Journalistic Standards in the Matt Drudge Era
Public trust is at the heart of journalism. Such trust is built upon the credibility journalistic efforts. In the past, though mistakes have been made by even the most reputable of news providers, credibility was maintained and public trust in the journalist industry was steady. However, with the Internet taking its first infant steps into the reporting world, concern is being vocalized that public trust in journalism will be damaged by mavericks, such as Matt Drudge, who, without any foundation in reporting seek to tell the entire world every little secret he can dig up. And he’s been wrong.
This paper will examine the debate surrounding online journalism, including a general look at journalistic standards and an account of Matt Drudge’s activities as an Internet investigative reporter. With the pressures of staying current with technology, news services scramble to grab a piece of the Internet “pie,” but struggle to determine what the ethical standards should be and how public trust can be maintained in an environment where anyone with a computer and online capability can be a reporter.
Review of Literature
“Let the future begin.” These words closed Matt Drudge’s introduction during his June 2, 1998, address before the National Press Club. His topic: “Anyone with a modem can report on the world.” Times are changing and “traditional journalism” is finding it difficult to adapt. The Internet as a mass communications vehicle is challenging many accepted norms. Journalistic standards and ethics are among the most debated topics.
Though Matt Drudge is certainly not the only person reporting online news in a method inconsistent with traditional standards, he is the poster child for the argument maintained by many of today’s journalists. In fact, many respected journalists have gone on record discrediting Drudge’s efforts and philosophy regarding online journalism. For example, National Press Club president Doug Harbrecht, before the entire press club assembly in 1998, stated, “Matt, know this…there are many in this hallowed room who do not consider you a journalist.” Harbrecht also likened Drudge to a channel catfish, stating, “He mucks through the hoaxes, conspiracies and half-truths posted online in pursuit of fodder for his website.”
“National media monitors such as Howard Kurtz and Judy Mann denounce Drudge as a ‘Cyberspace vacuum cleaner.’ Michael Kinsley, editor of Microsoft’s online magazine Slate, said Drudge has ‘certainly been a public relations problem for the Internet.’ Steven Brill called Drudge a ‘bust.’” (Miller)
Baltimore Sun Washington correspondent Jules Witcover has referred to him as the “abomination” of the Internet. “I don’t consider him a journalist or a reporter,” said Witcover. “He’s a gossipmonger who offers no sources. He’s more like a magpie.”
These opinions of Drudge seem to be widely held within the traditional...