Earlier this week I spoke to my nervousness for hearing from the founder of Legal Insurrection, William Jacobson. While I disagree with much of the content and political views of the material Jacobson’s blog presents, I admire his drive to go against his environment and continue to report on what he thinks is morally correct. He explained that Cornell University is a fairly liberal-leaning institution and that his position as a conservative professor and blogger has garnered a fair share of criticism, with some going so far as asking the school to shut down his blog. Thankfully, Cornell University seems to value free speech and has protected Jacobson’s rights as both a blogger and an ordinary citizen to present dissident opinion without the fear of being prosecuted.
Jacobson explained that before he started Legal Insurrection, he didn’t even know what a blog was. This is a testament to the fact that the blogosphere has, in many ways, radicalized the accessibility of journalism. It speaks mounds that someone who didn’t even know what a blog was at the beginning has witnessed so much success. (Indeed, his blog is very heavily trafficked.) It reaffirmed the fact for me that journalism should not just be something presented to the public by a ‘specialized class’ as Walter Lippmann might have liked. Rather, our journalism should be for everyone, by everyone. On this Jacobson and I agree.
But, of course, there were a number of red flags that arose to me when he spoke, the first being that Jacobson himself admitted that his blog does not produce a significant income for him that he could do it full time. This is a scary reminder, but also an important one. It’s far to easy to glorify the idea of a blog as allowing everyone to make a living off of journalism, but the truth is you still need to know how to work the system. Jacobson’s blogs are loaded with advertisements and still he says at the end of the day Legal Insurrection is breaking even (though this could be partly due to the fact that he doesn’t offer his readers any incentives to donate.)
Another problematic point, as well as a point of Jacobson and my disagreement, is that Jacobson is under the belief that all mainstream media aside from that of Fox News has a left-leaning slant. I implore him to realize there is a difference between the democratic party and left-wing progressives. Indeed, both parties since the Reagan era have shifted dramatically to the right leaving true left-wing politics out of the United States political structure. I would hope Jacobson keeps this fact in mind in the future before saying that all mainstream news outlets aside from Fox have a leftist slant. He’s wrong, but I think I’d like our media better if he were right.