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Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Blogging and Op-Eds

Does it ever annoy you when you read an op-ed by a law professor in a place like the New York Times that makes an extremely simple point that everybody knows?  Is it just me, or do you sometimes read op-eds by fancy Yale law professors and wonder: why the hell is that on the op-ed page?  What about when it happens twice in a single week?  Do you start thinking that maybe these would have been perfectly legitimate blog posts but that you have higher expectations for op-eds these days?   Perhaps you open up the Sunday paper and read an article by an NYU law professor (who has gotton offers from Harvard and Yale), making a point that has been made in the law reviews over 10 years ago.

This could, of course, just be bitterness at not having access to such a wide readership.  But maybe the blogosphere has created higher expectations for things like op-eds.  I'm just thinking out loud here.  Maybe I should write it up for the Times

Posted by Ethan Leib on July 6, 2005 at 05:33 PM in Blogging | Permalink


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Ah. Well, that's another story. I agree, life ain't fair.

Then again... all of us have also benefitted at one time or another from undeserved good fortune, right?

Posted by: susanna | Jul 8, 2005 10:20:57 AM


The annoyance is not that other law professors do well in the op-ed game. Rather, their lousy op-eds reinforce our sense that there isn't a meritocracy at work here -- not so much with placing op-eds, but with getting professorships at Yale Law School.

Posted by: Elvis | Jul 7, 2005 11:16:21 AM

Op-eds are for the public- so what if they tell law professors, or even first years, what they already know? plenty of people out there don't know these things.

If you're annoyed that other law professors do well in the op-ed biz, write your own! It's not that hard to do.

Posted by: susanna | Jul 7, 2005 10:22:10 AM

Does anyone not remember Ian Ayres's Times Op-Ed complaining about law students using the internet in class? That was pretty close to Brooke Shields's level.

Posted by: Matt | Jul 7, 2005 8:50:33 AM

My guess is that the New York Times will publish pretty much anything by a Yale Law faculty member, especially if it helps make a politically liberal point (like the Gewirtz piece, which was a fancy way of saying "Republican judges are bad, Republicans are hypocritical, etc"). The quality is irrelevant, as the Times editors just want the credentials and the jab.

Posted by: Franco | Jul 6, 2005 9:51:49 PM

It all makes much more sense if you have low expectations of the New York Times editorial page in general, as I do. If you understand that the basic function of the page is to be an echo chamber for a certian kind of conventional wisdom, you shouldn't be surprised that it does this with legal academic questions as well.

But sometimes the Times surprises even me, as when they had an op-ed recently by Brooke Shields protesting against Tom Cruise having been said mean mean things about her in a television interview promoting his new movie.

Didn't we all already know it wasn't nice to call people names, or did the NYTimes op-ed page need to remind us?

Posted by: Eugene Kontorovich | Jul 6, 2005 8:02:15 PM

Well, I think the pieces are a little different. The Feldman piece may recapitulate LR literature, and ideally the Times Mag format would allow some footnotes to indicate that. But the message is clearly one that should be heard, reminding opponents of theocracy that the real battle is over funding, not symbols. (Indeed, perhaps even Murray Edelman's Symbolic Uses of Politics is the true antecedent of this piece!)

On the other hand, the Gewirtz piece just plays into the utterly bankrupt rhetorical struggle over "who's least activist." Even to respond to such bunk is to grant it a dignity it does not deserve. Anyone with a first-year law student's sense of legal realism knows that the degree of "activism" one attributes to judges is entirely a function of one's baseline assumptions about the role law ought to play in the given situation.

Posted by: Frank | Jul 6, 2005 6:28:33 PM

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