Thursday, September 07, 2006

On blogging Althouse has a piece up on the place of the law journal in the Age of Blogging: Let the Law Journal Be the Law Journal and the Blog Be the Blog
For over a century, law journals have done important work that the legal profession has relied on, both because of the quality of the articles they have published and because of the way they have trained students in the rigors of legal research, writing, and editing. Sure, we law professors complain about law review articles. . .We spew our cranky complaints, but the truth is that you can translate most of them into modest suggestions for improving the existing journal. And, more fundamentally, we need you to put up with us and carry on.

The law journal should survive in its traditional form, preserving a high and permanent standard of legal scholarship. . .It’s especially important now, when there is so much ephemeral writing, that we pay proper respect to the longstanding practice of crafting sustained works of scholarship.

Bingo. Further, in relation to what blogs ought to be:
I’m intent on preserving the tradition of blogging, new though it is. At [a recent “Bloggership” conference at Harvard Law School ], I fought against those who argued that we should try to improve blogs by making them more like law journals. For me, those arguments represented a failure to perceive the good that already inheres in blogging.

A blog is a blog and a law journal is a law journal, as it should be. Journals are, I think, the high point of the profession and mark the standard of dialog that we use to hash out the big theoretical and methodological issues of the day. They have to be carefully reasoned and presented with adequate supporting data in order to provide a proper basis for discussion. Having the work set in stone, as it were, gives the whole process a baseline to work from. Creating a set piece of work that can be reviewed and presented at a single time and place fulfills that.

Blogs by their very nature are more free-flowing and interactive. This doesn't necessarily make them less useful than a journal article in some ultimate sense because, as we all know, more informal discussions can often lead to insights that you would not ordinarily get from working on a set piece for a journal. You can range a bit and incorporate data that might not be of high enough quality for a journal, but might lead there in the future. Plus, comments from readers -- some of very different background -- can be enourmously helpful as well. I can state that my views on certain subjects have been changed somewhat by writing stuff here and reading what commenters and emailers have had to say. Notably, I've become much more open-minded to the possibilities of some sort of legitimate, regulated market in antiquities. I'm not completely comfortable with whether such a thing could work or not, but even discussing it in an academic arena is virtually forbidden.

And that doesn't even begin to touch on the value of having scholars convey what they do to the public at large, whose taxes support a great deal of both their salaries and research money.