CILLIZZA HEARTS DRUDGE…. I tend to read the Washington Post‘s Chris Cillizza regularly, and he frequently offers some pretty reliable reporting, but it’s items like these that I find frustrating.

Loyal Fix readers know that we follow the movements of one Matt Drudge — and his eponymous Web site — quite closely.

Why? Because, despite any number of critics across the media sphere, Drudge’s site remains a powerhouse of political news influence — driving and influencing daily coverage.

If you doubt that statement, go back and trace where the hubbub over the handshake between Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez and President Obama began. Or where the controversy around Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano’s comments about radical right wing groups started.

As a self-proclaimed Drudgeologist, we were very interested to read….

Look, I get the argument. Major traditional news outlets keep hitting refresh at Drudge’s site, effectively using him as an assignment editor. For some political reporters, including Cillizza, the idea is to keep reading Drudge so you know what the cool kids are going to be talking about. And how do you know? Because they’re all reading Drudge, too.

The frustrating part, of course, is that Cillizza doesn’t seem to appreciate the circular, self-fulfilling nature of the argument. Drudge, the theory goes, is a “powerhouse.” Why? Because the powerful (political reporters and producers with large audiences) read his site and follow his lead. This, in turn, gives Drudge more power, which makes more political reporters read his site and follow his lead. Lather, rinse, repeat.

But this is an awful way to do political journalism. Consider the examples Cillizza provides. Was there anything remotely shocking about two heads of state shaking hands at an international gathering? Of course not, but Drudge said it was a big deal and the sheep followed. Was there anything at all unusual about domestic security officials raising concerns about domestic terrorism at the hands of potentially violent extremists? Not in the slightest, but Drudge said it was important, and that’s what mattered.

Drudge “drives and influences daily coverage” because the political establishment says so. That’s just crazy.

Here’s a radical idea for Drudgeologists: the next time he says a story is important, ask yourself why it’s important. If the answer is “because Drudge says so,” perhaps you should consider reading some different websites for a while.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.