Drudge still, inexplicably, rules their world

DRUDGE STILL, INEXPLICABLY, RULES THEIR WORLD…. The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza has an odd item today, arguing in support of the notion that the Drudge Report is “the single most influential source for how the presidential campaign is covered in the country.”

In the banner headline spot for most of the day was a picture of entertainer Barbra Streisand touting a Beverly Hills fundraiser for Barack Obama — not exactly the sort of headline that the Illinois senator wants as chum for the cable channels 49 days before the election.

Two other stories never merited attention from Drudge: a claim by a senior aide to John McCain that the Arizona senator had invented the BlackBerry and a statement by McCain surrogate Carly Fiorina that neither McCain nor Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin would be equipped to serve as CEO of a major U.S. company.

As Cillizza describes it, Drudge picks stories to highlight, the media follows Drudge’s lead, and cable channels use his site as a de facto assignment editor. Except in this case, Cillizza probably didn’t pick the best examples to bolster his case — as Greg Sargent explained, the networks didn’t care about the Streisand story at all, and news outlets were all over the Fiorina story.

The Post’s Cillizza added that Drudge has been aggressive in casting the Republican ticket in the most favorable light possible, which Cillizza says is a direct response to the media trying to scrutinize Sarah Palin’s qualifications for national office. Heaven forbid.

Cillizza quotes anonymous Drudge readers praising Drudge for challenging media “bias,” and then cites a Karl Rove acolyte lauding Drudge’s “nose for news.”

Reading Cillizza’s piece, I’m just not sure what the point is. Maybe it’s because I’ve never read or cared about Drudge, but I have no idea what Cillizza is driving at. That Drudge is widely read by television producers? Yes, I suppose that’s true, but we knew that. That Drudge readers think Drudge is really important? Sure, I suppose they do. That Drudge thinks news outlets have a liberal bias? Yes, Drudge apparently does think that, as do countless other conservative bloggers. So?

I wonder if Cillizza is failing to connect the dots — how is it that media outlets are being driven by Drudge, and being skewered by Drudge for their so-called bias, at the same time? In other words, if the cable networks are getting their ideas from Drudge, what is it, exactly, that Drudge is rebelling against? How is he speaking truth to power if he’s helping call the shots in the first place?

There are interesting questions to be considered in this media dynamic, but I can’t help but think Cillizza missed them altogether. Greg Sargent has a better idea, suggesting it might be a good time for “Drudge-ologists” to question whether media figures are wise to “take their cues from a confirmed serial fact-inventor.”

Is this, you know, a bad thing? What does it say about the business? Don’t the same reporters and editors who proclaim Drudge’s influence make editorial decisions to follow him when they do? Isn’t one of the dirty secrets of the profession that reporters and editors on occasion actually tailor their stories to get Drudge links?

If Drudge is going to consume our attention, how about a real discussion of Drudge and what the Drudge phenomenon says about the journalism profession — one that goes beyond the narrow question of how influential he is?

Sounds like a good idea to me.