Mon 1 Feb 2010
Or: “How the Internet has expanded what it means to be published.”
About a week ago, I read a piece by Andrew Leonard, one of my favorite Salon.com columnists, about Clarence Thomas’ crazy solo dissent in the recent Supreme Court decision on corporate political spending. (Along the theme of this post: I say “columnist” though you could also call him a blogger. However, what is a blog that exists as part of a larger publication but a column?) I’d long been aware that Thomas often stood alone on issues brought before the court, and realized that now was the time to finally write about it.
So I posted a blog entry of my own, on my Open Salon blog, in which I did a survey of every solo dissent in a Supreme Court decision for the past five years and came to some conclusions about what those dissents reveal about the justices who made them.
In a sense, I “published” an article. It required a fair amount of research, and contained fairly unique and useful content, and I think the writing was pretty good, too. It’s there for the public to find and read. However, you would be justified in asking, “Is that all you meant by published? Anyone could do that!”
The next day, though, there was a further development: Andrew Leonard himself wrote a blog entry in which he cited my piece, quoting from it and linking to it!
Was I really published now? In the print world, being mentioned in a column would certainly not constitute publication, but on the Web, being linked to, so that a reader can jump to the second article as easily as they could page to the next section of the current article is, at the very least, something more than mere citation.
At any rate, when I saw what Leonard had done, I certainly felt like I had just gotten published. I got more excited than I’d been a couple of days earlier when I learned that I would probably be getting a new job I applied for! (Personal note: still waiting to hear for sure about that as of 2/1.)
A few days later, someone wrote a comment to my blog post saying that he’d wanted to write about Thomas’ solo dissents as well, but when he googled “Clarence Thomas solo dissent”, he discovered that I’d already done it. I then tried that search myself, and sure enough, my article showed up number three in the results!
As of tonight, I’m still at number three — I rose briefly to number one over the weekend! — and it has me wondering about the sense in which this is also “publication”. If some reader on the Internet wants to learn more about Clarence Thomas and solo dissent, he or she will probably end up reading my blog post. Is this the same as being published? If not, is it better or worse?
The only thing I’m sure about is: it’s really something!