Balkin on Blogs

The Yale Law Report has a nice interview with Jack Balkin on the new role of blogs in legal scholarship:

Blogging changes the relationship between law professors and their audiences because professors can reach more people. It changes the relationship between law professors and journalists because law professors don’t need journalists to get their ideas out to the broader public; conversely, blogging makes it easier for journalists to find the right experts to interview. It changes the timing and pace of legal scholarship because law professors can talk about cases the day they come down, driving the discussion forward in a very short time rather than through a series of law review articles that may take years to appear. Just as the Internet collapses the news cycle, it also collapses the publication and discussion cycle. It produces a type of legal writing that is more journalistic, more personal, and more driven by current events.

Reminds me a bit of the view of the more forward-thinking teacher in The History Boys. I tend to agree, but I think any blogger who presumes to be an expert has to have some “street cred” on the topic before they get taken seriously….and traditional legal scholarship is a good way to earn that “expertise capital” (which can then be “spent” on blogging). On the other hand, the wonders of hyperlinking can make a good blog post more persuasive than some scholarship: bloggers “cite to supporting information or authorities by linking to them, so that you can see the evidence for yourself.” No more waiting weeks for the interlibrary loan to deliver you the critical document in opponents’ argument; you can pick it apart yourself and see whether it really supports their ideas.

Balkin also focuses on some egalitarian aspects of the new media; for example,

The blogosphere allows people to advertise their expertise by showing what they can do; they put their views out there for everyone to see. . . . This not only makes it easier for journalists to find expert opinion, but it allows expert opinion to route around traditional media gatekeepers and reach the public directly. Several sites have sprung up that help people do this. Memeorandum collects links to major news stories and matches them with links to prominent blogs that cover those stories and comment on them.

And finally, an interesting set of predictions for the future:

In the legal academy, you will get an increasing integration between blogs and legal scholarship, between blogs and what you read in law reviews. As I mentioned, law reviews are already experimenting with blogs as adjuncts to their online presence. There will be more connections between blogs and SSRN and other online publications. More and more legal scholarship will occur in blog formats, or link to blogs, or cite to blogs, and the distinctions between blogging and other forms of legal scholarship will begin to blur, even if some important differences remain. As this happens, you’ll see the public persona of law professors migrate to their blogs.

Though I’m usually allergic to meta-culture (blogging on blogging, movies about filmmakers, etc), this interview is well worth reading.

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