May 25, 2009

No news is good news

This story, over at the Daily Dish, has me trying to work out why the biggest online news aggregator in America, The Drudge Report, is right-leaning. I don't mean the personal reasons why it's editor, Matt Drudge, leans to the right but why it might be that a news-website that leans to the right might be more successful than one that leans to the left.

It could just be that it is better, that Drudge has killer tabloid instincts, etc. But there's more to it than that, I think. Surveying a recent page of his, at random, I found stories about:—

— how Netanyahu is "defying" Obama
— Muslim riots in Athens
— a shoot out at a Sikh temple in Vienna
— a guy who mowed down a traffic cop
— another flu alert
— a NYPD forensics investigator stabbed to death in bed
— the Lars Vin Trier film Anti-Christ getting an award at Cannes
— British banks "revolting" against Obama's tax plan
— Iran wanting nukes

You get the picture: the world is a scary place. Muslims lurk around every corner. People are getting knifed in their beds. The French worship at the altar of the anti-christ. And our president is a wimp. Compare that to the leading liberal news aggregator, The Huffington Post, which today has stories about:

— Timothy Geithner disclaiming the accusation of "socialism"
— Colin Powell calling Rush Limbaugh "shrill"
— A woman in her fifties dying of swine flu
— the possibility of Afghanistan becoming second Iraq
— Bill Maher defending himself Sean Hannity
— Cannes gives top honors to film about Nazism
— An Iraqi interrogator calling Cheney on his facts

And so on. The only people dying of flu are old. The French know great filmmaking when they see it. America is not turning communist. The world is not such a scary place. The only scary thing about the world, in fact, is that it contains Republicans. The bulk of the left's stories involve defending themselves from the falsehoods and exaggerations coming from the right. One lights fires; the other puts them out. 

There's no question which world-view I find more helpful and yet the fact is: I read the Drudge Report way more than I read the Huffington Post. I'm tempted to explain that via an old debate that started up in England a few years back, when Martin Lewis, one of the BBC's blander anchors, complained that they reported too much bad news. His opinion was ridiculed by many senior journalists: what does he want? Stories about meals on wheels and puppy dogs? Most news, they pointed out, tends to be bad news by definition. I think much the same way about Drudge. Scary news is better than non-scary news. And the right has better scare stories than the left. Therefore, it makes sense that the biggest news aggregator in the country would be right-leaning. I'm none too certain about this theory but will continue to ponder the matter further.

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