March 13, 2005

STEVEN LEVY SAYS that the blogosphere needs more diversity:

Law professor Susan Estrich has been hammering Michael Kinsley, the editorial-page editor of the Los Angeles Times, for not running a sufficient number of op-ed pieces by women and minorities. Though the e-mail exchange between the two deteriorated into a spitting match, both agreed that extra care is required to make sure public discussion reflects the actual population.

The top-down mainstream media have to some degree found the will and the means to administer such care. But is there a way to promote diversity online, given the built-in decentralization of the blog world?

I don't think I like the mainstream media method of achieving diversity, though:

I remember visiting Bob Berger, the op-ed editor, back in the early '90s. An old-style newspaperman, Bob didn't like the paper's demands that he demonstrate "diversity" on the op-ed pages. I especially remember his complaint that he not only had to find gay writers but gay writers who would mention that they were gay. No gay foreign policy experts need apply.

Of course, you don't get to be an editor in a giant, bureaucratic newspaper if you don't do what you're told. Bob not only complied but posted a chart on his door to prove what a good job he was doing. It showed each day's op-ed page as a line of five boxes, one for each article slot. The boxes were colored either blue or pink.

That's the LAT! Think inside the box! But if you look at the kind of hate that Zephyr Teachout got from her fellow Deaniacs (see the comments to this post), and if you believe, as Ann Althouse seems to, that women are more sensitive to that sort of attack than men are, then more politeness might help.

But is there really a difference there? If I were a woman, would I have been more hurt when Steven Levy called me an "ankle biter?" Should I have been?

I know that a lot of women feel that men are clamoring to get ahead of them, but on the other hand, I know that a lot of men are afraid that women will pile all over them -- and play the double-standard "you're hitting a girl" gender card -- if they say the wrong thing. (And there's evidence for this -- ask Larry Summers.) That's gender dynamics.

Christine Hurt has thoughts on this phenomenon, and observes:

In the blawgosphere, one thing that I have noticed is that a lot of disagreement goes on among fellow blawgers. I was initially uncomfortable with this and would get nervous, "Oh, no -- X just criticized Y's post! What is Y going to do?" Then I realized that life would go on, and next week Y might agree with X. This is the way of intellectual discourse, but I don't think it comports with the way that women build relationships.

So, we do we change law school and legal practice and the blawgosphere to conform to the way that women are raised to be sweet and build consensus? No. I think we should teach our girls to speak up without fear. To raise their hands and volunteer, even though they may be completely wrong. To disagree with each other without fear of losing respect or friendship. To not fear having others disagree with them. I have noticed that although there are few female law professor blawgs, there are plenty of female law student blawgs. I think the tide is turning.

Me too. This issue seems to appear more or less annually in the blogosphere. At the very least, we're doing a better job of dealing with it than Bob Berger.

UPDATE: LaShawn Barber has thoughts on the power of email. Don't be a pest (there's one guy who emails me every time he updates his blog, which as a consequence I've never visited) but don't be too shy, either. I try to get around, but there are a lot of blogs. I'm more likely to discover your blog if you send me a link to a post that I'll be interested in. For more useful advice, I recommend Ambra Nykol's How to Blog Like a Rock Star, which I mentioned a while back.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Chris Nolan blames Big Media: "Big Media reporters prefer to deal with the 'top-tier' bloggers and folks in their own part of the world the East Coast. That's who they call for TV. That's who makes it onto dial-a-quote lists. Those appearance reinforce Big Boy Bloggers' bigger numbers. On Charlie Rose' blog show, the guest were Glenn Reynolds, Anna Marie Cox and Andrew Sullivan, no one west of the Mississippi. No minorities. Now that's diversity Big Media style." I'm an "East Coast blogger?" This is starting to sound like rap . . . .

Meanwhile, Sissy Willis says I am Blogger, hear me roar . . . "

MORE: Reader Anthony Forte thinks that Levy's view of diversity is too narrow:

I thought that Steven Levy's complaints about gender and racial diversity were kind of interesting, considering how diverse the "white males" that "dominate" the top bloggers are. A look at, say, the TTLB Ecosystem reveals people with very different political opinions, life experiences, day jobs, and perspectives. To complain that that this is meaningless because they are the same race/gender seems rather narrowminded.

He's got more on his blog, with an amusing post title.

STILL MORE: Roxanne is merciless. She's not afraid to speak out! And Gerard van der Leun notes that it all comes back to the Law of the Blogger in the end.