Die, Yuppie Scam

So where's Wren? Since October 13, he has been editing World Briefing, the tightly written compendium of foreign news that runs five days a week. Contacted at the Times, Wren explained that Executive Editor Joseph Lelyveld first asked him to develop a prototype for World Briefing— and then asked him to launch it. Wren's voice mail indicates he had planned to return to drug policy at the end of December, but at press time, he is still on the world beat.

Since year's end, at least two stories have cried out for Wren's expertise. One was the December 31 release of Chief Justice William Rehnquist's report calling on Congress to stop overloading the federal docket with state crimes. The Washington Post's drug reporter Roberto Suro made hay with this news, quoting beaucoup experts and pointing out that federal drug cases are up from 12,500 in 1992 to 16,000 in 1998. The New York Post cited the same numbers in a smart editorial, questioning "whether this is really the best use of federal resources." The Times made do by running an AP story.

The Times also flubbed the January 5 release of a Justice Department report on drug use by state and federal inmates. In the right hands, the report could provide all the facts for a big story, to wit: half of federal prisoners are nonviolent drug offenders, and one in four is a nonviolent drug offender serving time on the first conviction ever. (Overloading the federal docket, anyone?) In the face of this chronic boondoggle, the Clintonites sent out a poll- driven message: we need more money to treat all the drug users who are filling up prisons and jails. The Washington Post was skeptical of the spin's timing, but the Times reported it at face value.

Here's a more utilitarian read of the Justice Department report: if Clinton immediately released all the federal drug offenders who are serving time on their first criminal count (23,000), each of whom costs $23,000 a year to incarcerate, he could save $529 million, or more than double his proposed increase in drug treatment money! At the same time, he could show that being unfairly impeached has helped him feel the pain of Everyman in the criminal justice system.

Drudge Budget

Support Drudge; click to visit sponsor." That line first appeared on the Drudge Report last month, when the Web site began to run banner advertising. As James Ledbetter reported in The Industry Standard on January 5, Drudge gets his ads by virtue of membership in ValueClick, a Santa Barbara­based interactive ad network. Advertisers pay ValueClick to place their banner ads in a wide variety of venues, and consequently, many do not realize that their brands now appear on the Drudge site.

Nevertheless, advertisers such as Proflowers.com and Talk City are proud to be associated with Drudge, in part because he generates so much traffic. According to Guy Hill, ValueClick's director of business development, the Drudge Report shows "how nimble and lucrative the Web can be for businesses of all types." After partnering with ValueClick, Hill says, Drudge began "to capitalize on ad revenues immediately," and is now earning revenues "in the ballpark" of $2000 a day.

Drudge's increased income is sure to interest Sidney Blumenthal, whose libel suit against Drudge was delayed last year, when it looked like Drudge did not make enough money for Blumenthal to recover any meaningful damages. Indeed, Drudge did not respond to inquiries about ad revenues from Press Clips, and now he seems to be trying to cover it up.

Last week, the tag line on the banner ads no longer transparently encouraged visitors to "Support Drudge"; it was changed to the more bland "Click Here; Please visit our sponsors." On January 15, the banner ads were missing from the site altogether.

What's on Your Nose?

  • That loud sucking sound you heard last week was the Daily News's Jami Bernard flattering her boss in a review of At First Sight. "Daily News owner Mort Zuckerman has a cameo," she wrote, "and I think it goes without saying that it's the best darn cameo ever committed to film." If it goes without saying, why did she have to say it?
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