“The Matt Drudge Primary”

Salon looks into what it calls “The Matt Drudge Primary”:

    As news events go, the “Bomb Iran” episode was surprisingly typical for the 2008 campaign. It resulted from an anonymous leak, most likely from a rival campaign, rather than the shoe-leather reporting of independent journalists. It was, in the lingo of the campaign trail, an “oppo dump,” apparently compiled with the help of one of the vast, secretive propaganda machines housed in each of the major campaigns. In recent months, such invisible releases of information have often dominated the news cycle and have become ubiquitous for reporters covering the candidates. Official e-mails from campaigns regularly arrive in reporter in boxes with subject lines like “n/a,” or “not for attribution.” Unsigned white papers are delivered with damning facts about opponents’ fundraising reports. Information is passed along by senior campaign officials in hushed tones on the telephone, only after the reporter has sworn never to reveal the source.

    Both reporters and the campaigns benefit from this thriving black market of information, as does the public, in many cases, because noteworthy facts about the candidates are widely disseminated. But the growing profusion of campaign-driven stories has also sidelined traditional on-the-ground journalism, while at the same time misleading the public about the true source of information. Though reporters, and blogs like the Drudge Report, take credit for scoops, the news of the day is more often than not produced by the invisible hand of one campaign or another. Journalists long ago learned how to play the game. “Reporters will often call and ask proactively, ‘What kind of dirt do you have for me?'” said one senior official at a presidential campaign who asked not to be identified.

Read the rest here.