Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Volokh Goes MSM: Good or Bad?

 

Earlier today, the Washington Post announced that it had acquired the Volokh Conspiracy blog (shortly after WaPo blogger Ezra Klein announced his departure from the paper). There was little fanfare and no advance warning to VC readers. I found out an hour ago, when I was trying to read the VC and found myself redirected to the WaPo blogroll. 

For those who don’t know the Volokh Conspiracy, it’s a truly valuable site, where law professors and other scholars—mostly of a conservative or libertarian bent—explain legal and constitutional controversies (among other things) in plain English. A wonderfully quirky blog, you’re likely to find posts about NSA spying next to posts about grammar or Tolkien. 

It reminds me of another right-of-center site that I know, which is why I’m so fascinated to see how the WaPo venture plays out. Apparently, the plan is that, after six months, the currently-free content on the VC will go behind the Post’s paywall. That prompted some furious comments from regular VC readers—well, that plus the fact that Volokh is joining up with liberal media. At first, I felt a similar pang of regret about VC “selling out” to Jeff Bezos. But on reflection, I think this is a positive development.

I don’t think that the VC contributors will be tempted to drift leftwards just because they’re being published in the Post. Heavens, they’re mostly tenured professors with secure positions and no need to curry favor with the Post’s editorial tastemakers. Instead, I think there’s an opportunity to drive some thoughtful independents/liberals to the Volokh Conspiracy, because now it has the Post’s imprimatur.

And as for the paywall—as we know from Ricochet, a modest paywall is small price for solid content, and has the great virtue of attracting serious, thoughtful comments. For those of you who follow Volokh: what do you think of this latest development? 

There are 25 comments.

  1. Profile Photo Member

    I would say that if you think the pay wall has raised the quality of the comments section at the WaPo, then you have never ventured in to the comments at the WaPo. You would be wrong.

    • #1
    • January 22, 2014, at 1:01 AM PST
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  2. TeamAmerica Member
    TeamAmerica Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I hope it works and converts some open-minded fence-sitters. After all, except for a few pundits like Dennis Prager, most righty commentators- O’Reilly, Hannity, and especially Mr. Savage, are preaching to the choir. Good for their ratings and incomes perhaps, but not likely making many converts.

    I wonder if Bezos is merely trying to appeal to a broader customer base, or whether he is perhaps a closet conservative, unusual in Silicon Valley. The political behavior of the other internet big shots, Gates, Brin, Zuckerberg and Omidyer (sp?) implies that Karl Marx’s saying-“The capitalist will sell you the rope you hang him with,” wasn’t cynical enough. These ‘capitalist/statists’ will finance the campaigns of those who would hang them (or at least make them subservient to over-reaching gov’t).

    • #2
    • January 22, 2014, at 1:42 AM PST
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  3. genferei Member
    genferei Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Phew. There’s another site I don’t have to check.

    I don’t fault the Volokh’s for taking Bezos’ money, but I note that this is running towards a sinking ship. A sinking enemy ship.

    • #3
    • January 22, 2014, at 2:02 AM PST
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  4. Proud Skeptic Inactive

    I have only read VC a few times and liked it. But it looks like I won’t be seeing much of it again because I can’t see paying for access to most blogs Paying for one or two paywalled blogs is fine. Having to pay for more than that will be outside of the budget for most of us.

    I pay for Ricochet because I like the weekly podcast. I pay for Bennett because it is high quality. That is it.

    • #4
    • January 22, 2014, at 4:46 AM PST
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  5. Tuck Inactive

    We’ll see about the paywall. Volokh’s useful, but I don’t know that I want to pay for commentary about a dysfunctional profession that’s busily eliminating our fundamental rights… (The professors are often on the right side of that battle, but they’re not winning.)

    • #5
    • January 22, 2014, at 5:23 AM PST
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  6. Carey J. Inactive
    genferei: Phew. There’s another site I don’t have to check.

    I don’t fault the Volokh’s for taking Bezos’ money, but I note that this is running towards a sinking ship. A sinking enemy ship. · 5 hours ago

    Think of it as a boarding action.

    • #6
    • January 22, 2014, at 7:44 AM PST
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  7. Capt. Spaulding Member
    Capt. Spaulding Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    What next? Instapundit?

    • #7
    • January 22, 2014, at 8:45 AM PST
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  8. Profile Photo Member

    While I will miss the free content of Volokh, the more voices conservatives and libertarians have in the broader culture the better. One of the biggest obstacles for the right is getting our message out past the conservative echo chamber and it is important for the voices that emerge to be thoughtful and convincing. The MSM has a tendency to trot out straw men to hold down the right-side of the conversation.

    I think WaPo just acquired some great conservative and libertarian minds which hopefully will give these minds a larger microphone. This will be a very good thing for our side.

    • #8
    • January 22, 2014, at 8:48 AM PST
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  9. genferei Member
    genferei Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    This actually fundamentally changes the feel of VC for me.

    Before it was a bunch of professors and hangers-on kicking around non-mainstream ideas to see what stuck.

    Now it’s just a money thing, eyeballs for tomorrow’s virtual fishwrap.

    • #9
    • January 22, 2014, at 8:54 AM PST
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  10. Albert Arthur Thatcher

    Interesting. The WaPo is definitely making some moves. They also hired Jen Rubin from Commentary (a while ago now), and more more recently Robert Costa from National Review, and now Volokh.

    • #10
    • January 22, 2014, at 9:36 AM PST
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  11. Richard Finlay Member

    Taking the optimistic view — as those who know me know I do so well — I will look on this as a step in the direction of philosophical balance in a currently all-left publication. Should we not applaud erosion on the left or incursion from the right(ish) into left territory? What is the alternative — right-wing ghetto forever?

    • #11
    • January 22, 2014, at 10:20 AM PST
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  12. Mike K Inactive

    The quality of the comments will probably decline. Look at the comments now.

    • #12
    • January 22, 2014, at 10:24 AM PST
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  13. Tuck Inactive

    “(The professors are often on the right side of that battle, but they’re not winning.)”

    On the other hand, we’ve all been waiting to see what Bezos does with the Post. This is certainly an improvement. I’ve been loth to send dollars to any of the Left papers… The ones I do subscribe to are for business reasons, and that does not include the Times or the Post.Good move, Mr. Bezos, let’s see if you can keep it up. I’ll see about subscribing in six months…
    • #13
    • January 22, 2014, at 10:25 AM PST
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  14. genferei Member
    genferei Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member
    Richard Finlay: What is the alternative — right-wing ghetto forever?

    Hastening the death of the MSM, and the institution of ‘journalism’.

    • #14
    • January 22, 2014, at 10:34 AM PST
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  15. Sabrdance Member

    1.) Megan McArdle is still an identifiable strain of Right, and was always a bit wobbly, but she still is identifiably left of where she was back when she was Jane Galt. I don’t know how much The Economist, Daily Beast, and Bloomberg (or just living in DC) had to do with that, but I wouldn’t say the influence of publishers is zero.

    2.) I concur with Mike K

    3.) I like the Volokh Conspiracy, but not enough to pay for it. Maybe enough to subvert the WaPo paywall.

    4.) The current set-up at the WaPo is ugly and hard to read, and it makes my eyes hurt. So, yeah, not going to pay for that privilege.

    5.) I consider the OP argument to be a best case scenario. Hey, maybe next time John Roberts reads a VC brief that was published by *gasp* the Washington Post, he won’t go weak in the knees. (OK, that might be uncalled for…)

    • #15
    • January 22, 2014, at 10:57 AM PST
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  16. Carey J. Inactive

    I think it will probably end badly.

    • #16
    • January 22, 2014, at 11:12 AM PST
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  17. Danny Alexander Member

    Possession is nine-tenths of WaPo’s law where acceptable viewpoints are concerned, so in time (i.e., when vesting completes and/or lockup-period terminates — whatever the cash-out mechanisms involve), the contributor roster as we currently know it will be heading for the exits payouts in hand, muttering about irreconcilable differences, and perhaps even having learned a thing or two.

    Perhaps they (the VC escapees) can subsequently join forces with Legal Insurrection, TaxProf, etc.?

    • #17
    • January 22, 2014, at 11:35 AM PST
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  18. flownover Inactive

    It has been hard enough to continue to read Jennifer Rubin, whose stridency seems to ratchet up when the fights are intramural ( Republican v. conservative ) . Every so often I venture back and catch up with her, but the Wapo has so many obstacles, i.e. Eugene Robinson, EJ Dionne that the clothespin hurts my nose.

    Bezos is smart enough t know that things sell in many colors and sizes and the market is the best and final arbiter. 

    If he forgets that, then Amazon is doomed first .

    • #18
    • January 22, 2014, at 11:59 AM PST
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  19. Z in MT Inactive
    Albert Arthur: Interesting. The WaPo is definitely making some moves. They also hired Jen Rubin from Commentary (a while ago now), and more more recently Robert Costa from National Review, and now Volokh. · 2 hours ago

    The Roberta Costa move was good for both Robert and WaPo, but a big loss for NR.

    • #19
    • January 22, 2014, at 12:49 PM PST
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  20. J.Maestro Inactive

    I’m torn on this. I like VC and am happy to see them featured by Big Media. But…

    Before I give Big Media one thin dime of my aftertax earnings I need to see Big Media treat conservatives as human beings whose rational views deserve to be considered. Reported, even.

    Until the news pages treat me with that level of respect, I’m out: no eyeballs, no subscription. Sorry, Eugene; I still have your early Listserv threads saved to a dusty hard-drive in my office.

    • #20
    • January 23, 2014, at 11:34 AM PST
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  21. Severely Ltd. Inactive

    I think this is a good development, exactly what needs to happen. I don’t see the blog drifting Leftward either, I see WaPo heads exploding with smart, often strongly libertarian thinking they can’t easily discount or discredit. Yahoo!

    • #21
    • January 23, 2014, at 12:15 PM PST
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  22. Adam Freedman Contributor
    Adam Freedman
    Carol: I would say that if you think the pay wall has raised the quality of the comments section at the WaPo, then you have never ventured in to the comments at the WaPo. You would be wrong. · 11 hours ago

    Sorry, what I meant was that I think the existence of a pay wall is at least partly responsible for the quality of the comments on Ricochet — and that maybe WaPo will see an improvement over time.

    • #22
    • January 23, 2014, at 12:16 PM PST
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  23. Severely Ltd. Inactive
    genferei: This actually fundamentally changes the feel of VC for me.

    Before it was a bunch of professors and hangers-on kicking around non-mainstream ideas to see what stuck.

    Now it’s just a money thing, eyeballs for tomorrow’s virtual fishwrap. · 3 hours ago

    C’mon, since when are we against a venture paying off? If the opinion soften, then complain. I say good for Eugene and whoever else profits.

    • #23
    • January 23, 2014, at 12:17 PM PST
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  24. Adam Freedman Contributor
    Adam Freedman
    Pat in Obamaland: While I will miss the free content of Volokh, the more voices conservatives and libertarians have in the broader culture the better. One of the biggest obstacles for the right is getting our message out past the conservative echo chamber and it is important for the voices that emerge to be thoughtful and convincing. · 3 hours ago

    Pat – I’m with you, TeamAmerica, Richard, and others who think we have to get our message out beyond the echo chamber. Giving conservative bloggers access to the Post’s vast readership helps.

    • #24
    • January 23, 2014, at 12:19 PM PST
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  25. genferei Member
    genferei Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member
    Adam Freedman Giving conservative bloggers access to the Post’s vast readership helps.

    Vast readership? The Bezos Bugle’s printed circulation is less than 500,000. It is one of the top 100 sites in the US (92nd at last view). Visitors view, on average, less than two pages.

    I think you wildly overestimate (a) the impact on the WashPo on real people; and (b) the openness of mind of WashPo’s content consumers.

    • #25
    • January 24, 2014, at 12:36 PM PST
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