Monday, May 16, 2011

News in the Drudge Age

An editor, goes an old journalism bromide, separates wheat from chaff and prints the chaff.

The biggest chaff-maker on the Internet, according to a new study, is Matt Drudge who still outdoes Facebook and Twitter in telling millions what they should know.

“He can look into a huge stream of news,” says an admirer, “find the hot story and put an irresistible headline on it.”

This Internet skill recalls Henry Luce, who founded Time Magazine in the last century to save readers from being confused by “the million little chaoses of raw news” and give them a Voice from Above to explain what it all means.

From Luce to Drudge, American journalism has gone downhill from fake omniscience to injecting a 24/7 stream of "news" on steroids into the public bloodstream.
Luce, like Drudge, pursued his own political agenda but had to recognize some bounds in pushing it.

“Isn’t good editing,” he once asked me, “figuring out what’s going to happen and then advocating it before it does?”

I wish I could report that there was a mischievous gleam in his eye when he said it, but there wasn’t.

What Luce called the American century has now morphed into an age of division and mistrust, and it seems somehow fitting that a man who filled our heads with fantasies of superiority and safety has been replaced by one who peddles the cheapest fears and suspicions.

News is still the biggest loser in all this.

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