"ESZTERHAS BOOK FEATURES TALKING BILL CLINTON PENIS."
-- Drudge Report, June 12, 2000.
Is Matt Drudge a brave new cyberjournalist, blazing a trail into a bold new era of democratic media? Or is he a goofy, Clinton-obsessed geek with a bad hat and the world's worst talk show?
Whatever your opinions about Drudge, one thing is clear: he knows how to grab our attention. Drudge claims 300 million hits on his website in the past year. He lures web surfers in with headlines like "FREAK: CAT BORN WITH TWO FACES," with references to pop culture icons like Madonna and Rosie O'Donnell, and especially with scandalous news involving Bill and Hillary Clinton.
While most of the information in the Drudge Report is in the form of links to establishment news media, he sometimes lands himself in hot water with his scoops, which provides more fodder for his website, as with the recent headline: "LAWSUIT THREATENED AGAINST DRUDGE..."
A recent report from the Pew Research Center for People and the Press showed that younger, better educated Americans are increasingly turning to the Internet for news, while watching less network television news. Given the awful quality of most TV news programs, this trend is not without merit.
But there is a conservative bias to the Internet, as the recent on-line voting experiment by the Arizona Democratic Party brought into public awareness. The wonders of technology come at a price. Working class citizens and the poor have less access and, as in any advertising-driven medium, less clout.
As a news junkie, I visit the Drudge Report often. I suspect many news editors and talk show producers do the same, because what shows up in the Drudge Report often appears in print locally, or as a hot topic in talk radioland.
For web surfers who don't share Matt Drudge's obsession with D.C. sex scandals, two-faced cats, or (at the risk of being redundant) the private lives of Bill and Hillary, is there a comparable website that features breaking news and views of interest to citizens of a more liberal hue? Indeed there is, and I am indebted to my friend Jeff Cohen, Executive Director of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), for the tip.
NewsCenter (www.commondreams.org/) is a non-profit news service providing breaking news and commentary for the progressive community. It hosts a vast array of links to progressive organizations, columnists and independent media. NewsCenter is a superb resource for citizens and fellow media mavens who suspect there is more to Internet news and views than the mind of Matt Drudge might allow.
A review of recent commentary in NewsCenter illustrates a point that Cohen often makes in his lectures: many people are unaware of what progressives stand for. This suggestion contradicts the conventional wisdom of a "liberal media" touted by conservative pundits who have come to dominate our political discourse.
As an example, recall the Contract with America that rose to prominence with Newt Gingrich and the so-called "Republican revolution" of 1994. Who hasn't heard of the Contract with America? It was a staple of political discourse in the mid-nineties. Shoppers could pick it up a copy at their supermarket checkout stand, along with the National Enquirer, Cosmo, and the astrology guides.
Around the same time, progressives developed a program called the "Fairness Agenda," a platform of principles developed by the Institute for Policy Studies and advocated by the Congressional Progressive Caucus. I suspect few readers know of the Fairness Agenda. Would a truly liberal media have failed to promote such a progressive platform of ideas?
All 52 congressional candidates belonging to the Progressive Caucus won reelection to Congress in the 1996 elections. The Fairness Agenda resonated with voters who had the opportunity to learn of it and validate it at the polls.
Similarly, NewsCenter resonates with progressive and independent-minded news consumers. It addresses a wealth of issues that the big-money candidates of both major parties ignore. One of the best-kept secrets on the Web, NewsCenter is destined to find a place among the Internet bookmarks of every informed citizen with a PC.
David L. Winkler's email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org