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.
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.
When Drudge repeated at the National Press Club his claim to have broken the Lewinsky stow, reporters wrote that he had only broken Newsweek magazine's decision to hold off on the stow for further fact checking.
Even in reporting his number of readers at six million for April, Drudge was accused of being inaccurate.
Minus all the inflamed rhetoric, Internet-news consumers need to know how to define the hundreds of Web sites that, like the Drudge Report, combine gossip or opinion on the one hand with hyperlinks to traditional wire services or newspapers on the other.
In the meantime, the Matt Drudge phenomenon continues.
Drudge still faces a $30 million lawsuit filed by a presidential adviser, but now says he wants to lecture college students on journalism.
It does not take much imagination, therefore, to foresee a whole line of Drudges claiming protection under Sullivan.
Drudge reported a "source" told him that White House staffer Sidney Blumenthal "beat his wife.
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?
If Drudge is correct and he is covered by Sullivan, so is everyone else on the Net who acts like--and reports like--Drudge.
She is the author of three books: "America's Women, 400 Years of Dolls, Drudges
, Helpmates and Heroines" (Morrow, 2003), "Scorpion Tongues" (Morrow, 1998) and "The Millennium Book" (Doubleday, 1991) which she co-authored with her husband, Dan Collins.