IF YOU CAN’T BEAT THE BLOGGERS, JOIN THEM



Continuing snobbery towards legal blogging betrays journalists’ fear that evolving medium could do them out of a job, says Alex Aldridge

Not so long ago, the Times’ weekly law section was the place to read about law. Published on Tuesday, rather than Thursday as it has been for the last few years, it often ran to five or six pages, and was supplemented by a vibrant (and free) Times Online law page. As a law student between 2004-2006, this was where I – and thousands of other students like me – got our legal news and commentary from.

Over the last few years, though, things have changed dramatically. The Times lost interest in its online law section around the time of the Lehman Brothers collpase.

Now it struggles on, unloved, behind a paywall. Meanwhile, the paper’s weekly law section has become thinner and thinner – and less and less relevant to those starting out in the profession. Increasingly, it seems to be tailoring its content to senior lawyers who still buy newspapers during the week, or who have invested in the current corporate toy of choice, the (getting-less-cool-by-the-day) iPad.

Last week, for example, the Times law section devoted one of its two pages to an article about an upmarket art exhibition that’s being hosted by the London office of US firm Weil Gotshal & Manges. It included such fascinating insights as: ‘“There is no single way of reading this piece,” Marco Compagnoni, a Weil partner and senior art figure responsible for discussing with Gormley the character of the work, says. “It really is up to viewers to draw their own conclusions.”’ In national pro bono week, with its many potential angles for interesting articles, this was disappointing.

The decline in mainstream media coverage of law (exempting the Guardian, whose year-and-a-half-old online law page has bucked the trend) may explain the rise in legal blogging on these shores. Last year ex-BBC and Telegraph legal editor Joshua Rozenberg told me that “newspapers don’t provide the service they did [in the past], so the law firms and chambers have moved in, with the likes of the UK Supreme Court Blog and the UK Human Rights Blog particularly impressive examples.”

There are too many other good legal blogs to name here, but my current favourite student law/ junior lawyer blogs are The Training Contract Hawk, by LPC graduate Krish Nair, and Android’s Reminiscences, by a paralegal and BPTC graduate. The more serious LegalAware blog (the blog of BPP law school’s Legal Awareness Society) is also excellent. I’ve been delighted to host Krish, Ekaterina and LegalAware on Legal Cheek.

What’s strange, given the talent out there, is the fact that legal blogging is still afforded less respect than mainstream journalism. This is illustrated by the ambivalence with which legal blogging/Twitter meet-ups, of the type held last Thursday by the College of Law, are still greeted. Certainly, among some journalists I know there is almost a shame involved in attending these events – as if they deign themselves too important, as professionals, to mix with amateur bloggers.

My suspicion is that underneath this snobbery lies a very real fear of the growing competition they are under from blogging lawyers like David Allen Green (whose blog, Jack of Kent, helped land him a part-time gig as the New Statesman’s legal correspondent). In fact, I don’t just suspect this, but as a professional journalist I feel it myself. Hence my strategy: if you can’t beat them, join them.

Alex Aldridge is the editor of Legal Cheek

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2 Comments

mech

Really well written piece I reckon. And its so true. As a student I almost exclusively read the blogs now. So much more info and opinion.

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Brevity

The thing is, Alex, and I hope you don’t take this the wrong way (because I do enjoy your blog) is that more often than not, blogs are newspapers-lite: they’re frequently less informative and comprehensively researched than newspapers–sometimes nothing more than somebody’s opinion with the barest sliver of evidence (as, unfortunately, I feel this one is). That might be alright for something like AbovetheLaw (which is more gossip than news), but for serious articles, like this one portends to be, its a little half-hearted. You mock The Times piece, but I could equally mock your piece as “Newsflash: man hugely invested in blogging promotes his blog (and others)(!)”.

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