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Blogging lawyers–with an agenda–as journalists

Blogging lawyers, even with their own agenda, are part of today’s journalism.

America news media, including legal media, with eroding business models are cutting back on coverage. Papers are shrinking or going away. National TV coverage of breaking events is becoming more limited – as evidenced by CNN and Fox running tapped shows last night when news of 19 firefighters dying is breaking on Twitter. Sports teams and leagues are hiring their own bloggers, having found that papers no longer employed reporters to travel with their teams. And ALM, the leading legal periodical publisher, has a fraction of the publications it once had.

Who’s to fill the gap? In the case of the law, it’s lawyers who blog.

I am not talking of lawyers with blogs, some with ghost writers, looking to garner search rankings and shameless attention. I am talking of real lawyers offering first hand insight, news, and commentary in a genuine and authentic fashion. I am talking of lawyers who are uniquely qualified to report and offer commentary on areas in which they have deep expertise.

We ought not be alarmed by getting news and commentary from folks with an agenda, as many lawyers will have. The agenda could be advancing a cause or to enhance their own reputation and build relationships in an effort to drive business their way. Who cares? Lawyers didn’t hire PR professionals to get their names and quotes in the paper and on TV absent an ulterior motive.

“Fair and objective” news is only a recent development in journalism. And it was only driven by economic incentive. Here’s David Caar (@carr2n) of the New York Times this morning in an article, “Journalism, Even When It’s Tilted.”

[T]he fight between objectivity and subjectivity is a fairly modern one. In the 1800s, journalism was underwritten by powerful people, the government or political parties. It was only when an economic incentive for information absent a political agenda took hold that an independent press also emerged. It makes sense that as the financial rewards for traditional journalism have eroded, advocacy journalism has gained new traction. It is now up to the consumer to assemble a news diet of his or her choice, adding in news that is produced by people who have skin in the game.

Will our audience be led astray by lawyers with an agenda? Hardly. People today get their news, information, and commentary from people they trust. Usually second hand when they pick up a link from Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, email, or text. Others have set up their “personalized newspapers” via RSS readers or use curated social network feeds delivered on Zite or Flipboard. Our audience can ferret out the truth. And from Carr:

“Truth is not the hole in the middle of the doughnut, it is on the doughnut somewhere,” a veteran reporter whom I worked with at an alternative weekly in Minneapolis once told me. What he meant was that articles that strive only to be in the middle — moving from one hand to the other in an effort to be nicely balanced — end up going nowhere. I was just out of journalism school, brimming with freshly taught tenets of fairness and objectivity, and already those values were in question.

You’d have to be living in a cave to see that journalism as we’ve come to know it over the last fifty plus years is changing, and changing fast. So is the law and and how lawyers do business development. There’s a good fit here – lawyers and journalism – even lawyers with an agenda.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Mustafa Khayat.