When James Glassman, of the American Enterprise Institute, wrote after Drudge's speech, "Let a thousand Matt Drudges bloom, and let readers make up their own minds," traditional journalists reacted strongly.
From the moment Matt Drudge, the self-styled Walter Winchell of Internet news, stepped to the microphone at the journalists' mecca of the Washington National Press Club, he was on the attack.
"Clearly," said Drudge, "there is a hunger for unedited information, absent corporate considerations."
As much as other Internet writers have tried to avoid sharing blame with Drudge for lowering journalistic standards, without doubt it was the Drudge Report (www.drudgereport.com) that focused attention on World Wide Web site news.
So, Drudge's very presence became an us-against-them battle with ramifications far beyond the gossip reporter himself.
Michael Kinsley, editor of the on-line publication Slate (www.slate.com), told the Los Angeles Times that Drudge's report that Newsweek was holding up the stow of Monica Lewinsky's alleged relationship with President Clinton "has done for the Internet what the Gulf War did for CNN, and what the Kennedy assassination did for television in general."
Writing in the Columbia Journalism Review, he argued that the Lewinsky stow "surfaced in the wildly irresponsible Internet site of Matt Drudge, a reckless trader in rumor and gossip who makes no pretense of checking on the accuracy of what he reports."
It does not take much imagination, therefore, to foresee a whole line of Drudges claiming protection under Sullivan.
One would think so if the case of Matt Drudge, the America Online columnist, is any example.
If Drudge is correct, and it is hard to see why he is not, what does that say about the deep dark newshole of the Internet?
But if everyone acts like Drudge, what does that say about the legal protection given to reporters, editors and publishers in the famous New York Times-Sullivan case?
Hundreds if not thousands of these sites, however, report information that is news-like, and there are scores of pure news sites like Drudge's.
Manufactured sources (Boston Globe, New Republic), inappropriate sources (CNN), any source (Drudge) certainly make one wonder whether these transgressions could have taken place pre-Sullivan.
The big question is: when the courts are presented with more Net cases like Drudge--or even Drudge's case itself--will they apply Sullivan in rote fashion?