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By: Bob Momenteller

Things have been a little slow lately for the 32 year old ex-store clerk turned journalist. After stealing Newsweek's Monicagate story two years ago, exclusive headlines are harder to come by. The Chief alternative news source has bluffed millions into believing that the Drudge Report is all you need to know. Walter Winchell stylized reporting with a name to fame is an image that drives Matt Drudge relentlessly for the story, regardless of who may have written it.

Anyone who follows the Drudge Report for any length of time soon realizes that most of what Drudge reports is at the expense of someone else's shoe leather. More often than not, an apocalyptic headline leads to little more than tomorrow's front-page at the Washington Post, Washington Times, Los Angeles Times, or NY Times. Gee....hope I didn't miss anybody. While paying a few low life insiders to scoop what is being spewed on the printing press, Matt Drudge walks away as the internet hero who broke the story six hours before it hit the street. Such corporate espionage is welcomed by dozens of news outlets and internet news junkies who will often credit Drudge via the news source (sometimes they just give Drudge all the credit....imagine that!) involved. This amazing feat would have turned E.F. Hutton green with envy...."When we talk, people listen".

Now comes an alternative news source known as the Palmetto Insider . The Insider is an off shoot of the Palmetto Journal, a Columbia South Carolina website. The Palmetto Insider, written by internet journalist Andy Jackson, broke the story Thursday morning February 3, 2000 of underage drinking at the McCain shindig. The McCain event took place at the Greenville-Spartanburg International airport early Wednesday morning following Tuesday night's New Hampshire primary victory. McCain scheduled a late night (early morning) rally where hundreds of young people had gathered. Apparently, beer was the free beverage of the day and according to the Palmetto Insider, some of the participants were "falling down drunk". Further, several minors were intoxicated according to Jackson's report.

This would have been a rather obscure and unknown report to few until Thursday night when Matt Drudge got a hold of it. Like us, Drudge scours the internet  geographically for anything newsworthy coming from pinpointed hot spots. Obviously, South Carolina would be on any good reporter's menu. We have several computer banks set up at the Zone, monitoring web traffic and news feeds for our site. One computer would have found its way to the garbage until Chris Baker (roving reporter) suggested we keep it hooked up 24/7 on the Drudge website. Hell, I don't even have to hit the refresh button anymore, after Drudge figured out how to put a meta refresh tag into the html. Now, every 4 minutes that trusted old 486 re-loads itself. Most of Drudge's morning screamers are uploaded to his site sometime between 10:00 PM. CST and 1:00 am. CST weekdays.   He has a two hour advantage over us and three hours on the East coast. Real handy for stealing those late night news scoops. Weekends are much easier as the newsrooms are void of any hierarchy and Sunday's editions are just a phone call away on Saturday.

It was Thursday night at approximately 11:10 PM. when I was updating the Zone with the latest when I looked over at the other monitor and noticed a 36 font headline on the Drudge report. Well...I just had to see what this was going to amount to... "UNDER AGE DRINKING AT McCAIN EVENT". After waiting for what seemed like an eternity, I finally was delivered to the above story at the Palmetto Insider. Bear in mind that over 600,00 of the one million plus hits that Drudge attests to, are from the same people accessing his site at various times throughout the day, excluding re-loads. Like me, thousands of political junkies wait with baited breath around this time of the evening for the News God to speak. So, it was by no accident that the Drudge link brought the Insider's server to a crawl. Maybe too slow for Drudge......

Around an hour or so later I noticed that a new headline appeared on the Drudge Report. This one was really clever, "MCDRUNK: KIDS BOOZE OUT AT MCCAIN RALLY". Gee....is this another story about this beer fest, I wondered. Nope, same story, only now it was Drudge's own story on his site with a few adlibs of his own. I read it over and over again looking for at least a by-line of credit to the Insider. There was none to be found and no link to their site. Thinking that I might have over caffeined myself, I checked to see if Free Republic had posted the article http://www.freerepublic.com/forum/a389a631f1928.htm. Sure enough, there it is, posted from the Drudge report with credit to the Palmetto Insider. I wasn't dreaming! Oh my....Matt Drudge wouldn't steal someone else's work and put his name on it, would he? Just to double check my sanity, I looked to see if any further posts of this story could be found. Again, my suspicions were confirmed.   Matt Drudge's plagiarized version  http://www.freerepublic.com/forum/a389a7a00286d.htm shows up on Free Republic about an hour and a half after the first post.

I sent two of our reporters to scour the news agencies on Friday to find out if there was any other source for this story. None was to be found. I then contacted Jeff Quinton, Editor/Publisher of the Palmetto Journal and advised him of our findings. Jeff has issued a press release to ensure that their role in breaking this national story is preserved. We also contacted Matt Drudge and advised him of this impending article for any comments. He has refused to respond. Additionally, when Drudge got wind of what we were doing, he added two lengthy addendums to his original (stolen) article using UN-named e-mails as the source late Friday. Had to give the article more credibility, I suppose.

Any real exclusive news stories by Matt Drudge can be counted on one hand over the last two years. Being part of the alternative news media, we have become increasingly alarmed by the yellow journalism, 'I got a hunch', and tabloid style of reporting that has become an accepted Drudge standard among the internet community. We have written several articles over the last year expressing our concern in his style of reporting. Most recently, we wrote about the destruction of conservative credibility in our article "Operation Story Plant", where we pointed out the bogus story of Hillary's divorce and Drudge's willingness to feed his ego and the National Enquirer coffers with another sensationalized headline. Now we have a blatant example of plagiarism to further the career of Matt Drudge at the expense of the Palmetto Insider. Even more damning than this, Drudge was credited with the story from hundreds of radio talk shows including Rush Limbaugh.  Like us, the Palmetto Insider is another alternative news source. We certainly do not need people like Matt Drudge and his poor journalistic standards on our side.

We put our entire organization on the line by writing this story. We stand by it and think that our readers have a right to know. 

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Published in the February 5, 2000 issue of  Ether Zone. Copyright 2000 Ether Zone  (http://etherzone.com). Reposting permitted with this message intact.

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