Nobody, save his family, will remember Frank Rich, a callow man who once reviewed theater for The New York Times and now writes naive and bitter op-ed pieces every other Saturday for the sickly daily.
On Dec. 4, Rich had great sport with the recent cancellation of Drudge's Fox News Channel television show, exulting in how little attention it received. He wrote: "Mr. Drudge is the fedora-wearing grandstander whom many, I included, once feared as the Devil of journalism incarnate." Why is that, Mr. Rich? Because Drudge "hijacked scoops" from your friends and "boasted about his lack of education and his contempt for professional standards"? It's true that Drudge is a misfit in journalistic circles in New York and Washington, DC, and probably hasn't the manners to engage in cocktail conversation with the likes of Maureen Dowd, Richard Cohen and Don Imus.
Rich makes the ridiculous case that Drudge's website spurred more "respectable" news organizations to chuck their genteel rule book and live by rumor and innuendo. He claims that if it weren't for Drudge, the obsessive coverage of John F. Kennedy Jr.'s disappearance and death and the Columbine tragedy wouldn't have happened. He doesn't explain the absurd waste of pre-Drudge television airtime on say, the wedding of Charles and Diana or the O.J. Simpson car chase and subsequent murder trial.
Rich gives the impression that The Drudge Report is a compendium of lies, malicious gossip and hearsay. While it's true that Drudge made a costly mistake in publishing an apparently false story about White House shill Sidney Blumenthal (which he immediately retracted), prompting a $30 million lawsuit, since then he hasn't erred in such a grand manner. Drudge learned from that unfortunate experience, a necessary slap in the face that every new enterprise undergoes?and needs?in its development. The Times columnist also says that Drudge's "most cherished post-Monica scoop, an alleged Bill Clinton love child, defied his strenuous efforts to make it fly..." That's false: Drudge was simply reporting on his website the investigations of weekly newspapers and the progress their reporters were making. Besides, it's not as if it was such a far-fetched story to begin with.
Drudge was a flash in the pan, Rich asserts, because the consolidation of media has nullified the upstart's proclamation that because of the Internet "every citizen can be a reporter, can take on the powers that be." He goes on to say: "The liveliest independent journalism sites spawned by the Web, such as Salon and Feed, are not so much primary news sources as havens for sharp commentary..." So not only has Rich misjudged the significance of Drudge, he also displays a lack of taste.
It's precisely because of pompous, egotistical and atrociously uninformed "professionals" like Frank Rich that a door was opened for an entrepreneur like Matt Drudge. If the Timesman really thinks Drudge's impact has been stilled, he might ask his colleagues how many times they click on The Drudge Report each day.
No doubt he's afraid to find out the answer.