January 13, 2014
Paul Horwitz on Blogging These Days
Posted by Christine Hurt

Yesterday, Paul Horwitz at Prawfsblawg posted about some of the reasons he has been blogging less these days.  One of his points hit home with me and echoed one of the reasons I have posted less the past year(s).

Anyone who has blogged for a long time knows it can be difficult to keep it up. Some of it has to do with the usual peaks and valleys of a person's life, including his writing life. A good deal of it has to do with the heated nature of many discussions and comment threads (including from professors), especially around legal education. I think there are good reasons for that, although it does not excuse absolutely any kind of rhetoric in my view. But heated discussions on any topic are more time-consuming to monitor, which I think one must, and can reach a point of exhaustion (both as to the discussion and as to the individual blogger involved) fairly quickly.

I'm assuming that Paul is referencing the "law school scam" meme that has overpowered almost every online discussion of law school and anything having to do with law school.  In April 2010, this blog had a "Minding Our Own Business" forum in which the Glommers and friends-of-the-glom discussed the state of legal education.  I hypothesized here that we were in a law school tuition bubble and analogized to the subprime mortgage bubble.  (If you search NEWS in Westlaw, it is hard to find a reference to law school tuition bubbles before that post.  If found one.)  It was reprinted several places, and probably cost me "Star of the Week" status with my dean.  I guess I could have made that "my thing," but I'm glad I didn't.  Though I have always been sympathetic to the law school debt-holder, I'm not sure that my usually reasoned tone could have found a voice in the heated rhetoric of an otherwise very worthy discussion.  Instead, I spent my energies at my job, teaching students, creating courses that would help them get jobs, and taking them to see emerging markets firsthand.

Gordon and I started this blog in 2004, after having our own individual blogs for a short time before. Back in the blogging heyday, what seemed like prolific blogging was really posting of status updates. A lot, however, was about teaching law. I have to say that now, I hardly ever post about teaching law. Though the benefit might be helping a junior law prof who is reading or getting advice from other law profs, the the downside is a torrent of comments that can be summed up in one sentence: "Law school is a scam and you are an overpaid, underworked fraud who will soon be out of a job and unfit for the legal profession." A person can only see that so many times without taking it personally.

Now, you might be thinking that I should get a little tougher.  Real scholars don't shrink from valid criticism, whether it's pointed or sugar-coated.  True, and I have never shrank from criticism on the merits of my work, whether long-form scholarship or short-form blog posts.  Of course, blogging, strays from the traditional norms of academic presentations.  The audience is larger and doesn't seem to have the same discourse community norms.  But still, columnists and journalists write on-line pieces that receive comments.  Am I more of a sissy than those guys?  I don't know if Gail Collins reads her comments or not, but law school blogging is in a strange "sour spot" between presenting in front of colleagues at a conference and writing op-eds commented on by 300 strangers.  Getting bitter comments from 10-20 readers, all of whom seemed to be named "anon" seems more personal.

Finally, Paul notes that much of our talk now about life as a law professor goes on facebook.  Our grading highs and lows, our blegs for advice and materials.  And the comments never begin with "Law school is a scam. . . ."  Even though the folks that could comments are former students who have plenty of reason to spew vitriol.  But, they can't do it anonymously.

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