Jeffrey Rosen Gets All Mixed Up About Blawgs, Blogging and Other Things

Professor Jeffrey Rosen, apparently unnerved by the success of Matt Homann’s write-in campaign to be named as of the “Top 20 Legal Thinkers,” has launched a publicity-seeking missile in a wide-ranging attack on a range of blogging targets with his recent article in the New York Times Magazine.
Unfortunately, as a mere practicing lawyer, I was unable to follow or understand most of the article. However, Rosen did paint a view of the blog world that was new to me. He set up quite a number of straw men and mowed them right down. Mainly, I was left wondering what he could possibly be saying to his students that had him so worried about them blogging about him. That’s more a criticism of me, of course, than it is a criticism of his article, which I’m sure that I’d find quite good if I could understand it.
I know this is petty, but I took a secret pleasure in seeing the Treo 650 called the “Trio 650″ in an article criticizing the loose standards of bloggers in comparison to the high standards of the lords of journalism. I also enjoyed that in an article focused on privacy, Rosen managed to give away the secret that two anonymous bloggers are students at his law school. Oops. Note that Rosen is actually listed as an official candidate for one of the Top 20 Legal Thinkers, unlike popular write-in candidate, Matt Homann who was left off the list, as were practicing lawyers in general.
I had more concern, however, for the unfortunate impact of the article, which seems to have successfully garnered a lot of publicity (what diatribe against blogging won’t these days?), on fellow Blawg Channeler and legal blogging pioneer, Denise Howell.
As many bloggers, but not all nominees for Top 20 Legal Thinkers such as Rosen, know, Denise has long been known and credited for coining the term “blawg.” I can understand that there might not have been enough room in this extremely long article (4 separate sections on 4 separate pages, with a long, long animated ad to sit through) to mention Denise by name.
However, it would have been nice to get the definition right. “Blawgs” are most definitely not limited to blogs written by law students, as Rosen and the fact-checking team at the NYT Magazine might lead you to believe. The general definition of “blawg” is “a web log written by lawyers and/or concerned primarily with legal affairs.” Denise is far too generous and inclusive a blogger to have intended the limited definition used by Rosen. In fact, someone less generous and inclusive than Denise might even suggest that some of the law student blogs cited by Rosen might not, in fact, meet the definition of “blawg.”
So, the term Denise coined gets mentioned without attribution to her and mis-defined in an article that offers the back of the hand to bloggers and appears in a prominent and high profile print publication. The great irony, of course, is there is now a good chance that Jeff Rosen will soon be cited as the source of the definition of “blawg” with the citation noting the definition he uses in his article. Oh, where is the justice?
I’ll keep my eyes open for a”clarification,” but, in the meantime, I’ll be volunteering some of my time to the Vote Matt Homann effort.
By the way, if you want to read a very good, thoughtful discussion of the subject that Rosen attempted to cover in his article, check out Ugly Exhibitionism While We Gawk at the Soap on Renee Blodgett’s excellent Down the Avenue blog. In the “it’s a small world” department, I actually met Renee at an ABA TECHSHOW several years ago when she worked for Dragon Systems and I was writing a legal technology column for Lawyers Weekly USA. It was at the first vendor event I ever attended and I appreciated the fact that Renee was willing to participate in the fiction that I was a serious journalist rather than the proto-blogger I probably was. Even better, she got me an extra dragon Beanie Baby so I could take two home for my daughter.