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Glenn Reynolds Chats About ‘An Army of Davids’

Glenn Reynolds, best known as the man behind InstaPundit.com, runs one of the most popular and longest-running blogs on the Internet. His experience and know-how have earned him widespread respect from fellow bloggers and the mainstream media, making him a go-to guy anytime blogs are in the news.

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Now Reynolds has put his thoughts down on paper, authoring “An Army of Davids: How Markets and Technology Empower Ordinary People to Beat Big Media, Big Government and Other Goliaths.” I recently asked Reynolds (via e-mail, of course) about the book, his passion for new technology and his outlook on the future.

Where did the name InstaPundit come from?

I heard the term used to describe the many cable-TV pundits who appeared during the Clinton impeachment. I thought it was funny, and properly unpretentious.

What is the difference between Instapundit.com and GlennReynolds.com?

InstaPundit is my personal weblog. GlennReynolds.com is the quasi-blog that I do for MSNBC. I call it a quasi-blog because their antiquated publishing system means I can’t really blog—I have to email the posts in.

You write in the book about all the many new things you’ve tried in life—brewing beer, digitally recording music, starting a blog—before they became popular. What keeps you motivated to dabble in new things, especially new technology?

Basically, it’s just fun. I really like new things, I really like doing things myself, and I really enjoy new technologies that let me try my hand at producing things I previously just consumed.

Why did people gravitate to your blog on Sept. 11, 2001, tripling your audience and launching you onto the national scene?

I don’t know. I think it was dissatisfaction with the media coverage—which managed to be simultaneously hysterical and boring—and the sense that I wasn’t pushing any particular agenda.

How has the book been received by mainstream press?

Generally very well—all the mainstream reviews to date have been quite positive. No doubt somebody will zing me sooner or later, but that’s OK. As long as they spell the name right!

Why is it so hard for journalists and by extension Big Media to grasp the power of blogs or accept bloggers as fellow reporters?

Journalism has for years wanted parity with professions like law and medicine. In fact, though, it’s more like Willy Loman’s work—requiring mostly a smile and a shoeshine. And even those are getting harder to find among the working press. … But since the 1960s, at least, journalism has tended toward elitism, and toward telling its readers what to think. Blogging is a threat to those with that mindset.

Are any Big Media organizations doing a good job utilizing blogs?

I think the Washington Post is among the best, especially with its use of Technorati links to stories.

When do you think we’ll see bloggers trolling the halls of Congress, with credentials, just as so many print and TV reporters do today?

In a limited way, we already are. I think we’ll see more of that, as bloggers realize that gathering hard news, though work, isn’t as hard as it sounds.

Do you think the Bush Administration understands the power of the blogosphere? Is the White House reading InstaPundit.com, for example?

I think they understand in the abstract, and I understand that people in the White House do read InstaPundit. But they could do much more with blogs, especially as an early warning system regarding how proposals are playing. Both the Harriet Miers and Dubai ports debacles were clearly foreshadowed in the blogosphere, but the White House didn’t take heed.

What are three key points you could offer someone who wants their blog to have an impact, be it on a political race, a policy debate or culture in general?

Offer something that others don’t. It may be specific knowledge of a subject, a locality, or mechanics (e.g., election law technicalities), or it may be an angle or take. But people need a reason to read your blog more than the other 30 million or so that are out there.

When will this army of davids be fully engaged?

I think it’s also an army of amateurs, which means a lot of part-time people. I think that’s not a bug, but a feature.

Is there anyway to engage the older population that didn’t grow up with computers?

Some will catch on—it’s not that hard—others won’t bother. I don’t know that we should be shoving computers in their faces.

How young is too young to start blogging?

My daughter blogs. She’s 10. No, I won’t tell you the URL.

What are three ways that government will have to change to deal with this new army?

  1. Increased transparency—especially for Congress, whose tendency toward secretiveness and obfuscation is already under pressure;
  2. Nondiscrimination—bloggers will demand the same perquisites as Big Media, and they’ll increasingly deserve them;
  3. Speed: The blogosphere moves more rapidly than Big Media—that can be an advantage for those who take advantage of it, a horrible disadvantage for those who don’t.
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Mr. Bluey, a contributing editor to Human Events, is director of the Center for Media & Public Policy at The Heritage Foundation. He maintains a blog at RobertBluey.com.

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