Matt Drudge: The Man Who Controls the News

Chris Field
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Posted: Nov 10, 2010 10:44 AM
Our November cover story is all about the man behind the Drudge Report -- Matt Drudge.

Who is he?

Where did he come from?

What makes him tick?

And how did he create a website that has changed the way the entire world consumes news?

Drudge has completely altered how the news media business works. His site dictates tomorrow's headlines, the direction of talk radio, the goals of today's newsrooms, the efforts of political campaigns and what the cable and network news talking heads will be covering.

Here's just a taste of the in-depth profile of the Internet's most influential news man.



What’s the most influential website in the world?

Armed with only a laptop and an idea, Matt Drudge may never have initially set out to claim this title, but as his DrudgeReport.com audience has grown over the years, so too has his influence on the media, politics and the nation’s public discourse.

Drudge has arguably become the single-most powerful journalist in the world, drawing millions to his simplistic online news site every day.

Love him or hate him, Matt Drudge has permanently changed the face of journalism. … Professionals in the news media are keenly aware of the power of the Drudge Report, and the same journalists who once denounced him now clandestinely lobby for his attention. Drudge has jokingly referred to the process as “kissing the ring,” but journalists know that getting linked on Drudge can unleash a tidal wave of public mentions and e-mails. …

“Obviously, for some journalists, there’s a lot of irony that Matt Drudge was a black-hat villain, and now a lot of those same journalists realize that getting a link on his website is crucial to their stories getting wider attention,” says Jim Brady, executive editor of WashigntonPost.com. “That’s the way the web works. We’re all trying to make sure our journalism is discovered.” …

Matt Drudge has arguably done more to empower today’s news consumer than anyone else. Drudge has established a success model for individuals to be their own critic, reporter or comic. He has dismissed the model of traditional journalism and the role of editors deciding what is right and wrong for readers. As Drudge has said in the past, “We are all newsmen now.” ...

So how did this reclusive 44-year-old climb to the top of the world’s online media market? For Drudge, it’s all about timing. ...

He may have one of the most famous names in the world, but Matt Drudge is one of the most unknown well-known newsmakers of today.

Drudge grew up an only child in Takoma Park, Md., a suburb on the outskirts of Washington, D.C. As a young kid, Drudge describes himself as an infamous underachiever who received terrible grades in school. In his 2000 memoir, “Drudge Manifesto,” he describes how he “failed Bar Mitzvah” and graduated 341st out of a class of 355 from Northwood High School in 1984, equipping himself with what he considered a “more than adequate curriculum vitae for a post at 7-Eleven.”

From an early age, however, Drudge found a real passion in the news. Aimlessly wandering around the streets of the nation’s capital as a young teen, Drudge recounts how he was fascinated by a town that runs on news. “Every time, it seemed, I’d end up at the Washington Post newsroom on 15th [Street],” he wrote. “I’d look up longingly, knowing I’d never get in.”

Long before his penchant for breaking news bulletins reached billions, Drudge’s reach extended only as far as his arm could throw. “Each day after junior high school, I would load up the cart and hit the sidewalks. Newspaperboy Drudge.”

“Newspaperboy Drudge” didn’t always get to every house on his route, however. Instead, he would stop about a block from his house to park on a bench and thumb through the day’s newspapers. “On the bench, I would play editor,” he wrote in “Drudge Manifesto.” “I noticed how their lead story was not really the lead story. How the hottest news was buried on the inside pages and the best reporting was riding at the end of the copy when it should have been at the beginning.”

“I’d rewrite my own headlines for an audience of one,” he said. …

From D.C., Drudge headed west to Hollywood—the intersection of media and celebrity—and settled into a gift-shop clerk job at CBS Studios. But curiosity of the industry quickly began to shape one of Drudge’s most potent news-making devices: snooping. … His major break, he says, came when he discovered the trashcans in the Television City Xerox room. …

Drudge says he felt he was on the verge of a breakthrough, but his father was convinced he was stalled. In an attempt to jump-start his son’s career, Drudge ironically recalls that his father “dragged” him to a strip mall to buy his first computer.

“Oh, yeah,” he challenged sarcastically. “What am I gonna do with that?”

Get the full scoop about Matt Drudge -- who he is and how he does what he does -- in the November issue of Townhall Magazine. Subscribe today.