As somebody who predicted that the Kerry-intern scandal was just a bit of good clean fun, I want to brag that I’m not surprised that the rumor collapsed.

But I’ve got to say a few words about how the media handled the matter.

As a rule, I’m the first to cry “media bias.” But not this time.

The Kerry-intern story showed something about the two-tiered media and how it works’it works well, thank you. The Internet (along with my beloved supermarket tabloids) functions as an outlet for stories that don’t quite rise to the level of news. Often this is because they aren’t quite true. 

The Kerry-intern rumor was given a degree of credence’as WaPo media reporter Howard Kurtz notes in his analysis today’because it broke on the Drudge Report which in 1998 got the story that Newsweek had killed the original Monica Lewinsky story.

Drudge pushed the Monica story until it moved into the realm of legitimate news. But Drudge hasn’t managed to push this one into the realm of news, possibly because it is not true. If it is, there’s nothing to keep him from continuing to peddle it.  

I was on a media panel once where the more upright citizens decried the idea of such stories circulating in the tabloids and on the internet. I say it’s a good thing.

The Internet is the wild west of journalism. It lacks the layers of editors’and lawyers!’that newsrooms and networks have. But, when it gets things wrong, there is a self-correcting mechanism: the lawsuit.

Drudge once retailed allegations of marital misbehavior of somebody I won’t mention and he was slapped with a lawsuit. 

Readers know that there are degrees of credibility. To take my all-time favorite tabloid story’headline: “Midgets Honeymoon in Cardboard Box”‘we know that some reports are, regrettably, improbable.

On the other hand, there are big stories that never would have broken if it weren’t for the Internet. The Jayson Blair & plagiarism at the New York Times story springs to mind. Without Internet purveyors of information such as Andrew Sullivan and Lucianne, the Blair story would probably have died a quiet death. This would have been wrong.

We all read the Drudge Report and various internet outlets in a certain way. We all have a sense of what their standards of accuracy are. Drudge, it goes without saying, has broken some of the biggest stories there are. I say it’s healthy to have an internet that floats trial balloons. It’s also good to have barrier to trial balloon stories that can’t be properly sourced and therefore don’t rise to the level of news.

The Kerry-intern story–including the deliciously awkward moments on TV when pundits skirted the issue, almost talking about it but not quite–never quite made it into the realm of news, except for the officials denials in the mainstream media. This was meet and right, in my opinion.

There: I said something nice about the liberal media. I promise it won’t happen again.