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The Clinton Sex Scandal

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The Clinton Sex Scandal

Rare is a person that crosses the path of the White House without some

emotion of envy or awe. This building epitomizes world leadership and

unprecedented power. This renowned leadership may be the only association

made by certain countries, while in the United States many see an other

significance: Watergate, Whitewater, Kennedy's brutal and mysterious

assassination, and today, Clinton's "zippergate" scandal. When the

President of the United States takes oath, he gives up a part of his life.

His private life becomes the public's life, and they feel the right to know

what happens behind the Oval Office. Now the Presidency must battle against

Newspaper journalists, radio personalities, televised news reports and now,

even more menacing: the Internet.

Presidents who are constantly reminded of their power and prestigious rank,

become exasperated because they cannot control the news media, even though

they can to a large degree set the news agenda. Media has expanded in its

presence, becoming widespread on the Internet, perhaps monopolizing the

domain, by becoming more powerful and more used than written, televised or

radio journalism. The Presidents' inability to control the press exposes

their vulnerability and tends to question the actual power they can

actually exert. All presidents, at some time or another, became frustrated

at what they perceived as unfair treatment by the press, even while

acknowledging its vital function in a free society, and many presidents

have been a part of a scandal.

The current Presidential scandal with Monica Lewinsky had swept the Nation

overnight. It seems quite impossible to know just how it will all turn out,

and unfair to even speculate, but the media certainly seems to think they

possess that right. It is obvious that this story has changed the face of

journalism, has put online media on the map in a major way, and has made

life more difficult for newspapers forever.

First, let's take a look at how this story developed and how it acted on

the Internet. David Noack of E&P in his article "Web's Big Role in Sex

Controversy" does a great job of detailing the twisting path this tale took

from rumor to investigation to publication, and how the Internet played a

key part. Noack points out in his article that the "Clinton/Lewinsky"

scandal has drastically changed online media. He writes:

"A year ago, most newspapers and news magazines adhered to the hard rule

that they would not stoop themselves by putting breaking news on their Web

sites before it appeared in their print editions. But a rapidly-growing

public demand for almost "instant" Web coverage of breaking national news

stories has forced even the largest newspapers and magazines' like the

Washington Post and Newsweek'to abandon the old rule."

"Out with the old, in with the new." It is easy to think breaking stories

online could dilute journalists' on-paper presence; now many have realized

that online media puts all journalists on equal footing with radio and TV.

So who drove this change, pushing away the status quo? Matt Drudge, author

of "The Drudge Report". It is still the Internet's gold rush period and

everyone is running around trying to make a profit. The irony is that the

person who best embodies what's revolutionary about the Internet has made

next to no money from it: Matt Drudge, 30, is the author of "The Drudge

Report", a bulletin of entertainment gossip, political rumor and witty

meta-news. His web page ( is austere; it

consists of a headline, links to news sources and some black and white clip

art. Apparently he is really quite well informed, he reads 18 newspapers a

day and he admires politics enough to go after both sides of the story when

the time comes. Drudge's contact list has been expanding far quicker than

his bank account he now has a huge following, with a mailing list of over

85,000 people.

This web journalist has such an impact on the Internet that last week he

managed to cause consternation in the White House and this was not the

first time. He flagged a story Newsweek had been sitting on for six months:

that President Clinton may have propositioned a White House worker named

Kathleen Willey on federal property.

I found an article on the Internet that seemed to sum up exactly what

people's opinion on Drudge is, very mixed:

"The best thing about the Internet is Matt Drudge. He knows how to use the

online medium. He prizes speed, being first, and he connects strongly with

an audience that wants personality and gossip. The worst thing about the

Internet is Matt Drudge. He caters to the lowest common denominator. He

gets stories wrong. He makes traditional journalists very uncomfortable. We

don't want him to represent us. But do we have a choice?"

What made Drudge tick and become such a Net phenomenon? He started poking

his nose where others feared to tread'the White House. He broke the

Kathleen Willey story: she was the reluctant witness for the Paula Jones

defense team'a White House employee who was "comforted" by the president

when she feared her husband might be in trouble. And Drudge certainly got

the attention of the White House with his story.

It obviously doesn't seem right to condone irresponsible reporting, but it

should be pointed out that Drudge is not a journalist'and never claimed to

be. Drudge is an Information Age pioneer in a much uncharted territory. He

doesn't live by the same standards as the press.

Newspaper companies have spent hundreds of millions of dollars'perhaps

billions'researching ways of effectively distributing their information on

the Internet, since it is the way of the future. It has its benefits: it is

an easy and instant way to compare and contrast news accounts from all over

the United States. That discovery is scaring the establishment press as

much as Drudge's critical reports have scared the truth police at the White

House. The Washington Post, CNN and other big news organizations have

resorted to lawsuits to try to prevent the kinds of news links provided by

Drudge and WorldNetDaily. Their excuse being that they did not want

ordinary consumers to be able to compare their news accounts to those of

other news organizations.

The White House, which was so often in alliance with the establishment

press, is now trying to make Drudge disappear and they will not be

satisfied with any other result. The lawsuits are not about money or

apologies, but about extinction for alternative voices. If Drudge is

silenced by the White House goon squad, the media world will definitely

become a little less interesting and a little less free in the news realm.

Steve Silberman, a writer for Wired magazine, had a grudging praise for

Matt Drudge with his role in the Clinton/Lewinsky story in one of his

columns: "It's a Drudge World After All":

"In Drudge's world, which is our world now, the act of uncovering what was

formerly hidden - of getting the skinny, routing around bureaucratic

firewalls, defying the spin-doctors to tap the loose-lipped confidant ' is

paramount. Second to the act of uncovering the dirt is the enthusiasm to

spread it around. Garbage in, garbage out - and as quickly as possible. The

velocity is largely the point."

So how does it make traditional journalists feel? Uneasy? Tainted? The

Clintn/Lewinsky scandal is that kind of story; nasty and dirty. But more

than that perhaps, they are acting recklessly, and people like Drudge,

operating in the high-speed, high-competition world of the Web, aren't

pushing us that way. For instance, Jan. 23, just a couple of days into the

Clinton/Lewinsky crisis, when it was still just two people who both said

nothing happened, television and radio commentators were already using

words like "resign" and "impeach." Which, to me seems like a quick rush to


Pack journalism and media frenzies aren't new phenomenons, but the Internet

has changed the character of the pact. Eleanor Randolph and Jane Hall of

the Los Angeles Times make some interesting points about this in their

article: "Media Coverage Turns Into a Full Press."

They write:

"When you commit wall-to-wall coverage of a sensational story in which

little is known, you're inevitably going to wind up in a swamp of sleaze,"

one network executive said, adding that television ends up "repeating half-

truths and innuendoes because you've got air time to fill and people who

come on have agendas."

Maybe all this is true, maybe it is false and it is going more than a

little patience to change something, because it is everywhere. You'll have

no trouble finding news about this latest mess in the White House but

rather have trouble avoiding it. Despite the fact that it is a top story

for all newspapers and television programs, a lot of the reporting is

redundant, and the major papers are surprisingly slow to update.

The Internet media shares the same issues that the written or televised

press have: censorship and morality. It does not seem logical for the media

to feel they have the right to publish the President's personal letters,

such as the ones from Kathleen Willey:

Dear Mr. President '

You have been on my mind so often this week ' There are so very many people

who believe in you and what you are trying to do for our country ' Take

heart in knowing that your number one fan thanks you every day for your

help in saving her wonderful state.

With appreciation


yet cannot write "f****ing" in complete letters in the transcripts of the

Monica Lewinski-Linda Tripp tapes:

Lewinsky: Well, it doesn't have to be a f---ing conflict.

Tripp: What do you mean? How? Tell me how? [What am I] supposed to say if

they say, "Has Monica Lewinsky ever said to you that she is in love with

the president or is having a physical relationship with the president?" If

I say no, that is f---ing perjury. That's the bottom line. I will do

everything I can not to be in that position. That's what I'm trying to do...

I think you really believe that this is very easy, and I should just say f'

k it. They can't prove it.

In what way does it concern the American people whether or not Kathleen

Willey is "proud of the President's performance?" (No pun intended) and I'm

sure we can deal with the use of a four letter word if we can deal with the

fact that President Clinton had oral sex with his 21 year old intern.

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