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22 June 2009 8:30 AM

Interview with Glenn Reynolds, Part I

Glenn Reynolds, aka Instapundit, is one of the Internet's most popular and prolific bloggers--and one of its most impressively productive people, full stop. A Professor at the University of Tennessee College of Law, he is the author of An Army of Davids (a book I've purchased, read, and enjoyed). And he hosts InstaVision on PJTV, the Web video project of Pajamas Media. He's also been quite generous to a lot of talented journalists over the years--I started reading Megan McArdle after she guest blogged on Glenn's site, and I've hit Michael Totten's tip jar after discovering his foreign reporting the same way.

My interview with Prof. Reynolds includes this post and another part that runs tomorrow.

Part I

Q. How do events in Iran fit into the thesis you advance in An Army of Davids.

As I write this, we'll have to see how it works out.  But we have an awful lot of self-organization via the blogosphere, Facebook, Twitter, and, of course, SMS -- enough so that the mullahs are investing substantial effort into trying to block those sorts of communications, producing a distributed response from people around the world who are trying to help.  Not much is clear about what's going on in Iran, but it does seem clear that this is in large part a self-organizing movement.  What I'd like to know, and don't, is how much "horizontal" communication is going on among protesters, Revolutionary Guard members, and members of the military.

There's a pretty extensive scholarly literature on "riot, tumult, and revolution" -- my University of Tennessee colleague John Bohstedt, who also knocked down a crazed shooter at a church last year, is one of the experts -- but the way in which modern communications technology is changing the traditional pattern is still unclear, in part because it keeps changing.  However, it's much easier to form a "flash mob" or a "flash political movement" nowadays.

One interesting sideline is that -- as Megan McArdle noted here at The Atlantic recently -- much of the reporting we're seeing is firsthand stuff from citizens and participants, because Big Media outfits have slashed their news gathering budgets.  That's a trend I pointed out in An Army of Davids, and it's one that has, alas, accelerated.  I'm a huge believer in citizen journalism, of course, but that doesn't mean I'm happy to see traditional reporting in decline.  But at least ordinary people are now in a position to pick up some of the slack.

 Q. How has the blogosphere changed over the years you've been a part of it?

When I first started back in 2001, the blogosphere was a relatively small place:  I actually had a pretty good handle on what was going on in general.  Now it's gigantic, and I often run across highly trafficked blogs I've never heard of before.  It was also a place where people made a big effort to be civil; that seemed to fade after the 2002 elections and has mostly gotten worse ever since.  I'm tempted to blame the influence of anonymous comment-trolls, but it's also the case that other media have grown much less civil in recent years, so there's probably a larger societal influence there, too.

For the first several years of the blogosphere, bloggers got little respect from Big Media folks.  That's really changed, with lots of them spamming top bloggers with links in the hopes of garnering the traffic that those links bring.  And while people used to slam bloggers for not doing original reporting, now independent journalist-bloggers like Michael Totten and Michael Yon have considerable influence and (via reader donations, mostly) earn incomes that are, by journalistic standards at least, quite respectable.

There seems to be a certain amount of convergence.  Big media is getting bloggier, while blogs are getting more big-media-ish, with original reporting, video and audio podcasts, etc.  But the great thing about the blogosphere is that the barriers to entry are low.  Even if "big" bloggers become less amateurish, there are lots of new entries to bring in a fresh, outsider perspective.


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Thanks for the blog! I've enjoyed it since you created it many years ago.

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