortion of the story both by the local reporter and Drudge.
I look at Drudge a couple of times a day and have been doing so ever since Drudge broke the Clinton Lewinsky scandal. The site often has great links and the format allows me to quickly scan his headlines to see what some of the major stories are before I start looking through the large number of other sites that I read to see what is going on in the world.
That being said since I returned from Iraq in 2008 I have looked at all news sites much more critically and weigh each of their respective biases when formulating my interpretation of events. When I started doing this I noticed that Drudge was masterful putting sensational headlines to various links, headlines that anyone who studies group psychology and mass movements knows are designed to inflame the passions of his readers by appealing to fear, in this case fear of intrusive government. It is what William Randolph Hearst did so well in the 1890s, back then it was called yellow journalism.
Drudge is a internet news pioneer and a powerhouse and a lot of times he breaks news that is important or provides links to articles that are sometimes ignored in larger traditional news outlets. I admire the fact that he can get stories out sometimes before other media. Drudge’s presence does make the media more accountable.
That being said Drudge has a political bias and will distort headlines when it suits his purpose. His page will often feature links to several unrelated articles which paint a narrative of what he wants to point out. He is very good at doing this and it is a reason for his immense popularity. Thus readers need to take that into account before getting too spun up when they see one or several sensationalist headlines on his site.
In the 2012 campaign it goes without saying that Drudge does his best to zing President Obama at every opportunity but he appears to me to be playing kingmaker in the GOP primaries in helping take down Newt Gingrich in Florida as well as Ron Paul and more recently Rick Santorum.
The Drudge Report for all of its prowess is as susceptible to bias and creating bias as is any traditional media outlet or reporter. Unfortunately many of Drudge’s readers can’t see that and as such what is highlighted on the Drudge Report often ends up repeated all over the media, especially the conservative “new” media even if the headline is a sensationalized distortion or outright falsehood propagated by another news site.
So I will be adding a tab at the top of this page called The Drudge Distort and when I notice something terribly distorted I will post a short note about it with the link and any other supporting articles.