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Friday, August 31, 2007

Why Aren't More Main Stream Media Outlets Hiring Law Bloggers?

As Todd Zywicki noted yesterday at the VC, my Sports Law Blog colleague Mike McCann (Mississippi College) has landed a gig writing a monthly column for SI.com on sports law issues (his first column, on Vick, is here).  Mike has been blogging on sports law  since  July 2004, making him one of the "wise old ones" of the legal blogosphere, and the prominent forum (and paycheck) are well deserved. 

What is a bit surprising to me is that more mainstream media outlets haven't turned to bloggers as a source of regular contributions as columnists.  To be sure, a number of bloggers have written op-eds for individual papers, or served as columnists or guest columnists for sites like Findlaw's Writ and Jurist (for advice and thoughts on op-ed writing, see here or here).  Those gigs are great -- it's nice to reach a different (and often wider) audience, and it is great to get a check in the mail for one's labors, more because of the symbolism than the bottom line.

But why aren't more bloggers landing gigs as regular columnists? 

I've always thought that one of the reasons law prof bloggers  have attracted comparatively greater attention than bloggers from other disciplines has to with the fact that law profs, although you wouldn't know it from reading many law review articles, are actually really good writers.  For various reasons, law profs at some point decided not to write novels or pursue journalism, but blogging has given them a chance to indulge in the written word and they've jumped at it.

By contrast, many newspaper columnists, with some shining exceptions, are not good writers, or at least, don't have much to say.  Newspaper column gigs seem to go to seasoned journalists or upwardly mobile editors, but neither beat reporting nor editing involve the same skill set as opinion essay writing. 

Moreover, the economics of the industry would seem to favor hiring bloggers to create content.  Bloggers have shown their willingness to work for free, or close to nothing.  That would suggest to me, were I a financially sensitive media outlet operating in a time of dwindling circulation, that I could probably sign a blogger to a contract at a relatively low wage.  Since law prof bloggers have another job, they wouldn't need health insurance, or an office, or a company car.

Are they worried law profs would write about boring technical subjects?  Are they worried law profs would bring too much blogger irreverence to a traditional forum?  Are they worried law profs couldn't meet a deadline?

Posted by Geoffrey Rapp on August 31, 2007 at 01:29 PM | Permalink


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It's official. If July 2004 is the cut-off point, then I am one of the wise old men of the blogosphere. It feels good to be old. [Read More]

Tracked on Aug 31, 2007 4:49:50 PM


I am a law student. Does that disqualify me as well? :)

Posted by: Darren | Sep 5, 2007 9:51:16 AM

I've found that one of my difficulties in talking to reporters is that I try to emphasize a) the ambiguity of the law on any given topic and b) the procedural maneuvers any side may take that render the substantive law moot. Few reporters like this much. . . they want a quick answer. IF other lawyers respond to reporters like I do, perhaps we've made a name for ourselves as people who can't make an unambiguous/unqualified point.

However, I do think Rosa Ehrenreich Brooks, Anita Allen, and Jack Balkin do a great job representing the prawfessoriate on the editorial pages. Tim Wu has a good column in Slate. David Feige has had good success publishing in a number of outlets.

Glenn Reynolds is also frequently on the news shows and podcasting--I think the latter is a very exciting new medium and he's a good model for doing it. David Levine's "Hearsay Culture" show is highly recommended too, but probably too intellectual to get a mass audience.

Posted by: Frank | Aug 31, 2007 4:39:28 PM

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