Saturday, August 29, 2009

New York Times v. Oxford University Press

In the American law school world what is the comparative weight of:
A. Prominent and repeated mention of the thoughts of a faculty member by the New York Times

and

B. Publication of a book by Oxford University Press?

Problem:
1. Reported pronouncements of academics in the mass media tend to be glib rather than thoughtful.

2. Academic books are, more often than not, arcane, arid, and irrelevant.

Mentions in the mass media count more in the law school world than some observers might think; they count for quite a bit. (Word of such mentions quickly circulates in metaphorical faculty corridors, and there is often a breathless quality to academics' mentions of such mentions by the mass media.)

P.S. I confess to having written arcane and arid stuff. But I do not admit that any or much of it is "irrelevant." ("Irrelevant to what?," you might ask. My reply: "That's a good question.")

P.P.S. The prestige of mentions by the New York Times may well decline. The importance of TV publicity will probably increase.

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These thought fragments came into my brain while I was watching a C-Span Booknotes re-broadcast of an interview with Richard Posner about his book Public Intellectuals: A Study in Decline (2002).

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