James Poulos in the Daily Beast has an interesting juxtaposition between what WaPo lost by dropping Ezra Klein and gained by adding the Volokh Conspiracy–in short, “endurance qualitative analysis” of important topics, that does not involve charts.
Unlike Team Klein, Team Volokh didn’t build its brand on quant. Instead, more like my own blog, the Volokh Conspiracy gained an audience and achieved relevance thanks to its sustained level of qualitative analysis. Only, unlike my blog, Volokh’s focused on issues of patently immediate concern to regular Americans and elites alike—major Supreme Court decisions and the like. Team Volokh is that rare body of new-media stars who can analyze major policy developments without deploying a single charticle.
In today’s media climate, that’s a big deal. As it happens, that kind of “endurance qualitative analysis” is much of what America’s best and brightest old-school bloggers lost when their personal blogs went corporate. Rather than keeping readers enriched at a brisk but measured pace of long-distance commentary sustained regularly over time, freshly recruited big-media bloggers had to adjust to an infotainment environment in which content, clicks, coverage, and courtship of thinkfluentials all had to move at increasing speeds.
But wait—Volokh’s debut at the Post isn’t just about giving qualitative news analysis its rightful seat at the cool kids’ table of intellectation. Volokh’s brand helps widen the field for the specific kind of “qual” that old-school blogging brought to the mainstream: not the “longreads” of today, sold to popular audiences as useful and entertaining because of their narratives and reportage. Bezos’s choice of bloggers allows us to think seriously once again about the independent media value of politics and policy commentary that’s rooted in concept-driven reasoning—the kind of work done by “public intellectuals,” and America’s first wave of “serious” bloggers, at their best.
In short, Volokh Conspiracy is not a “qaunt” but a “qual” (Eugene is certainly a quant, but that is neither here nor there).