In Thursday’s Strib, the snarky gossip C.J. relayed a tale reinforcing exactly the image that Senate candidate Al Franken is trying to shed, that of a rude, angry, self-important loudmouth whose idea of relating to Republicans — even a mere Carl conservative (the kids at Carleton College refer to themselves as “Carls”) — is to mock, berate and humiliate.
Predictably, the MNGOP, Powerline and some other righty blogs did what they could to amplify the kerfuffle. Media-wise DFLers whom I consulted said Franken — who apparently is not denying the incident, while not confirming the details — had caught a major break if, as appears to be the case, the incident was not preserved on video.
But on Friday, the next worse thing happened. The mighty Drudge Report linked to C.J.’s account.
You may not know how big a deal it is to get linked by Drudge. I had the experience once in my own Strib, Big Question blog days, when a piece about Michele Bachmann’s bizarre claim to know about a deal between Iran and Al Qaida to divide Iraq and create a terrorism zone from which to attack Israel and the United States got a link from Drudge.
Back then, and relying on my faulty memory, the best traffic The Big Question had ever had in a day was about 20,000 page views. After being Drudged, that post was viewed more than 700,000 times over two days and the next thing you knew the delusion of poor Rep. Bachmann’s (which she still hasn’t ever properly explained, by the way) was being discussed on talk radio programs up to and including the mighty Rush Limbaugh.
Journalists courting Drudge
I won’t feign respect for Drudge nor Limbaugh nor C.J., none of whom share my enthusiasm for substance or civility. But linkage by Drudge is, I’m pretty sure, the biggest thing that can happen to you online.
Important, serious national journalists try hard to get Drudge to link to them. They not only alert Drudge to anything they write that they think might get a link, but I fear they allow their inner Drudge to influence them when they are deciding what to cover. Both the Washington Post and the L.A. Times websites get more traffic from Drudge linkages than they do from any other outside source.
My esteemed former colleague Terry Sauer of startribune.com told me Friday afternoon that the C.J. column, which more typically attracts about 10,000 hits a day, was north of 200,000 after the Drudge link.
Franken spokester Jess McIntosh said late Friday that the campaign had received exactly four inquiries about the Carleton incident from non-journalist Minnesotans, and no one, before me, had asked about the impact of being Drudged.
I don’t know how much damage the Drudging of Franken’s snitfit will inflict upon the candidate’s ongoing efforts to Minnesota nice-ify his image. But my spidey sense is tingling.