Every parent knows the sense of pride and joy that comes of a child accomplishing something worthy of praise and recognition, and that’s how I feel about Fault Lines, barely a six-month-old infant, being named to the ABA Journal Blawg 100. Thank you, ABA Journal guys, for embracing the efforts of the Fault Lines writers and putting this baby on your list.
I haven’t always been kind to the beauty pageant. It’s not that a little recognition for being in the pie eating contest of blawging isn’t appreciated. Blawgers certainly suffer the indignation of pseudonymous insults for not meeting the tastes, whether by content or tone, of the potential 100 million readers on the internets, and so they could stand a bit of appreciation once in a while.
That said, pitting blawg against blawg has always been unseemly. To their credit, the ABA Journal has finally done away with this nonsensical competition, that served more to reveal the neediness for recognition as to who begged for votes than the worthiness of their efforts. Thankfully, that’s done. It was an embarrassment.
The writers at Fault Lines work pretty damn hard to produce posts that enlighten and illuminate criminal law. For their efforts, they get to enjoy
vast wealth and fame the opportunity to write some more, so someone out there can nitpick their work. But that’s the nature of blawging, so it comes with the territory. Much as I may not have cared much about this for my own sake, I’m thrilled (and I mean that, sincerely) that these exceptional writers received the nod. They deserve it. They earned the tummy rub.
So, it’s all sweetness and light toward the ABA Journal? Well, not quite yet. Over the past few years, I’ve pointed out to Molly McDonough, the ABA Journal’s managing editor, that the blawgosphere ain’t what it used to be. “Where,” I say to her, ” are some of those blawgs that made the first Blawg 100? Gone. Dead. Kaput. History.”
This year, Molly chose to do a “state of the legal blogosphere” post, and so we chatted about it. We talked about some inside baseball stuff, such as how Above the Law, once the 800 pound gorilla of the blawgosphere, had morphed from blawg to business, throwing any piece of idiotic crap against the wall to free-ride on the reputation David Lat earned in the early years, clickbait some eyeballs and make a few shekels on its unduly abundant advertisements.
We spoke of how blawgs went from a vital community that created synergy, challenged cheap thought, improved the public’s understanding of the law, to cheap marketing ploys to create the pretense of being “thought leaders,” bolstered by the cottage industry of tech and “new normal” sellers of goods and services to lawyers.
We talked about the Happysphere, where they blow kisses at each other in the hope that the favor would be returned, so ignorance and laziness would be overlooked in a big, self-congratulatory circle-jerk. Unfortunately, little of what we spoke about made the cut, though there was room for Molly to take a quick slap by saying I “never seem to lack for something to say or someone to criticize on [my] blog.” Criticism is frowned upon, as it doesn’t comport with the cause of happy self-promotion.
He remembers those early days of legal blogging as full of near-constant interaction; a playfulness between bloggers; and arguments, disagreements and strong opinions in the comments.
“We lost the synergy. We lost the community,” Greenfield says.
But this bit of negativity comes way down the post, well below the Big Lie.
What happened? Is this a sign that law blogging is on its way out?
Longtime law blogger Robert Ambrogi doesn’t think so.
“Despite all the claims of the blogosphere dying out, to me I still continue to see an expansion of it,” says Ambrogi, a blogger at LawSites and a regular contributor to the ABA Journal. “The quality of the blogs getting launched is often very good.”
A shining example is SCOTUSblog, which was founded in 2002 and in 2013 became the first blog to win the prestigious Peabody Award for excellence in electronic media.
SCOTUSblog is a shining example, but not of a blawg. That horse left the barn long ago, when it changed from blawg to business. It’s akin to saying Mark Zuckerberg’s billions prove you should drop out of Harvard. You’re not Zuckerberg, and SJ isn’t SCOTUSblog. Neither is any other blawg.
Much as I like Bobby, he’s full of it, and promoting his self-serving spin rather than reality. And Molly knows it. Sure, there are new “blawgs” coming online daily, but they’re just blatant marketing vehicles, whether to try to suck in new clients or to establish subject matter credibility. These are advertisements, not blawgs. And that’s a shame.
So why does any of this matter? Because for a brief and golden moment, there was a hope that lawyers could be human beings, could illuminate the law for others, could develop an ecosystem of blawgs that created more than the sum of its parts for everyone’s benefit and enjoyment. And to clean up the mess of lawyers behaving badly online, which quickly became an ethics-free zone.
The blawgosphere was a force for good, for lawyers and the public. In Fault Lines, we’re keeping that hope alive, because so much of what made the blawgosphere great is now gone. So thanks, ABA Journal, for recognizing the effort, even as you deny the reality that the blawgosphere’s golden moment has passed. Hugs.