Drudge Becomes Media Scapegoat

Or, How Bloggers Will Save Journalism: Redux

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Drudge is turning out to be a sacrificial lamb in the name of journalistic integrity, sparking not only a debate about how cozy British journalists are with the British government, but also illustrating how powerful a citizen journalist, or blogger, can be.

Or "link journalist" I suppose, which is an interesting side-development.

If you’ve missed the couple-thousand reports, Drudge is being credited with blowing Prince Harry’s cover in Afghanistan, who was on track toward Arthurian legend status by single-handedly taking out 30 Taliban. (Actually, he organized the air strikes that took out 30 Taliban). Legend-building aside, everyone gives him the proper respect (at least) for serving his country in battle.

Drudge Report Logo Drudge Report Logo
(Photo Credit: Drudge Report)

Drudge broke the news of where Harry was stationed. Sort of. He’s being blamed for it anyway, considering the vast reach of his link blog in the United States. But really, he was relaying information published in both Aussie women’s mag "New Idea" two weeks ago, and in German news source "Bild" yesterday.

The interesting thing about that is neither of these publications appeared aware of a UK-wide embargo the press agreed to in order to protect Harry’s royal behind on behalf of the British government. Another interesting thing about that is while "Bild’s" article is still up on the Web, "New Idea’s" search links, one of which points out Harry’s whereabouts in Afghanistan and another one – published in November – reporting Harry would not serve in Iraq, redirect to a generic biography.

The editor of "New Idea" says the magazine was unaware of the 10-week embargo UK journalists had thus far honored. The end result: Harry was sent home where it’s safe. Drudge, "New Idea," and "Bild," then, regardless of the debate that is now ensuing about responsible reporting and government-press collusion, sort of did him a favor. My bet is there’s a lot of troops who’d like to go home, also.

Here too, you have those fundamental differences between Britain and the US that have gone back a couple of centuries. One involves the traditional American rejection of nobility by birthright and special treatment (please, no Bush/National Guard jabs; I’m talking about nationally-held mythos and the supposed hegemony pushed by every American textbook and talk radio host), but that’s another topic.  The other fundamental difference is the relationship between the press and the government.

Assuming there’s not, in the 21st century, a massive collusion between the mainstream press, their corporate owners, and government spooks (and there’s every bit of evidence there may be, fellow conspiracy theorists), the ideals established by the US Constitution provide a distinct separation between the government and the press. It’s a free-speech and government accountability thing.

How can a watchdog hold the government accountable if the watchdog obeys when it’s told to heel? 

I won’t say that the American press doesn’t sit on things for various reasons. Most often, "sitting" is the result of a relationship built between the press and PR firms, who ask the press to honor embargoes. Every journalist knows he is not legally bound to an embargo, but honors them anyway most of the time in order to keep a good relationship with those who have access to information.

Similar deals are often struck with politicians or government employees, too: If you keep this bit of information to yourself, we’ll give you better information. Though you’d be hard-pressed to prove that. It’s a pretty intricate dance of give-and-take.

Add to that already tenuous relationship, pressures from corporate owners to produce thrice as much news in a given time-period, and a public relations field that employs more PR reps than there are journalists (remember, it’s all about controlling the message), and you’ve got a sophisticated, self-regulating press corps. 

So I’m not saying that embargoes have no place in journalism, or that they don’t happen in American journalism. I’m also not saying that British journalists should have run out and reported Harry’s whereabouts (which isn’t too far off from CNN being on the beach when US troops got there in Desert Storm). But at the same time, it raises questions about just how cozy the British press is with the British government, and how much they don’t report in order to maintain their relationships.

The same question, I guess, goes to the American press.

But as far as Drudge goes, he makes a pretty convenient person to point fingers at when the jig is up, doesn’t he? Whether or not you ascribe to the validity of "link journalism" or blogging, Drudge illustrated the power of information gathering and dissemination while pressing a much-needed debate on ethics and proper relationships.

In times of information overload and information manipulation, it’s refreshing to think there are still good-old-fashioned whistle-blowers out there. I’ve said it before: Bloggers will save journalism, and this is just another reason why. 

Drudge Becomes Media Scapegoat
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  • Chris

    Where the hell is your author’s pic?

  • http://www.michaeltyler.co.uk mas

    Britain had a fully blown contingency plan when this became the ‘truth’.

    That contingency plan has now swung into action.

    Put it down to German persuit of the British after the downfall of the Holy Roman Empire, Aussie outlandishness and the American persuit to make money that this came out in the first place.



  • Guest

    Shame on Drudge!! Thanks to its report it put Prince Harry and his comrades in danger of losing their lives, and for no apparent redeeming reason. I’m aware of the high mindedness of freedom of the press. It’d be nice if such high mindedness were balanced with common sense and decency. Properties those guys are clearly lacking.

  • Guest

    zzzzzzzzzzzzzz. I thought you bloggers were prone to short and to the point posts


    • Jason Lee Miller

      If I were a blogger, that might be true. Cheers.

  • Mike

    Our press has the same cozy relationships with power.   They don’t mention that Bush is in Iraq until after he is returning.  They don’t write about John McCain’s son’s Iraq service.   The list is long about what they don’t report, including most name of sources.  

    Prince Harry is a big pussy.  Using Afghanistan as his "let’s play war"  playground.   Everyone knows he wasn’t going into the bush on missions or anything.  We’ve got pictures of him and his Gurka body guards playing with a motorcycle.  He needlessly endangered the lives of his fellow soldiers.   It’s pretty easy to show up to a war, where you know you have extra protection,  and will not have to do the real work of soldiering.  Worse than a media that omits to report on Prince Harry’s service, is a media that now shovels the bullshit about what a hero he is.   Most American grunts are on their third year, not third week. 

  • Guest

    The ‘story behind the story’ is entirely ridiculous in this case. The fact that the English tabloid media whores agreed to hold off on the ‘Prince Harry Goes to War’ story (in exchange for sensationally glorified ‘inside scoops’ to be released after the Royals gave the ‘OK’) is inconsequential.

    Drudge reports the latest news (in abridged form) via credible links on his site and refuses to give the influential, prominent or powerful a pass when he reports a scoop. Millions go to his site every day as an alternative to other news sites for this very reason.

    The story was true. He was doing his job.

  • Righteous Indignation

    Drudge should "out" himself, and see where the chips fall.

  • Guest

    Several major US news corporations also kept the matter secret. It would be in the US and the UK’s interest to put a positive spin on this as both countries are desparate to get more support from other Western countries.

    I think it is perfectly right to discuss Bush’s National Guard efforts and the fact that unlike Bush, Clinton and most US kids from richer families, at least the Prince went.

  • Guest

    I’m glad the United States still thinks its the media’s job to play Big Brother on issues of National – and International – Security.

  • http://www.bikebook.net Guest

    Wouldn’t such a great "link journalist" have dug around a bit to find out that they were trying not to blow Harry’s cover so they wouldn’t endanger the lives of his fellow soldiers in his battalion, help spawn a kidnapping plot, etc.? That’s who they were protecting.

    (And remember they tortured John McCain for high military intelligence they thought he knew as the son of an admiral.)

    It makes good sense to have kept Harry under cover and even the greatest news outlets in history (in open democracies) have done this occasionally.

    Drudge’s posting was a careless move by a second rate investigative journalist too lazy to investigate his links before "pasting" them on to his overrated links page.

    No, we don’t need Big Brother, but we also don’t need Big Idiots.

    • Michael

      You’ve made very good points. Drudge is simply a parasitic "link journalist" who is isn’t accountable to anyone. Because of that, he’s irresponsible and careless. He’s a joke. And those who think bloggers will save journalism are completely out of the water. There is no accountability with bloggers. It is strictly opinion seldom backed by facts.

      While I don’t believe the media should be in bed with the government, there are times when exceptions have to be made. Drudge simply endangered the lives of many men and women. Why? Because he doesn’t care. Another post asked if he would have done the same thing if a friend or relative would be place in harm’s way. I wonder what Drudge’s answer would be?

  • Lefty

    Giving away troop locations in a war zone, particularly because of who they are related to, falls short of my definition of journalism.

  • Guest

    An interesting question: Would Drudge disclose the whereabouts of a friend or relative of his own if, in doing so, he knew he was increasing the likelihood that the person would be killed? Where would his principlles be then? His action is indefensible. He produced this story only for his own glory not, in even the slightest degree, the public interest.

    And don’t get me started with odious comparisons between the US and British media. Most American newspapers have no real idea of what journalism is about, filling their pages with endless streams of guff from AP, and sitting cozily in the pockets of lobbyists and business people.

    Shame on you for using this issue as a lever for serving your own ego.

  • Guest

    May I just read the articles without posting a comment? This page pops up every time and prevents my reading of any article. 

  • http://lakesuperiornews.com Guest

    What was the goal of the Drudge story, To put the prince and his mate at risk,  Help the Taliban kill the prince and this fellow soldiers,  No Drudge did not care about them.  Drudge was looking to promote Drudge at the expense of the lives of British soldiers. and they were sucessful, even you got sucked in to promote Drudge.  That is not jouralism, it is raw self promotion at the expense of someone else. 

  • Guest

    Jason I think you chose the wrong individual and the wrong topic to promote and defend the value of bloggers. I agree with those who see the ‘outing’ of Prince Harry as unthinking and irresponsible. It would appear that Drudge posted the info just because he could. He is accountable to no one except himself and clearly his values and sense of social responsibility are not a sound and principled point of reference. Shame on him!

  • Dolphinator

    The author of this article is most definitely not a qualified journalist.  They are a biased, opinion imposing,  short thinking propagandist at best.

    This was not a matter of nobility vs common person.  The Prince did not ask for special protection, he did not place himself first.  He was participating as any other soldier – going after the bad guys and protecting a country that had been brutalized by the bad guys.  He was quite successful in his endeavors. 

    Reporting the Prince’s actions and whereabouts placed not only him, but his troops and others at far more risk than they already were in.   If the class war baiters on these blogs do not see that – they need to get their heads out of the pity party, stop drinking the KOOLAID, grow a brain and grow a life.

    It was not Drudge or the other sites who were the betrayer.

    The betrayer consists of those who could not hold the secret and had to blab to others – without the note of caution.  They are the ones who knew the information was to be kept quiet and yet they still leaked the information outside of the circle of confidence.  Once information gets out – it is going to be reported.  Drudge was not the first to report the event.  All they did was report information that was fact based.  Drudge was not privy to the embargo.

    When the press was considered a silent 4th leg to the American Administrative structure – it was at a time when the press had dignity, honor and they reported fairly without bias.  That day has long gone.  The press is no more than tabloid writers – gossip mongers who thrive on sensationalism. 

    The Press does NOT have the almighty right to access and report everything that occurs in our nation and the world.  There are events that warrant silence.  Events that – if known – would cause harm to others, including the innocent. 

    At one time, the press was privy to inside information.  Tabloid writers were not privy to the inside information.  There was a reason for this – the press respected themselves and others.  Yes, they wanted the big story and they wanted to be the ones who broke the story.  They also did not want to be the cause of harm nor did they want to discredit another falsely. They prided themselves on not being tabloid writers. 

    The press is supposed to report facts – without spin, without bias.  The press is also supposed to respect privacy, security and accuracy.  

    The press has taken a gift , has abused that gift and has misused it for nothing more than exploitation.  They should be renamed to that what they are: Tabloid writers.

    The press has no dignity, no honor nor do they have skill at reporting events.  They are good at poor grammar, poor spelling, poor to zero facts. inept research, bias and sensationalist stories.

    It is sad that our world has become a world of little old man/woman spinsters who thrive on sensationalistic gossip.  It is sad that people have allowed the media to shape their lives such that they live voyeuristically through the misfortune of others.



  • http://catholicbook.com mascmen7

    Drudge is as irresponsible as the New York Times which whenever it can reveals military secrets putting our nation and our allies at risk. Drudge did not seem to care he was putting a 23 year old at risk of being killed. I wonder if he has any children.

    • http://www.supremecenterhosting.com Supreme

      That’s a ridiculous statement to make. Did you not read this article??

      “… he [Drudge] was relaying information published in both Aussie women’s mag “New Idea” two weeks ago, and in German news source “Bild.””

      Since when is a persons military deployment a military secret? If anyone is at fault, its the “Royal Family” because they could have deployed him to area’s where there was no threat… places where most countries who have a military presence in Afghanistan send their troops.

  • Guest

    Anti war Demonstrations are  a few thousand but make it look like 1 million by the Anti War American Media. With this, after every News Coverage 40% more troops are killed in Iraq. I hope they are proud? The Drudge report is right wing so of course attack it. The Prince was protected and the Media made it sound like he was on the front lines going door to door. My hero? I think we play to many video games and America has lost reality as the people that the fanatic Muslims want to kill are the very ones that are against this war.


    • http://www.bikebook.net Guest


    • Guest

      Good Lord, you’re an idiot.

      You have obviously drunk the conservative kool-Aid and believe everything your vaunted leaders tell you, and that includes putting a slime bag like Drudge on a pedestal. Yeah, riiight-the ‘Liberal bias in media". Uh huh. With the likes of Rupert Murdoch owning a vast majority of myriad news-outlets on the planet your point is erroneous and just plain naive.

      Oh. BTW if Drudge is so ‘om the pulse’, how is it he didn’t know there were no WMDs in Iraq years ago like the anti-war establishment did? And have you ever seen the number of people at the pre-Iraq war rallies? And do you really know anyone who has served?

      Go back to your bedroom you chicken hawk. Talk to me after a tour.

      A real vet


  • http://www.thebibleistheotherside.org twoedgesword

    Originally a British newspaper equal to that of Star magazine broke the story and then two other outlets from other countries took the leak and ran with it. I seen one of the postings in the Drudge Retort, before it made news on the Drudge Report. Since there were small media outlets noted for gossip, the news didn’t travel fast and Harry was able to stay in combat for awhile. However, I suspect Drudge thought the news was going to break in the mainstream, and decided to reveal the Prince’s location.

    The Drudge Report being as big as it is, caused the British government to confirm is whereabouts. And thus, end Prince Harry’s combat missions because the media overall can’t keep their big mouths shut even with human lives on the line!

  • http://www.mainstreamlibertarian.com Eric Dondero

    Michelle Malkin’s HotAir.com is much better than Drudge anyway.  I predict it will soon take over the top spot, cause it’s got mostly videos.  Plus, it’s constantly updated. Drudge seems to be only once a day.  Good stuff.  But still kind of stale by the evening. 

    HotAir.com seems to be the perfect crossroads of libertarians and conservatives.

    Eric Dondero, Publisher, MainstreamLibertarian.com


  • Guest

    A lot of comment I’ve read says ‘so what’ about revealing the whereabouts of Prince Harry – big deal in effect.


    What if somebody in your country that was really important to you was put into the same situation, perhaps Pres Bush (perhaps not), but you get the idea.

    Journalistic freedom is important, essential, but this should not be allowed to be a shield for irresponsibility as with great power comes great responsibility or power corrupts….

    Drugde becoming a scapegoat, seems to be quite satisfying really!

  • Guest

    What I take from all this is a huge amount of respect for Harry and the royals.  the last thing any member of the royal family has to do is to expose themselves to a great deal of danger. 

    And yet Harry felt a duty, a responsiblity and put himself in danger.

    The point for me is he had a choice and make a self-sacrificing one.

    I don’t really see the children of our top leadership making similar selfless acts.

  • Terry

    In times past, Drudge would have been charged with High Treason and executed for this stunt.

    Revealing anything about friendly troops, their strength, position or arms situation in time of war would qualify Drudge for a place in front of a firing squad.

    Oh for the good old days!


  • http://www.encyclopedia.com/ find articles


    Great stuff. Loved the article and enjoyed reading about the impact of the  blogosphere from your point of view.

  • Guest
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