Washington Examiner Cozies Up To Drudge

A news organization buying ads on Drudge? That seems to walk a delicate journalism line.

Ads can run $29,000 a week. A curious business decision considering recent reports about the Examiner diminishing their White House beat formerly occupied by Julie Mason, an experienced journalist who now covers the White House for Politico.  In the WCP piece, Editor Stephen Smith says “young reporters are so far ahead these days.” He stressed the paper’s continued seriousness with the White House beat despite the shift from a seasoned journalist covering the beat everyday to two twenty-somethings hailed in from the Maryland State House beat. “I just want to make absolutely clear, we haven’t stopped covering the White House at all,” he told FishbowlDC in a phone interview today. “We have two people who are alternating weeks. We have someone at the White House everyday. Like a lot of news organizations, it’s not the same person everyday.” The new reporters now on the White House beat are Brian Hughes and Haley Peterson. In their off beats, both cover the state of Maryland.

As far as Drudge ads are concerned, an ex-Examiner editor tells a different story, saying there would be good reason to buy ads on the popular news site.  “This is not surprising that they’d want to kiss-up to someone so invaluable to their survival,” said the former employee. “Whether it’s appropriate or not, journalistically speaking, that’s questionable.”

Smith disagreed, saying Drudge couldn’t care less. “I can’t imagine Drudge would pay any attention to our ads when it’s time to make news judgments, any more than I pay attention to advertisers who either want press coverage — or don’t want it if they get in a bind of some sort,” Smith said. “He’s not going to dilute his site any more than I would. That’s the quickest way in the world to lose traffic. The reason we’d be interested in advertising is because a lot of the people who visit him would be the people who would be interested in reading the Examiner so it’s a good way to get our brand out there.”

UPDATE: The Washington Examiner‘s Publisher Michael Phelps also had a comment for FishbowlDC: “We made a relatively small ad buy with Drudge as part of a broad marketing effort to build traffic on our website (washingtonexaminer.com), now approaching 3 million unique visitors a month,” Phelps said in an email. “I would add that the Washington Examiner follows a strict church-state separation between news and advertising, and I’m sure that the Drudge Report does so as well.”

UPDATE #2:  Smith adds, “The City Paper implies that we put young reporters on the beat for budgetary reasons. That’s simply untrue. We put them on a White House rotation because their work for the paper showed they could handle the beat with sophistication and enterprise. It is silly to think that you have to be middle-aged to do a bang-up job covering the president.”