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An attack on blawgs by a magazine publisher, and a reply

InsideCounsel, June 2006 at 6, contains publisher Nat Slavin’s note about his concerns with law-related blogs (aka blawgs). In the interests of full disclosure, this author writes a blawg and you are reading it.

Slavin first asserts that blawgs “vary widely in quality and accuracy. And they aren’t journalism. Some state opinions as facts and make assertions with little to no research and support.”

Some could counter Slavin’s criticism by pointing out that magazines do not all achieve high levels of excellence and accuracy. Nor do journalists have a corner on the market for objectivity, factual investigation, and disciplined fact checking. Many journalists rely happily on a quote, any quote, from someone else. And, blogs are not dependent on advertisers. As the coup de grace, I would note that many blawgs are written by practicing, experienced lawyers, not journalists who often have to learn about their story from the ground up.

Slavin continues with a second criticism of blawgs: “There are few filters to help you as in-house counsel figure out which blogs actually give you access to good ideas and trends.”

The rebuttal to this is several-fold. Blogrolls serve as some level of filter. Those who blog choose which blogs to place on their blogroll, which is definitely a form of filter. So too are and the various directories of blawgs (See my post of April 13, 2007 #2 on Blawgsearch.). Links between blogs creates a cumulative evaluation – over time the better blogs get more citations and commentary. Activity on a blog is a sign not only of the host’s industry but also (often) currency and thoughtfulness. But, fundamentally, blogs, with their suppleness and speed, let the marketplace of readers judge quality. Harsh it may be, but the collective intelligence of thousands of readers does filter out which blawgs provide value in their respective niches.