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Some Thoughts on Multiple Blog Posts:

Some commenters said they were surprised that I've posted several times about the Obama praise song issue; they suggested that the matter is minor enough not to merit three posts (or, I suppose, now four, depending on how you count this one).

How many article a newspaper publishes about a particular incident may well reflect the importance of the incident. But bloggers operate differently. Among other things, (1) bloggers are more likely to post about amusing things they found in the course of researching the story, (2) bloggers are more likely to post follow-up factual updates, even relatively minor ones, (3) bloggers are more likely to criticize other responses to the story (whether from the media or from others), (4) bloggers are more likely to use the story as a launching off point for a discussion about other matters, such as blogging practices and the difference between blogs and the media, and (5) bloggers are more likely to react to reader comments, either to respond to them or to post something that the comment highlights as interesting.

This is what happened here. I posted the original story this morning, chiefly because I saw some academic friends of mine comment on it on a discussion list that I'm on. That was post 1. I then decided to do a bit more searching, to see how other media outlets were covering this; a news.google.com search for "Bernice Young" pointed me to the Media Matters post, which struck me as having a laughably over-the-top headline. A newspaper reporter likely wouldn't have written another story just about that, but I thought it was amusing and worth noting. I then saw that the substantive defense in the Media Matter post item was quite weak as well, so I included that in the post. That was post 2. The news.google.com query also showed me that there was a follow-up factual story in the news about the principal's response; a commenter to the original post also quoted from it, so that led me to conclude that this was a useful factual update. That was post 3. And the comments to post 3 led me to step back and remark on the difference between multiple blog posts and multiple articles in the newspaper, hence this post 4.

Now this is surely not one of the great stories of our time -- not even close. But my point is that the presence of multiple blog posts, unlike the presence of multiple articles in the same newspaper, need not be closely related to the importance of the story.

sputnik (mail):
and I thought you were just playing with us, Zhenya.
9.25.2009 3:43pm
PlugInMonster:
Keep it up Mr. Volokh. We need a million posts on this issue - public school indoctrination is a VERY serious issue.
9.25.2009 3:44pm
OrinKerr:
Indeed, I have another 72 posts ready to go this afternoon on conjunctive indictments.
9.25.2009 3:45pm
David Welker (www):
Excellent point about the differences between newspapers and blogging.

I think it would be helpful if, in the future, when there are perceptions that other institutions in society are blowing something out of proportion (i.e. this is the main story at www.foxnews.com) that you try to make it more clear how you see the story in terms of importance - especially if you are going to post on it repeatedly.

That said, in the future, I am going to keep this point in mind about your posts in particular.
9.25.2009 3:49pm
A.S.:
Obviously, the point of repeatedly telling Prof Volokh that this is a minor story unworthy of multiple posts is to get him to stop posting about a story that is obviously highly embarrassing for the Obama partisans.

After all, I don't see any commenters on the "X times less than" post complaining about Prof Volokh posting about it multiple times. The only posts about which they complain are ones that are embarassing for for the Obama partisans.
9.25.2009 3:49pm
SandyW:
I substitute taught in an elementary school last year, where 90% of the students are black. I can tell you the level of interest about everything Obama came from the kids not the teachers.

I am sure it would make some of your commenters sick, but almost anything, ANYTHING that excites kids (even the most apathetic) to read, to research, to write essays, do presentations, is pure gold and an opportunity not to be missed.
9.25.2009 3:49pm
frankcross (mail):
I think you're right as a descriptive matter. But does it make sense? I think people come to this blog for insightful legal analysis. In exchange, we should give the posters their occasional hobbyhorse political issues on which they wish to comment, it's your (collective) blog. But this one seemed really out of left field. It just seemed odd that this was the most interesting blogworthy thing you have run across today.
9.25.2009 3:50pm
PlugInMonster:

I am sure it would make some of your commenters sick, but almost anything, ANYTHING that excites kids (even the most apathetic) to read, to research, to write essays, do presentations, is pure gold and an opportunity not to be missed.


Ah yes singing praises to Obama is exactly the methodology needed to teach the kids. I honestly don't care how many of these well-read, well-writing drones you turn out - they'll still be Democrats and supporters of all-powerful government.Another reason I say, shut down the public schools immediately.
9.25.2009 3:52pm
Bleh:
Eh, it's your blog, you should post as many times as you want. I do kind of wonder, why the update on the principal deserved a new post when your update on similar events occuring during President Bush's administration came as an update to the original post--being potentially buried by your newer posts. (I wasn't paying close attention to the body of the post, so I apologize if that was actually your first update and not your 4th update as it appeared to me).
9.25.2009 3:52pm
Redman:

(link)SandyW:
I substitute taught in an elementary school last year, where 90% of the students are black. I can tell you the level of interest about everything Obama came from the kids not the teachers.

I am sure it would make some of your commenters sick, but almost anything, ANYTHING that excites kids (even the most apathetic) to read, to research, to write essays, do presentations, is pure gold and an opportunity not to be missed.


It doesn't make me "sick" .. but I imagine there are a whole lot of subjects that a teacher could use to excite students, but many of those topics are off limits because they do not fit into Groupthink's agenda.
9.25.2009 3:55pm
PlugInMonster:

Eh, it's your blog, you should post as many times as you want. I do kind of wonder, why the update on the principal deserved a new post when your update on similar events occuring during President Bush's administration came as an update to the original post--being potentially buried by your newer posts. (I wasn't paying close attention to the body of the post, so I apologize if that was actually your first update and not your 4th update as it appeared to me).


There was no similar event during the Bush administration. Evidence please!
9.25.2009 3:56pm
Bleh:

PlugInMonster:
There was no similar event during the Bush administration. Evidence please!

Ah, case in point. Someone who missed EV's update to his first post:


UPDATE: Incidentally, the 2006 "Congress, Bush and FEMA / People across our land / Together have come to rebuild us and we join them hand-in-hand!" schoolchildren's song to First Lady Laura Bush is pretty bad, too -- not quite the same, even if it was organized as a public school activity (which I suspect would indeed be so), since it didn't involve such extensive praise of a particular current political figure, but also not the sort of thing that schools should be doing.
9.25.2009 4:01pm
Barrister's Handshake (mail) (www):
I think you should post the whole thing again, a sentence at a time...

I also think that my fascination with this discussion about the discussion reveals just how sad and uneventful my life is.
9.25.2009 4:11pm
Bleh:

I also think that my fascination with this discussion about the discussion reveals just how sad and uneventful my life is.

Ditto.
9.25.2009 4:14pm
ChrisIowa (mail):
As I have started to scan the several thousand photos I have taken on film into digital format*, the thought comes to mind that those of us who learned photography on film, had to be more careful with our shots. We had only so much film, and it had readily identifiable costs.

Now, with digital photography each shot is essentially free, and I can take many more pictures and don't have to budget the shots I take, and so don't have to be as careful when I take each shot.

The same difference is there with print media and blogs. A newspaper has a limited amount of space and takes an amount of resources to publish and distribute, and cost each reader. Each article should be better thought out, better developed, and with more relevance to someone. Blogs have unlimited space and no added cost per post. Thoughts do not have to be fully developed, nor does every article have to have much importance. If the subject of a blog post has no importance to you, pass it by. It has cost you nothing until you read it, and then only a little time. If you whine about it's irrelevance you have just increased your own cost.

*and 30 years from now we will be very happy that we had Kodachrome.
9.25.2009 4:17pm
Mark N. (www):
I think it varies between blogs. It's common to do this sort of follow-up-posting on some kinds of blogs, but others try to reserve "top-level" posts for more significant updates, and collect more minor updates under the original post. Depends on the purpose of the blog. Posting updates as new blog posts gives them more visibility, but also tends to clutter the blog and distract from other issues. If, for example, there's 5 updates in a day from the same relatively minor story, and 1 very in-depth and insightful analysis of an issue, that one post tends to get buried in the avalanche and get less attention than it ought.
9.25.2009 4:18pm
Mark N. (www):
Also, from a reader's perspective, multiple follow-up posts make it much harder to separate issues you care about from those you don't. One post about an issue I don't care about? No problem; skip it and look for a post I find more interesting. But if it keeps recurring, it's much harder to skip the stuff I don't care about, like trying to watch television without watching Michael Jackson death coverage.
9.25.2009 4:22pm
HLSbertarian (mail):

I think people come to this blog for insightful legal analysis. In exchange, we should give the posters their occasional hobbyhorse political issues on which they wish to comment, it's your (collective) blog. But...


"In exchange" for receiving a free service, you indulge the bloggers, but naturally only to a point?
9.25.2009 4:25pm
Crunchy Frog:
Michael Jackson died? When did this happen?
9.25.2009 4:27pm
Mark N. (www):

"In exchange" for receiving a free service, you indulge the bloggers, but naturally only to a point?

That's common with free services. In exchange for free broadcast TV, we indulge them showing some advertisements, but only to a point--- if it gets too overrun with advertisements, it becomes not worth watching at all. Volokh Conspiracy, I think, currently treads a fine line between a blog with insightful legal analysis, and a blog more like RedState or the Free Republic that just parrots partisan talking points. Of course, it's free to tilt more to the latter if it wishes, but people who like the former are also free to complain about it if they wish. There's no right to produce a free service without receiving complaints about it. =]
9.25.2009 4:28pm
troll_dc2 (mail):
I think that the repeated blogs on the same story show a defect in how this site is organized. For many of us, once a blog gets shoved to the bottom of the screen, it is as good as gone. So an update or extended comment by the writer of the "below the fold" blog will not get much attention. As a result, he has to construct a new blog if he wants his comments read.

Frankcross also makes a useful point:


I think people come to this blog for insightful legal analysis. In exchange, we should give the posters their occasional hobbyhorse political issues on which they wish to comment

Normally, EV provides that insight, and I am willing to let him post other stuff as well (although I think that the story was not totally devoid of news value). But I see lots of stuff that ought to be commented on here that never gets discussed. For example, this Washington Post article on the use of ankle sensors that use a person's sweat to detect whether someone has been drinking.
9.25.2009 4:33pm
SandyW:
Of course, one of the downsides of multiple posts on the same subject is you are more likely to lose the "Most Commented Upon Post" title.
9.25.2009 4:38pm
troll_dc2 (mail):

Indeed, I have another 72 posts ready to go this afternoon on conjunctive indictments.


The writer of that statement has figured out better than any of the other bloggers how to deliver intellectually interesting material to the VC readership while, at the same time, using the opportunity provided by the site to develop his own thinking, which he then can recycle in op-ed pieces, interviews, and even law review articles. Instead of treating the site as a pulpit, he is using it as an on-line classroom.
9.25.2009 4:42pm
Leo Marvin (mail):
Read a blog and you get to know the blogger. The political bias on display in this series of posts can hardly come as a surprise to anyone familiar with this site. But neither is EV's commitment to certain core principles, even when it's politically inconvenient. As snapshots of human beings go, that's more admirable than all but a tiny sliver of what one finds in blogs worth reading.
9.25.2009 5:08pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
There was no similar event during the Bush administration.


Bleh pointed out something you missed. Also, here you can see children blessing a cardboard figure of GWB.
9.25.2009 5:26pm
Arkady:
I guess PluginMonster ain't too plugged in.
9.25.2009 5:31pm
Patent Lawyer (mail):
jukeboxgrad:

Also, here you can see children blessing a cardboard figure of GWB.

While I agree that the Jesus Camp footage was creepy, there should be obvious differences between what goes on at a private camp and a public school--obvious even to you.
9.25.2009 5:33pm
Law Dem (mail):
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/09/25/ flashback-students-sang-b_n_300372.html
9.25.2009 5:36pm
Curmudgeonly Ex-Clerk (www):
troll_dc2:

It could be that I am reading too much into what may have been hastily penned comments, but I'm rather taken aback by your posts. You write:
Normally, EV provides that insight, and I am willing to let him post other stuff as well . . . . But I see lots of stuff that ought to be commented on here that never gets discussed.
You then unfavorably compare him with another contributor on this website, concluding that:
Instead of treating the site as a pulpit, he is using it as an on-line classroom.
The presumption of those comments is remarkable. To borrow from Neil Gaiman, Eugene Volokh is not your bitch. If you're so dissatisfied with the lesson plan, I'm sure that Professor Volokh will be happy to refund your tuition and fees.
9.25.2009 5:47pm
Laughing:
This is laughable. I can't believe EV feels compelled to defend his decision to make three posts about this story. All because some people would rather forget that something this creepy and embarrassing happened in one of our public schools.

The story itself blogworthy, and so is the media's coverage of it.
9.25.2009 5:48pm
Dilan Esper (mail) (www):
1. It's your blog; post whatever you think is interesting.
2. I voted for Obama, I generally support his policies, and I can't stand this sort of stuff. It's bad enough we try to compel schoolchildren to say a pledge of allegiance they don't understand. But at least that is allegiance to the country. Obama is not the country-- he is a partisan politician whom everyone, including schoolchildren, has the right to dislike if they wish.
9.25.2009 5:54pm
troll_dc2 (mail):

The presumption of those comments is remarkable. To borrow from Neil Gaiman, Eugene Volokh is not your bitch. If you're so dissatisfied with the lesson plan, I'm sure that Professor Volokh will be happy to refund your tuition and fees.


EV can post what he likes, and I will read it if I want to or not; it is rare, though, that I do not even look at something that he has written. In fact, he was not the main target of my statement, as he often offers thought-provoking material and communicates with commenters.

But some of the others, especially those who do not allow comments, seem to be a waste of time. I guess they use this site as a place to let off steam, but if they are out to persuade others to agree with their point of view, I don't think that they are doing a very good job of it.

Am I being presumptuous? Sure, but so what? The blogs are offered to the public for their evaluation, and I, a member of that public, merely am stating what approach works best for me. If you like being lectured to, that is your prerogative.
9.25.2009 6:10pm
ShelbyC:

Am I being presumptuous? Sure, but so what? The blogs are offered to the public for their evaluation, and I, a member of that public, merely am stating what approach works best for me. If you like being lectured to, that is your prerogative.


Geez, troll. Sometimes I wonder why I let you comment here.
9.25.2009 6:21pm
troll_dc2 (mail):

Geez, troll. Sometimes I wonder why I let you comment here.

Because you want to read what I have to say?
9.25.2009 6:37pm
markH (mail):
Children sing the praises of Congress, Bush and FEMA

Could someone provide me with the links to the multiple blog entries condemning this? I know the White House is not a public school but it ain't Jesus Camp, either. I don't seem to recall conservative voices decrying the politicization of the White House Easter Egg Hunt.
9.25.2009 6:42pm
ShelbyC:

Because you want to read what I have to say?


:-)
9.25.2009 6:43pm
Mark N. (www):
The "presumption" view of criticism, based on the fact that the blog is free, is somewhat odd. ABC News broadcasts its news free of charge; does that mean nobody is allowed to criticize their reporting practices? That any criticism should be answered with, "but ABC News is free; you're welcome to a refund of your $0 if you don't like it"?
9.25.2009 7:51pm
ChrisTS (mail):
ChrisIowa:

Brilliant.
9.25.2009 8:16pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
patent lawyer:

there should be obvious differences between what goes on at a private camp and a public school--obvious even to you


What should be obvious even to you is that I didn't claim the two situations are perfectly equivalent. Nevertheless, the jesuscamp event is similar enough to be relevant.

And what's obvious to me is that there would still be plenty of faux outrage over this event (the Obama song), even if it had 'only' taken place at a private camp.
9.25.2009 8:19pm
DiversityHire (mail):

But my point is that the presence of multiple blog posts, unlike the presence of multiple articles in the same newspaper, need not be closely related to the importance of the story.


I read the Los Angeles Times if there's any correlation between importance and frequency of appearance it's not on display there. Or rather, the editors and I seldom agree on what is interesting much less important. The same holds for blogs where often the effort expended in the comment threads exceed the original effort by an order of magnitude, indicating some kind of disparity in interest or importance between the original poster and the commenter. A good blogger (speaking as a non-blogger) knows just where to drop the impurities into the super-saturated media solution to get crystals to form. If this is done strategically, with an agenda, then it's clever marketing; when it's done out of genuine interest or curiosity, its the start of a conversation. I see no problem in repeatedly seeding conversations wherever one's thoughts take you, often—as in this case—the reaction of the readers proves interesting in and of itself.
9.25.2009 8:27pm
Curmudgeonly Ex-Clerk (www):
Mark N.:

This is not a professional news organization; it is a blog. Eugene Volokh does not have "reporting practices" to criticize; he is not a journalist. In contrast, journalists hold themselves out as professionals vis-a-vis their trade; it is widely agreed that their professional conduct is constrained by ethical considerations peculiar to their Fourth Estate. So the ABC analogy rings quite hollow.

Unless commenter "troll_dc2" (to whom I was responding) was using the word ought in some fairly idiosyncratic way, the idea that Eugene Volokh ought to be blogging about some topics and ought not to be blogging about others is quite odd. The idea that he has some obligation to be running his blog as an "on-line classroom" for the benefit of others and is properly subject to criticism if he uses his blog for other purposes is equally odd and seems to reflect a sense of entitlement.

I referenced a "refund" in my remarks, because I think random commenters who are not paying Professor Volokh for his time really have no business criticizing how that time is spent. It is one thing to disagree with what Volokh writes and say so; it is quite another for commenters to insist that Volokh spend his time and energy engaged in pursuits that meet with their approval.
9.25.2009 8:30pm
ChrisTS (mail):
To those jumping on Sandy W:
The sad, sad, fact is that most lower-echelon public schools (teachers and administrators) DO feel driven to capitalize on anything that 'resonates' with their students.

I think this is a pretty weird, even creepy, exercise, but educators will seize any 'teaching moment.' If you can get the students to sing a song that means you have gotten them to use the language, do a bit of memorization, pick up a beat, and -- most importantly -- give a d*** about something that happened in school.

Be as partisan as you like about this particular exercise (which, again, I do not like at all. Nonetheless, Sandy was making a serious point about what it takes to get many of our young people even slightly interested in what happens during the school day - other than who hooked up with whom, who beat up on whom, what's for lunch, and so forth.
9.25.2009 9:02pm
Mark N. (www):
Curmudgeonly Ex-Clerk: I don't actually see any relevant difference between ABC News and Eugene Volokh except for size of audience. The fact that ABC positions itself as a "professional news organization" is IMO irrelevant, and it's simply incoherent to claim that there are different ethics applied to an impossible-to-define "fourth estate" as distinct from other public commentators.
9.25.2009 9:32pm
PlugInMonster:

Arkady:
I guess PluginMonster ain't too plugged in.


Oh forgive me for having a LIFE.
9.26.2009 4:43am
BT:

To those jumping on Sandy W:
The sad, sad, fact is that most lower-echelon public schools (teachers and administrators) DO feel driven to capitalize on anything that 'resonates' with their students.


I am with ChrisTS on this. While I have no use for Barack Obama, I hope one good thing that would come out of his presidency is the possibility that some poor, urban, black students will see a potential in themselves and for life in general that was not there before he was elected. Even if it is only 5% of those kids that would be a huge change for the good in their community and for all of us.

The one thing that bothered me most about the story was the advocacy by the school principal for Obama during the election, in the year book, etc. I don't remember that happening when I was in school (many years ago). Have public schools become that politicized?
9.26.2009 7:45am
BGates:
here you can see children blessing a cardboard figure of GWB.

There's a difference between praying for and praying to.

I hope one good thing that would come out of his presidency is the possibility that some poor, urban, black students will see a potential in themselves and for life in general that was not there before he was elected.

Sure. They couldn't really look up to, say, Condi Rice, because she's Republican, not a real black person, and they couldn't look up to anybody in the current administration besides the president and Holder, because it's not possible to want to emulate someone outside your own race. But now those poor kids can say to themselves, "it doesn't matter how much dope I smoke or class I cut; I'll be guaranteed to get into a good college as soon as my grandparents get me into a tony private school."
9.26.2009 9:23am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
gates:

There's a difference between praying for and praying to.


Good luck convincing anyone that you and the other usual suspects wouldn't be having a fit if this video showed a bunch of kids waving their arms in front of a cardboard figure of Obama.

They couldn't really look up to, say, Condi Rice, because she's Republican, not a real black person


Not exactly. The problem with looking up to Condi is that she's a liar.

it doesn't matter how much dope I smoke or class I cut; I'll be guaranteed to get into a good college as soon as my grandparents get me into a tony private school


There's really no need to rehash the life of GWB.
9.26.2009 12:19pm
BT:

it doesn't matter how much dope I smoke or class I cut; I'll be guaranteed to get into a good college as soon as my grandparents get me into a tony private school


There's really no need to rehash the life of GWB.


Juke Box, be careful you are approaching Sarcastro level humor here.
9.26.2009 1:05pm
ChrisTS (mail):
it doesn't matter how much dope I smoke or class I cut; I'll be guaranteed to get into a good college as soon as my grandparents get me into a tony private school


There's really no need to rehash the life of GWB.


Nice.
9.26.2009 1:08pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
Juke Box, be careful you are approaching Sarcastro level humor here.


I aspire to be as funny as him but I realize it's not likely to happen.
9.26.2009 1:10pm
ChrisTS (mail):
Sure. They couldn't really look up to, say, Condi Rice, because she's Republican, not a real black person, and they couldn't look up to anybody in the current administration besides the president and Holder, because it's not possible to want to emulate someone outside your own race.

Let's not be obtuse. Young black kids will, in fact, be more inspired by a 'black' President than a white one and more by the former than by a black SoS. Young girls will be inspired by accomplished women. Latinos/as will be inspired by a Latina Justice. Perhaps such people are more likely to be inspired by people like themselves because they do not see many of those people in advanced positions. On the other hand, I'm willing to bet that many young white males are particularly inspired by accomplished white men.
9.26.2009 1:15pm
sobi:
Others may not consider this a vital story. I do. There are insufficient articles as is, and each one is important.

I would prefer they cease with the light-hearted approach and go for the meat of it which is, to my mind, indoctrination taken to a frightening extreme.
9.26.2009 1:31pm
ChrisTS (mail):
It seems the history of singing the President's praises needs to be expanded.

My sister and I were talking about this 'Obama song' thing, and she reminded me that we used to sing a song to the President [whoever it was] every year in school. She thinks it was for their birthdays, but I assume some must have had birthdays not during the school year, so I'm not sure.

As we recall, the tune was 'America.' In place of "America, America, God shed his grace on thee" we sang "O President, our President, God share his grace with thee." There was also something like "with guiding/steady hand, protect our noble land" at the end.
9.26.2009 1:41pm
Monte Meals (mail):
Try this:

Google New York Times.

In the "Search nytimes.com" edit box ...
type "abu ghraib"

The results: Results 1 - 10 of about 11,700 from nytimes.com for abu ghraib.

Three or four posts really isn't a matter of concern.

Keep up the good work.
9.26.2009 8:27pm
pbf (mail) (www):
I myself have been wondering if anyone here would comment on their (former?) hero, Richard Posner, declaring that he's become a Keynesian (http://www.tnr.com/article/how-i-became-keynesian)and his agreement with the "majority of economists [who] are in general agreement with the Obama administration's exceedingly Keynesian strategy for digging the economy out of its deep hole."

But I guess multiple posts on this issue and even on specious legal arguments like the constitutionality of an insurance mandate are far more audience friendly.
9.26.2009 10:32pm
Sara:
Thanks for mentioning the article, pbf. But how amany law and economics scholars are there here, really?

As for this topic, SandyW, has put her finger on the countervailing issues that make it much more complicated than these posts would allow.
9.27.2009 8:39am

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