The Drudge Report: clever headlines, and eye for the news jugular

Prince Harry's front line service in Afghanistan is but the latest big story to be broken the Drudge Report, the online news clearing house that began life in 1994 as a weekly email bulletin in Hollywood and now - for better or worse - is an integral part of journalism in the US and around the world.

The website, created and still run by Matt Drudge, a 41 year old former convenience store worker, is a mixture of news, gossip (often salacious) and extreme weather reports. It has a clear conservative bias. Its audience is 78 per cent male, and (in the US) 60 per cent Republican and 8 per cent demographic. It is often unreliable. But the structure of linked stories, clever headlines, and eye for the news jugular makes a priceless source for reporters, politicians and anyone else interested in current affairs.

The scoop that put Drudge on the map was its revelation in 1996 that Jack Kemp would be Bob Dole's running mate on that year's Republican Presidential ticket. Its most famous moment was in January 1998 when it ran the story Newsweek magazine refused to publish, of President Bill Clinton's liaison with the White House intern, Monica Lewinsky.

In 2004 came one of its biggest howlers, a story claiming that John Kerry, the Democratic front runner, had his own affair with an intern. This "scoop" quickly collapsed. But it was indicative of several enduring truths about the Drudge Report: its irreverence, its taste for the salacious, and the conservative instincts of its founder.

Matt Drudge is plainly no fan of Bill or Hillary Clinton, or Democrats in general. is also a foe of abortion rights and a sceptic of global warming (a cold snap anywhere in the world is guaranteed coverage).

But the Report is often a refreshing change from the US mainstream media - all too often pompous, stuffy and self-important, and whose tail Drudge delights in tweaking. The Report is breezy, gossipy, and unashamedly sensationalist. But its headline on a link to a story in another paper is usually a good deal pithier than the original, where the top news point can easily turn up in paragraph 15 or 20.