Scoops Ahoy!

Psst. Want to know today what's going to be in The Washington Post tomorrow? Check out the Drudge Report, available on the Internet.

It's a tip sheet put out by Matt Drudge, a 30-year-old media junkie based in Hollywood whose dispatch is rapidly becoming a must-read in the capital's power corridors--and a headache for The Post and other news organizations struggling to combat this sort of cyberincursion.

Matt Drudge--yes, that is his real name--is a Takoma Park (Md.) native who has no other experience in journalism and who roundly boasts of the good fortune of having done so poorly in high school that his mind was spared the ravages of higher education. "Education doesn't make the man," Drudge said in a recent interview in which he ticked off the names of famous scribes (Don Hewitt of CBS's 60 Minutes, for one) who skipped college.

Maybe he can't recite Beowulf, but Drudge has a knack for scooping big news organizations on their own stories--a big reason (besides tattletale reports on the action on Hollywood's back lots) for the growing popularity of the Drudge Report, which first appeared in March 1995.

Consider this feat. The May 7 Post published a page-one story by staff writers Brian Duffy and Susan Schmidt reporting that FBI director Louis J. Freeh had advised Attorney General Janet Reno to appoint an independent counsel to investigate the role of the White House in the Democratic Party's fund-raising practices in the 1996 presidential campaign.

That was a big story. Most Post readers saw it on the morning of May 7. Purchasers of the paper's early "bulldog" edition, available at The Post's headquarters on 15th Street, could have scanned the story at about 10 P.M. on May 6, also about the time the piece appeared on-line on the Post's World Wide Web site.

But E-mail subscribers to the Drudge Report were flashed a one-paragraph preview of The Post's Freeh scoop at 8:22 P.M. Drudge said he learned of the piece 30 minutes earlier--and was "very sure that a story had been written and edited and was going to be on the front page."

And how did he know all this? Drudge wouldn't reveal his source in this particular episode, but he said his tips generally come via E-mail from writers, at The Post and other publications, seeking advance "publicity" for their scoops. "It's just like having an early review of the movie--I'm early-reviewing the newspapers," he said.

Asked about Drudge's assertion that he's fed previews of news stories, Post managing editor Robert Kaiser said: "We just never do it." Told that Drudge boasted of having inside sources who regularly leak him Post stories, Kaiser replied: "Well, they shouldn't."

Reporters Duffy and Schmidt both said, adamantly, that they had given nothing to Drudge. "I found it very disturbing," Duffy said of Drudge's advance on the Freeh piece. "The reporters at The Washington Post don't work as hard as they do for someone to pilfer our stuff."

Could Drudge be picking advances off the news wires? Perhaps on occasion, but in the case of the Freeh story, the Los Angeles Times-Washington Post news service sent the piece to its subscribers (mostly newspapers) at 8:36 P.M. on May 6--14 minutes after Drudge's E-mail flash.

Pressed on his methods, Drudge sent this bulletin via E-mail: "I better not talk anymore about how I am getting Washington Post stories before they hit the papers or wires. It sounds like you are about to blow my cover--and I need to feed my cat--who will only eat Fancy Feast it seems." (And, in fact, a concerned Kaiser is looking into Drudge's access to Post pieces.)

Drudge works out of a small apartment on Hollywood Boulevard. He moved to Los Angeles in the 1980s and snagged an entry-level job in a CBS gift shop. He became an Internet junkie after his dad, a social worker for the Maryland state government, bought him a computer. The Drudge Report is all-consuming--he has no staff and is often dashing out the door to grab the freshest tabloids off the newsstand. "Both my parents don't understand the full breadth of what I'm doing," he said.

A self-described "conservative" and "Clinton crazie," Drudge said he was having fun and not expecting to get rich. That's a good thing. Anybody with a Net hookup can receive the Drudge Report for free--you simply ask Drudge to put you on his E-mail subscription list. Subscribers are sent periodic news (or gossip) flashes "when circumstances warrant," as Drudge puts it. The report is currently sent to some 51,000 E-mail subscribers. Drudge periodically conducts pledge drives, and he said he has received "some checks from top journalists in the country" (but wouldn't provide any names). Also, the Drudge Report is now syndicated on the Web site of Wired magazine.

The pre-publication leaks aren't Drudge's sole fare. His E-mail report features his own irreverent, chatterbox commentary on Washington and Hollywood, with a dose of Manhattan.

He also offers a World Wide Web site ( that provides access to his E-mail writings as well as links to on-line reports of news wire services, newspapers, magazines and columnists.

On May 6, the Web site led with a report of White House chief of staff Erskine B. Bowles's plans to leave the White House--a bulletin linked to that day's already-published Boston Globe Bowles scoop by reporters Brian McGrory and Ann Scales. "The whole thing I'm doing is making these media people into stars," Drudge said.

Not that he's spotlight-averse. Drudge attended the recent White House correspondents' dinner in Washington--and in a brief stay in town, he managed to visit the Palm, the Jockey Club and the Jefferson Hotel.

His airfare was paid by Microsoft Corp., bankroller of on-line magazine Slate. Drudge declined to say whether he was talking about a deal with the Michael Kinsley-edited publication--but don't be surprised if one happens.

Meanwhile, the leaks--and the mystery of how Drudge gets them--continue. On a recent Friday, the Drudge Report contained an advance of a scheduled Sunday feature by Los Angeles Times reporter James Bates on tie-ins between movies and the fast-food industry. The LAT-Washington Post news service sent that story to its subscribers on Thursday at 3:12 P.M. But Drudge talked about the forthcoming piece in detail in a phone conversation with this reporter on Wednesday at noon.

Bates, in an interview, said he got a midweek call from Drudge, who wanted to know if the feature would run on Sunday, but he said he referred Drudge to editors. So how did Drudge get an advance? "I didn't give it to him," Bates said. Matt Drudge: Scooping the scoopers.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.