I stopped blogging on weekends a while ago because, frankly, I needed some time to do homework. However, since I just got a link from Instapundit, I want to make sure I take advantage of any new Wisconsin readers and show them that the Sconz is in business daily. I don't really bother engaging the national blogosphere or keeping up with it, but hell, I'll take the traffic, especially if any of you are interested in Madison or Wisconsin-related issues. I digress:
Glenn Reynolds, a University of Tennessee law professor and creator of Instapundit, a top conservative blog, linked to a blog post in which I discussed my recent cover story on Ann Althouse, and responded to a couple criticisms I had received about the article. The source of Reynold's post was actually a quote of his that I muffed, which is embarrassing, but also ironic, because if I had quoted him word-for-word, I think his answer would have come closer to my opinion than I remembered.
This lead into a little banter with Laurence Meade, Althouse's husband, who is from Cincinnati but has an Indiana attitude. The point of contention is this: Do blogs, such as Althouse's site, constitute academic scholarship? Meade pointed to the numerous posts his wife has made about law as evidence that it does. I disagreed.
Reynoles opines on law professors blogging today:
I do think blogging is part of "public service and education." My Dean has said that blogging counts as scholarship, even encouraged me to use research assistants for the blog, but I've never done that - for whatever reason, I've always tended to keep the blog its own thing, largely distinct from my day job. (Not all blogging lawprofs do that, though; some even host their blogs on university servers.) But I think blogging is more like writing opeds or book reviews than scholarly publication, at least most of the time. Occasionally one of my blog posts will morph into a law review article - like Is Dick Cheney Unconstitutional? or Libel In The Blogosphere - but even when they do, it's the scholarship that's really the scholarly output, with the blog just serving as an idea-generator. But there's not much question that blogging and scholarship overlap a lot more than people once thought.
Another legal blogger, Prof. Stephen Bainbridge chimed in:
I have tremendous respect for the success that law professor bloggers like Glenn Reynolds and Hugh Hewitt have had, but I don't regard what they do as legal scholarship (and, I suspect, neither do they). They are instant pundits.
At the other end of the scale are blogs that focus almost exclusively on law to the exclusion of politics, culture, sports, and other non-scholarly topics. Larry Solum, the guys at Truth on the Market, the Harvard Governance blog and so on.
If I can reading Bainbridge correctly, I believe his view most closely reflects mine. Scholarship is defined by a set of standards. Not all writing about law by a legal scholar is legal scholarship, in the same way that not all discussion of politics by a political science professor is political science scholarship. Unless there is some kind of acknowledgement that what goes on the blog will be held to the same rigorous standards of academic review, it cannot be equated to published work, in the same manner that published work is.
It's great that professors blog. Law proffesors and economists have been way ahead of the fold on new media. History professors less so, although that's perhaps understandable -- old news and new media are not a match made in Heaven. Nevertheless, it's a great way to make academic thinking accessible to more people. But it can rarely be used as a substitute for the real academic work we expect from professors.