A  Companion  site  for  the  C-SPAN  series  airing  Sunday  nights  at  8pm & 11pm ET 

PAST PROGRAMS  ·  FEEDBACK  ·  Store 



Search:
Advanced Search
February 26, 2006
Glenn Reynolds
Publisher of Instapundit.com
Program Details
Watch Program
More Information
Buy DVD/VHS

Info: Glenn Reynolds discusses his blog. Why he started it and what difference blogs have made on the political landscape.


Uncorrected transcript provided by Morningside Partners.
C-SPAN uses its best efforts to provide accurate transcripts of its programs, but it can not be held liable for mistakes such as omitted words, punctuation, spelling, mistakes that change meaning, etc.

BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Glenn Reynolds, what is instapundit.com?

GLENN REYNOLDS, PUBLISHER, INSTAPUNDIT.COM: Instapundit is my blog. I started it back in August of 2001, when blogs were still called ”me-zines” by most people, and which is actually probably the only word that is worse than blog for describing them.

And I started it because I teach Internet law and I thought it would be kind of a fun experiment, do something sort of hands-on on the Web, and thought I might pick up, you know, a few dozen, or maybe if I was lucky, a couple of hundred readers.

LAMB: Where do you live?

REYNOLDS: I live in Knoxville, Tennessee.

LAMB: Doing what full-time?

REYNOLDS: I’m a law professor at the University of Tennessee College of Law.

LAMB: What do you teach?

REYNOLDS: I teach Internet law and constitutional law and national security law and kind of a variety of law and technology courses from time to time.

LAMB: Can you remember the first time you had a computer in your hands?

REYNOLDS: Yes. And it tells you a lot about the difference between me and Bill Gates, because I actually saw the very same -- literally the same box, the same Altair 8800 computer that Bill Gates had seen a couple of weeks earlier.

And Bill Gates looked at it and said, you know, if I make software for that, I can get rich. And I looked at it and said, you know, if somebody made some software for that, I might buy one. And that tells you the whole difference.

But that would have been like, I don’t know, probably 1974, 1973. I was just a -- I was in junior high at the time. But…

LAMB: When did you own your first computer?

REYNOLDS: My first computer that I owned was a Kaypro 4. It was a CP/M machine, allegedly portable, with a tiny screen and featuring not one but two floppy disk drives. It was a very high-powered machine.

LAMB: Why did you get it?

REYNOLDS: I was in law school. I was writing a lot. And I was pretty good at the correcting typewriter, but I wanted a word processor to write with. And I never looked back.

LAMB: Where did you go to law school?

REYNOLDS: I went to Yale.

LAMB: Why were you interested in the law, do you remember?

REYNOLDS: You know, I was always interested in law. And where it started, it’s kind of hard to say. When I was a kid I was a graduate student brat and my dad actually got his Ph.D. in religious studies at Harvard, but he took a lot of courses at the law school. He had Lon Fuller on his dissertation committee and stuff.

And I was around there then and I read sort of simple books on the law then. It just really interested me. I just kind of followed it from there.

LAMB: Where did you grow up?

REYNOLDS: All over. I spent a lot of my formative years in various Harvard married student apartments. Before that we lived in Dallas for a while. In fact, I was a 3-year-old in Dallas when Kennedy was assassinated. My dad took me down to Dealey Plaza the next day, which I still remember.

I lived in Germany for a while. My dad taught at Heidelberg. And then when I was older, we moved to Knoxville, and I went to high school and college there and so on, and went off to law school and practiced law in Washington and then would up moving back.

LAMB: Where did you practice here?

REYNOLDS: I was with the D.C. office of Dewey Ballantine. I worked under Joe Califano.

LAMB: What did you learn there?

REYNOLDS: A lot of stuff, actually. I mean, one of the interesting things -- I learned a lot of time management for one thing. People asked me how I managed to do a lot of things, and the fact is if you have been a Wall Street lawyer, you know about time management.

And I actually wrote a book while I was working for Dewey Ballantine. And if you write a book while you are working for a Wall Street law firm, you really learn about time management. And that makes everything else seem pretty easy.

LAMB: What was that book about?

REYNOLDS: That was a book on space law. And that was actually part of my practice when I worked for Dewey Ballantine. I did aerospace stuff. And there was no sort of general law school casebook type thing out there. And I, with a friend of mine from law school, Rob Merges, who teaches at the University of California now, at Berkeley, I wrote that. And we put it through a second edition about 10 years later. And it’s still out there.

So that was my first venture into writing books. And it -- they were very supportive at the law firm. And that was actually one of the interesting things, and a lot of law firms I think would discourage that kind of outside activity, but their position was that as long as you did you day job, they didn’t really care what you did in your spare time. And they actually encourage people to write, because they thought it was good for the firm.

LAMB: How many years were you with Dewey Ballantine?

REYNOLDS: I was there for three years.

LAMB: Who is the Dewey?

REYNOLDS: It was Tom Dewey.

LAMB: And for those who have never heard of Tom Dewey, who was he?

REYNOLDS: The guy that didn’t beat Truman in 1948, although I’m sure he would hate to be remembered that way. He was actually quite a crusading prosecutor in New York, and quite a major political figure. But after the whole Truman thing, he kind of settled down to the practice of law.

And they still told Tom Dewey stories when I was at Dewey Ballantine, and some of them may have been true.

LAMB: Who was Ballantine?

REYNOLDS: You know, I don’t know much about him. He goes way back, long before him it was Root Tilden (ph) Buckner & Ballantine back when the Root was Elihu Root. So that was before even my grandmother’s time, I had no idea much about him.

LAMB: Well, go back to the beginning of your political interest. I read somewhere you were a Democrat.

REYNOLDS: Yes, I mean, I have been. I was a card-carrying Democrat for a long time and I guess I’m not really now. I was a card-carrying Libertarian for a while, and now I’m not really affiliated with any political party.

But I worked for Al Gore’s campaign in ’88, did a little work with my friend Gene Sperling from law school on the Clinton campaign in ’92, became somewhat disenchanted with Clinton as the Clinton administration went on.

And I was pretty much ambivalent, I really didn’t have much of a preference with regard to the 2000 presidential election. I voted Libertarian in ’96 and 2000.

LAMB: Is it fair to assume that the people that read your blog or involved in it think you are conservative?

REYNOLDS: I would say the people who read my blog regularly don’t, but the people who don’t read my blog regularly but know about it probably do.

LAMB: Why is that?

REYNOLDS: It’s the war. I mean, that’s the litmus test, and it’s the thing that I think a lot of bloggers comment on. I know Ann Althouse, who is a law professor at Wisconsin who blogs has the same kind of thing. And she frequently, you know, will put up a post that says, you know, how come I’m pro-gay marriage and, you know, pro-choice and all this stuff, and yet everybody thinks I’m a conservative?

And the answer is, it’s the war. I mean, that has become everybody’s single-issue litmus test.

LAMB: What’s your stand on the war?

REYNOLDS: I think it has got its issues, but it’s the thing to do. I think that, you know, it’s -- once you are at war, it’s very important to win. And I’m pretty open to a discussion of how to go about winning, but not very interested in a discussion that it is not worth winning or that we deserve to lose for the sins of Western civilization or so on.

LAMB: How did you get there?

REYNOLDS: How did I get to that position on the war? I guess to some degree that has always been attitude. You know, my father was actually a moderately famous anti-war protester, and I always, even as a kid, thought that -- was glad that he did what he believed in but kind of didn’t agree with him on a lot of that.

And, you know, I have always felt that one of the most important things a country has to do is kind of protect its borders. And I think that, you know, if you can’t protect your own citizens, you are not really doing sort of the core job of nationhood. And so to me that just always seemed pretty important.

And I didn’t used to think of it as a Democrat/Republican divide very much, but somehow, and it just strikes me as very odd, and I really don’t understand it, things have gotten polarized in a way where it has become one. And I think that is actually bad for everybody.

LAMB: Why?

REYNOLDS: Well, I think it’s bad for the Democrats because I think it cost them the last election and I think it hurts them in other ways. I think it’s bad for the Republicans because they can keep their base rallied by talking about the war, and then they don’t have to be good on other issues.

There are a lot of people who aren’t that happy with the Republican Party who stick with them anyway because they think the war issues are important. They look at the Democrats and they just don’t trust them.

I actually saw a political cartoon on this where this couple is riding in a cab that’s careening out of control. And, of course, it’s driven by an elephant. And the wife says something like, well, maybe we should get that other guy. They look over at the cab driven by a donkey and it has got the hood up with no engine and it’s on blocks, you know.

And, I mean, that is kind of the situation. So it’s -- I think it’s just unfortunate for both parties really that we have become polarized along that line. And I would say the abortion issue is one that has had a similar effect as well.

LAMB: You said your father was a moderately famous anti-war protester. What was his name -- or what is his name?

REYNOLDS: His name is Charles Reynolds. And he led a protest on the Vietnam War at a Billy Graham revival where Richard Nixon was the guest speaker. And he and some of the other people were arrested and charged with a fairly silly Tennessee misdemeanor count of disturbing a religious service.

This was a religious service that was held in a football stadium with about 80,000 people there, and Richard Nixon making a political speech. And actually the case got as far as the U.S. Supreme Court where he lost, though we got a stirring dissent from William O. Douglas. And I guess he winded up having to pay the $25 fine. I don’t really know whether he actually ever paid that or not.

LAMB: Where does he live now?

REYNOLDS: He lives in Knoxville. He is on the faculty at the University of Tennessee too. We are actually the only father-son pair on the faculty there. There used to be one other.

LAMB: So do you remember -- I mean, what, you are about 45 now?

REYNOLDS: Yes. I’m 45.

LAMB: Do you remember your father’s activities?

REYNOLDS: Oh yes. In fact, I remember before that when we lived in Boston, I remember going to civil rights marches. One of them involved Louise Day Hicks, I carried a sign. But I was only 4 or 5 then. And, you know, I was involved in that stuff sort of all the way through.

LAMB: Well, tell our audience if they don’t remember who Louise Day Hicks was.

REYNOLDS: Oh, she was -- well, I probably wouldn’t if I hadn’t carried a sign when I was 4, but she was a Boston city councilwomen who opposed integration and was quite the polarizing figure at the time.

LAMB: So people today know you -- I mean, I have read, this is a couple of years ago, where Wired magazine said you were the single biggest blogger in the world.

REYNOLDS: Yes, that’s probably not true, it’s probably a sex blogger in China. But, you know, depending…

LAMB: Well, stop there.

(LAUGHTER)

LAMB: Are you serious about that?

REYNOLDS: Well, actually, I am serious. There are -- I don’t follow the Chinese-language blogosphere very closely, but there was a women blogger in China who blogged about sex, who was eventually shut down, but I think she was getting upwards of a million page views a day. And there is probably somebody else now.

You know, people talk -- journalists and politicians talk about blogs that talk about journalists and politicians a lot, but the blogosphere is a big place, and there are all these sex blogs and gay blogs and stuff, and they get a lot of traffic.

So, you know, the other thing journalists like is they like the stories about the biggest and the most, and, you know, when Wired wrote that story, I was certainly the biggest individual blogger, and that’s probably still true.

The Daily Kos, which is a group blog, is huge now, and it has a lot more traffic than me. But, yes, you know, maybe.

LAMB: We talked to Markos Moulitsas on this program about his blog from out in California a couple of months ago. You say he is a group blogger, and how -- what is the difference between that and what you do?

REYNOLDS: Well, Instapundit is all me. I don’t have -- there is nobody else on there except every once in a while when I go on vacation, I will have guest bloggers. But everything else is all done by me. I do everything. I write all the posts. I read all the e-mail. You know, I don’t have anybody even filtering my e-mail for me or anything. And it’s just -- it’s a very, you know, first person blog.

The Daily Kos has sort of turned into this amazing blog empire with lots of, you know, diarists, which are just basically separate blogs built into the system. And it is huge. But it is kind of a different sort of animal from me.

LAMB: How many page views -- or, well, how many individuals a week and then how many page views do you know of right now?

REYNOLDS: I don’t really track unique visitors, so I don’t know how many individuals a week. I tend to run around 200,000-250,000 page views most weekdays. On a weekend day it’s about half that. On a day when there is more news it will spike up. And sometimes I have had upwards of half a million.

But it tends to be driven a lot by how much is going on.

LAMB: Now do you blog when you travel?

REYNOLDS: Yes, I generally do.

LAMB: What do you -- what kind of a machine do you use?

REYNOLDS: I have a Dell laptop which a I like a lot, even though there has been a lot of Dell-bashing in the blogosphere, mine has worked great. And I have a Verizon EVDO card in it that lets me get wireless Internet pretty much everywhere, even out in -- totally out in the boonies where, you know, you would think even cell coverage would be weak. It still works pretty well. So I can blog from just about anywhere.

LAMB: You are totally portable?

REYNOLDS: Yes, yes.

LAMB: And do you do that when you are out anywhere?

REYNOLDS: Yes, generally I do. If -- you know, if I can do it without being rude to whoever I’m with, I will blog from pretty much anywhere. And even when we were driving up here, my wife was driving part of the way, and I was sitting in the passenger seat and posted a few things to the blog, and checked my e-mail.

LAMB: And you had no problem with the coverage and you could…

REYNOLDS: No, it works -- I have had really good luck. There is a space between Knoxville and Washington where you go through the -- I think it’s called the national radio silence area or something, where it doesn’t work because it would interfere with radio telescopes in West Virginia. But other than that, I have really never been anywhere where I didn’t get coverage.

LAMB: Who invented the word ”blog” or ”Weblog?”

REYNOLDS: The word blog? I’m not really sure. It sort of just sprung up. And nobody likes the word, but it just stuck. The word ”blogosphere” was invented by a guy named Bill Quick, who is a science fiction writer and blogger out in California. And that one kind of stuck.

LAMB: And can you remember -- I have read that Mickey Kaus’ was one of your first blogs that you saw. And who is he? Is that true?

REYNOLDS: I -- yes, I think it’s true. Mickey Kaus was a writer for The New Republic and really in some ways the original architect of welfare reform under the Clinton administration through a book that he wrote in 1992. And he was a frequent writer for The New Republic and for Slate.

And he set up his own blog called Kausfiles. And I’m pretty sure it was the first blog I saw because the main thing I remember was following the link from Slate -- and I was already an avid Slate reader, which I still am, that’s a Web magazine, slate.com. And I followed the link from Slate to Kausfiles, from this big Microsoft-supported, you know, online magazine, to this little one-man Web site that he had set up himself.

And it looked just as good. You know, it was as well-written, because it was the same guy. It was as well-designed, because I don’t know who designed it, but he had a good designer. And it just -- the experience of doing it, it really brought home to me this sense that, you know, you could do this.

And I want to say it’s like the old punk rock ethos, you know, they were terrible, I wanted to be terrible too? But it wasn’t terrible. And that was actually what was really striking about it. There were lots of sort of amateurish, not very good Web sites out there in 1996, or whenever this was, but this looked good and it read well and it was really interesting, and I just thought it was really cool.

LAMB: Somewhere again I read -- there is a lot of copy on you, that you have something, at the time whenever I read this, that 15,000 people link to your site. Is it more than that now?

REYNOLDS: I think it is more than that. And I’m not sure I can get the number right, because it changes a lot. On Technorati, the number 23,000 is coming to mind as something I have seen, but I wouldn’t -- I would have to look. It’s a lot.

LAMB: Now explain Technorati.

REYNOLDS: Technorati is the coolest thing in the world, if you are blogger, at least. It indexes blog posts by keywords. You can search them. But what is really cool is it indexes them by links, so you can take any URL, any address on the Web, whether it’s a new story at The New York Times, or somebody’s blog or whatever, and put it in Technorati and click ”search,” and it shows you everybody that links to that in the world of blogs.

And so, for example, if you have got a story that you read in the newspaper and you are not sure what you think of it or whether it’s right or what they are leaving out, you just plug that story right into Technorati and find blog entries talking about it, which really give you a lot of different points of view on the same issue. So it’s just great.

LAMB: How do you get to Technorati?

REYNOLDS: It’s just technorati.com.

LAMB: And anybody can use it?

REYNOLDS: Yes.

LAMB: Who pays for that?

REYNOLDS: I have no idea.

(LAUGHTER)

LAMB: Do you know who operates it?

REYNOLDS: It is -- I think it’s one of the Sifrys. I think it’s Clay Sifry, but I really don’t know where the money for it comes from. It’s a like a lot of stuff on the Web. It does sell ads, so I suppose it’s supporting itself at least partly that way, but I don’t even really know.

LAMB: I notice on your blog site there are ads. You can get a pretty -- a high interest CD on there, for instance. What else is on there? What other kind of ads?

REYNOLDS: You know, I don’t handle the ads for my site, so it’s sort of whatever gets fed there. I used to use a service which is quite cool called blogads.com, which Henry Copeland runs, and a lot of bloggers use that.

But I’m now part of sort of a blog collective called Pajamas Media, and part of the deal of being part of Pajamas Media is that they take care of all that stuff now. And that actually wasn’t the main attraction to me. It wasn’t that much trouble to handle the ads through BlogAds. But now it’s just whatever shows up.

I think once or twice I have seen an ad I didn’t like and asked them to take it down. And they will. But it’s -- you know, I don’t have anything more to do with it. I have got -- The Wall Street Journal advertises a lot. The New York Times advertises. Some book publishers advertise. Circuit City and RadioShack are big.

LAMB: So you have no idea who is selling those ads or physically who is putting them on there. I mean, you don’t -- the twain never meets?

REYNOLDS: No. And that’s actually part of the attraction I think. I mean, the great thing about the BlogAds approach is you do have total control. Every ad you get to preview and you get to decide whether you are going to let it on your site or not, which is kind of cool.

The downside is, it’s -- you know, if you have any notion of separation of church and state, you know, or the wall of separation, that goes away, and in fact, there have been a few arguments that some bloggers have changed their position on issues based on getting ads, which may or may not have been true. But now it’s out of my hands, so I don’t have to worry about that.

LAMB: Pajamas Media is what?

REYNOLDS: It is a blog collective, I guess you could call it. It is umbrella of 70-something bloggers and runs as an advertising collector to serve them. It has got its own portal site, which is at pajamasmedia.com, which reports both original news by people that work for Pajamas, typically bloggers, and also links to posts by all the Pajamas bloggers, so you can find them.

And there is some other stuff. It has got news feeds for the wire services and stuff you can do.

LAMB: Where is that headquartered?

REYNOLDS: L.A.

LAMB: Owned by?

REYNOLDS: It is funded by -- the term is not venture capital, it’s ”angel financing” by a rich guy named Aubrey Chernick who made a lot of money in the software business. And it is run by Roger Simon and Charles Johnson, who are two pretty well-known bloggers.

And its attraction to me is something that it is just starting to do which is to do original reporting and both to get bloggers to do original reporting and to send out people or equipment to places that don’t get covered much.

For example, in the Iraqi elections, two of the Iraqi bloggers who blog at a blog called IRAQ THE MODEL covered the elections, but they also hired some Iraqi stringers to go around so they hit coverage in all the different provinces in Iraq. And so that was original, direct coverage.

They sent Andrew Marcus and Paul Mirengoff to cover some of the NSA hearings in Washington. And that led to some fairly well-known fireworks with Senator Durbin and that sort of thing.

So there is going to be more of that. And I really see it as sort of a way of moving towards citizen journalists. I mean, we saw a lot of that during, for example, the Indian Ocean tsunami where everything was so remote that journalists just couldn’t get there for a few days.

And so everybody was running with video uploaded from people on the scene who had taken it with their camcorders or their digital cameras. And the goal is to kind of turn that from something that happens occasionally when there is a big disaster into something that happens regularly.

LAMB: Roger Simon, is that the former U.S. News guy?

REYNOLDS: No, it’s the other Roger Simon -- or I guess it depends, you know?

(LAUGHTER)

REYNOLDS: To him, the U.S. News guy is the ”other Roger Simon.” This is Roger Simon the screenwriter and mystery who writes the Moses Wine mystery novels and wrote some Hollywood screenplays like ”Scenes from Mall” and ”The Big Fix” and stuff like that.

LAMB: So who sells the ads and under what -- on what basis do they sell the ads?

REYNOLDS: Pajamas Media has an ad guy who sells the ads and…

LAMB: Does he sell your specific Web site?

REYNOLDS: I think that people can buy either across a bunch of blogs or target particular blogs. It’s -- I’m actually a little hazy on that to tell you the truth. It’s really not in my hands. But it is -- but yes, I think so. And I think it’s paid for on sort of a standard -- what do they call it, CPM, you know, per thousand page view spaces. And people…

LAMB: Could you stop your day job and live on what you are making from this?

REYNOLDS: Yes. I guess so. You know, I wouldn’t. Anybody who gives up a job as a law professor is -- almost always comes to regret it, I have discovered. I have watched that. Even people who become Supreme Court justices, I’m not sure it’s a great trade.

If you are the kind of person who enjoys being a law professor, it’s the best job in the world.

LAMB: But can people today look forward to the opportunity to make money, make a living off of blogging?

REYNOLDS: Yes. I mean, people do. I think a fair number of people, not huge, but a fair number of people actually do make a full-time living off blogging. And a lot of people make a pleasant second income off of blogging. Though the vast majority of bloggers don’t really make much money at all.

I mean, there are so many blogs out there. Technorati is tracking like 27 million or 28 million blogs out there. And, you know, I’m sure that of those, a few thousand are making real money. So it’s primarily an amateur activity.

LAMB: Is that 27 million around the world?

REYNOLDS: Yes, yes, and they are not all English language. There are a lot of Chinese blogs, a lot of Farsi-language blogs, which the Iranian mullahs don’t like very much. But they don’t seem to be able to stamp it out.

LAMB: I also read that you don’t watch television anymore?

REYNOLDS: That would be too strong, but I don’t watch much. I watch a lot less. And in fact, when people ask me sort of, what did you give up for the blog? Television is the biggest thing. When you are on the Internet as much as I am now, the television news is always stale.

I watch some stuff. My daughter is big on watching ”The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.” So I watch the reruns with her. You know, I watch some of that kind of stuff when I’m around and my family is watching it, but other than, you know, a few TV shows I really like, like ”Firefly” or something like that, I’m not much of a TV watcher anymore.

LAMB: Well, a lot of the blog sites that I have seen spend their time, I don’t know what word I want to use, whining?

(LAUGHTER)

LAMB: Complaining, criticizing mainstream media and a lot that is television. So how do people who don’t watch much television more know what they are talking about?

REYNOLDS: Well, I think some of those people do. And there are blog sites that really focus on the TV stuff, and even post video with segments that people talk about. Crooks and Liars is one which is on the left, Exposing the Left is one which is on the right. As you might imagine, they disagree a lot about their takes on different stuff. But they actually post video and people comment on it, and people go from there.

LAMB: How can they do that legally?

REYNOLDS: I don’t know, to tell you the truth, but what’s interesting is that the people whose video they post don’t seem to mind. I mean, you know, there is a plausible argument that it’s fair use, but it’s interesting to me that not only do people from the big networks not complain about that, they actually seem to like the coverage and sometimes to encourage it. So I think that’s kind of a good sign that they are providing something of value.

LAMB: You have a new book coming out in March called ”An Army of Davids,” by Glenn Reynolds. What is it?

REYNOLDS: It is a book about the spread of the do-it-yourself ethic. And it’s really about how technology and markets make it easy to do it yourself, and even mean that people who do things on an amateur basis can now compete on a surprisingly even footing with big organizations and big governments and so on.

And that’s really a phenomenon I started noticing some years ago through some of my hobbies. And it has really spread to a whole lot of areas now.

LAMB: What are your hobbies?

REYNOLDS: Well, the first place I noticed, and the book opens with this, is brewing beer. And I’m a home-brewer and I thought that was sort of a good metaphor to capture a lot of what went on, because beer went down the tubes in the ’60s and ’70s and ’80s. And the big beer companies consolidated and corporatized, kind of like the car companies. You are not even sure whose brewery a particular brand of beer was actually made in.

And they watered it down and cut the quality by little imperceptible slices, but at the end people suddenly realized it didn’t have much flavor anymore, and it wasn’t that good. And a lot of people started brewing beer at the same time I did.

And they found that when you brewed your own beer, sometimes it stunk, sometimes literally, but it was often better. And it was your own. And it was kind of fun. And interestingly, the brewing companies noticed this and started offering more kinds of beer.

So the beer selection in a lot of places is a lot broader and better. It’s not like the case where you had the choice of three or four virtually identical, you know, almost clear American traditional beers.

And what this is, I think you see that in a lot of beers. I think you see that in journalism, in fact. I think that you saw in the -- starting in the late ’70s and ’80s you saw a lot of corporatization and consolidation.

You saw a lot of cost-cutting in which the very thing that to me seems like the killer app for big media outfits, which is actually reporting hard news from lots of different places, especially the ones that are remote and hard to get to, was really cut back on.

A lot of that was sort of commoditized and outsourced to wire services and such. And the idea was they were going to provide a different kind of value-added, they were going to provide attitude and analysis and opinion.

And the problem is that everybody has got an opinion. And, you know, what a news service has an advantage in is delivering news. When it comes to opinions, the man in the street has got an opinion, too.

And I think that blogging has seen people kind of realize that they can mass-market their own opinions just as effectively as a lot of pundits on TV can. And the next stage of that, I think, is bloggers trying to get into the hard news business.

And I hope that’s going to encourage big media companies to do what the beer companies did and kind of learn from that and start improving their product and beefing up their foreign bureaus and doing more direct reporting of hard facts, and less analysis and opinion and punditry.

LAMB: Let’s say today I wanted to start a blog. How would I do it?

REYNOLDS: The easiest way, and this is what I generally recommend to people who want to start, is you just go to blogger.com, which is owned by Google now, and you go and follow their easy three-step instructions, and you can have a blog setup and running for free in 15 minutes.

And that’s how I did it. And you just start typing in your entries and run from there. It is still a world where a blog that was unknown can suddenly get a lot of attention if you have stuff to say that people want to know.

LAMB: And go back to September the 11th, you say in your book, I believe, that you were getting about 1,600 readers a day then.

REYNOLDS: Yes. I thought I was really doing well. And then the next day, September 11th, I came into my office, it was like 10:30, 10:45 in the morning, and put up a post about, you know, what had happened and what I thought it meant, and warning that there were going to be a lot of claims about national security that were really going to be bureaucratic wish lists, and that there were people who were just going to say that a war wasn’t worth fighting or that we deserved it.

I sort of went down the list, and it holds up pretty well today, actually. And I posted that that morning, and I posted a few other things. I had a bit of a scoop in that one of the right-wing groups, the Posse Comitatus was claiming credit on its Web site, and I put that up. And that got picked out by The Wall Street Journal’s Best of the Web site. My traffic more or less tripled that day, and it just kind of took off after that.

LAMB: And then over time how did you continue to get more and more visitors?

REYNOLDS: You know, it beats me, to tell you the truth. People are always asking me, what was your marketing plan, or something. I didn’t have one, I just kept blogging. I think it came because people weren’t crazy about the big media coverage.

I mean, you know, it’s sort of hard to believe now with all the stuff about the NSA spying and the Patriot Act, but in the days and weeks immediately after September 11th, the recurring that you heard from people on TV was, well, you know, we have got these terrorists, we are going to have to give up our civil liberties.

And, you know, as I complained at the time, it was in a tone of sort of, we have got put childish things behind us, you know, like freedom and privacy, and live in the brave new world. And I was not pleased with that. And I think people didn’t like hearing it on TV and were looking for places where somebody was saying something different.

On the other hand, there were also people who sort of said, well, we deserve what we got. This is just the price we pay for Western imperialism, and, you know, we should figure out why they hate us and try to make them happy. And I wasn’t very impressed with that either. And there were a lot of people who were happy to hear somebody who wasn’t impressed with that as well.

LAMB: What is a day like for you? And what do you read? What do you look at? How do you decide that you are going to comment on something?

REYNOLDS: It’s mostly mood. I get up in the morning and I usually drive my daughter to school in the morning. So I get up…

LAMB: How old is she?

REYNOLDS: She’s 10. And I get up at kind of ungodly hour and drink my first cup of coffee and check my e-mail and sometimes put up a post or two. And I usually go first to sites I like but tend to update after I go to bed.

So, for example, Mickey Kaus’ Kausfiles, he always updates after I go to bed. So that’s one of the first places I go in the morning.

LAMB: Because he’s on the West Coast.

REYNOLDS: Right, exactly. We have got time zone arbitrage. And sometimes I go to OxBlog, which has people who blog in Europe and a lot of times they are already up and blogging in the morning before I’m there. So I will look there and go from that.

And I check my e-mail. I get roughly a thousand e-mails a day.

LAMB: You say you get more a day than The Rocky Mountain News, just as an example, in Denver gets in a week.

REYNOLDS: Yes. I was a conference on a panel with Linda Seebach from The Rocky Mountain News, and we compared notes on reader e-mail, and that’s what came out of that. So I don’t know why they didn’t -- I think bloggers seem very accessible because it’s a person.

You know, you send an e-mail to a newspaper, and I guess people feel like they are e-mailing an institution or something, I don’t know. But people don’t seem shy about e-mailing me at all.

LAMB: Do you read all thousand a day?

REYNOLDS: Sort of. I forward it to a Gmail account, a Google mail account. And the cool thing about Gmail is it shows you the first line of every e-mail with the subject line, which is one of those things you wouldn’t think would be any big deal, but it’s a fabulous feature when you have a lot of e-mail.

So I scan through and look at it all. And as you might imagine, a lot of it is repetitive. You know, if there is a big story, 50 or 100 people will send me links to the same thing.

LAMB: By the way, who pays for the Gmail?

REYNOLDS: It’s free.

LAMB: Now why would they do that free?

REYNOLDS: It’s a beta, but Google has ads in the Gmail which are triggered by keywords in your e-mail which may be a great marketing plan for them in general, but which tends to produce fairly bizarre results with the e-mail that I get. But, you know, I guess that pays for it.

LAMB: Now are they able to do that because they have huge server capability?

REYNOLDS: Yes. They have. And their -- Gmail is just amazing in how well it works and all the stuff that it does. Other than the lack of folders to organize things in, because they think you don’t need them since you can search with Google all your e-mails, I think it’s close to perfect.

LAMB: Now when you get up and start your process and read your e-mail and then begin your blogging, do you know from experience that there are people out there that -- even in the media world, that are absolutely going to read you every day?

REYNOLDS: Pretty much. Yes, I have a -- you know, I have a lot of journalistic readers, a fair amount of people, you know, in government and politics and such. And, you know, some of them tell me that it’s the first place they go every morning. And that’s kind of cool.

Though I always tell people I’m not a news service. You know, I post what interests me. So don’t get all your news from me, because I’m kind of a weird guy. And if you rely on me to be your main window into what is happening in the world, you are going to get kind of a skewed view because…

LAMB: You have also called yourself a geek.

REYNOLDS: Mm-hmm.

LAMB: And a dweeb.

REYNOLDS: Yes, I’m a bit of a dweeb. I’m a law professor. I think you get an honorary dweeb card as soon as they tenure you, at least.

LAMB: By the way, where did you get your undergraduate degree?

REYNOLDS: I went to the University of Tennessee undergraduate.

LAMB: So you have got University of Tennessee, then Yale, and now teaching back at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.

REYNOLDS: Yes.

LAMB: OK. You are up. You take your daughter to school, 10 years old. You drink your coffee. You read your e-mail. Then what is the first time you sit down and have comments on what is going on? And why do you -- and what triggers the comment?

REYNOLDS: Sometimes I will post a couple of things before I even take her to school. It just sort of depends. But then I sit down, I have a few hot-button issues that I track pretty closely. I’m very interested in nanotechnology. And so…

LAMB: What’s that?

REYNOLDS: Nanotechnology is sometimes also called molecular manufacturing. And it’s the technology for making things by assembling atom by atom. And it’s -- once was seen as sort of semi-science fictional, now it’s becoming pretty real. And I’m on the board of a non-profit, the Foresight Institute that deals with nanotechnology. And I have written some scholarly articles about it.

And it’s one of the hobbyhorses I ride that I suspect a lot of my readers don’t care that much about. But if there’s a nanotechnology story that I think is interesting, that always goes to the top of the list.

LAMB: All right. Compare what you see happening today in the year 2006 with what it was like back in 2001. You now have advertising generating income. You know that nanotechnology is not of interest to probably the majority of the people. Does your head say stop writing this because the ads aren’t going to work?

REYNOLDS: No. no. The ads are icing, the blog is the cake. I mean, I don’t post based on what is going to generate ads. And I bet you if I did it would backfire. I mean, a blog is about a person and it’s about what interests a person, or maybe a small group of people. And I think if you try to take that out of it, I just don’t think it works.

LAMB: Are you regulated in any way?

REYNOLDS: No.

(LAUGHTER)

LAMB: I mean, do you feel any heat at all from a government saying, you know, they are watching you and they -- you had better not go there?

REYNOLDS: No. It’s funny. I have one reader who for some reason -- you know, I have my counter and all my site data is open. You can just click on a thing and read it. And you can even see who the last several hundred visitors were by IP address. And I have one read who likes to look through there and find people from government agencies and e-mail me that, you know, somebody from the CIA was reading Instapundit or something. It doesn’t bother me.

LAMB: OK. So how many -- how often during a daytime do you blog, or during a whole 24-hour period?

REYNOLDS: During the day, probably anywhere between 20 and 30 times I will put up a post. And that will range from a few paragraphs to a line, just depending. I mean, you know, if it’s a nanotechnology issue, it may just be, you know, big breakthrough in nanotechnology according to this story in Small Times, the nanotechnology magazine.

And, you know, that may be all it is. Or it may be longer. It just sort of depends on the subject and the extent to which the spirit moves me, which also varies.

LAMB: Well, let me ask you this. Let’s say you get up and do you have a news source right away that you look at?

REYNOLDS: The e-mail is the biggest news source. And people often ask if I have some kind of fancy RSS reader or news filter or something. And, honestly, there are some pretty great automated solutions out there, but having thousands of smart people out there who surf the Web and say, I think Glenn would be interested in this, and e-mail you a link, is still better than any technology.

I do have sort of a series of rounds I generally make. There are certain blogs I tend to check regularly, like the Mudville Gazette for military stuff. That’s a military blog.

LAMB: Military blog run by…

REYNOLDS: A military guy.

LAMB: But just on his own?

REYNOLDS: Yes. He runs it on his own. And he posts stuff and actually his wife does too. She has a big roundup every morning of military news called ”The Dawn Patrol,” you know, and that’s kind of a good place to start. Strategypage.com, which is a military and foreign affairs Web site is a place I go pretty regularly.

I look at, you know, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal. I often go to Google News or Yahoo! News and just see what is on the front page there. And I sometimes look at the news feeds at Pajamas Media, which has its own news feeds, and I find they are pretty good for science and health. So I often scroll through those to see what is there.

Then I -- really, the e-mail is the single biggest thing though because it’s just -- you know, it’s the wisdom of crowds. I mean, it’s just a lot of smart people out there who send me stuff that they think I will be interested in. And they are often right.

LAMB: In all the times that you have been doing this, what has had the biggest impact that you have written about?

REYNOLDS: That I have written about? That’s kind of hard to say. Recent -- I mean, I will give you a couple of examples and you can decide. The Trent Lott thing was one where it was actually Josh Marshall and Duncan Black, who blogs as Atrios, who were on that before me. I got up in the morning and saw where they had posted about it and chimed in and said, you know, this is a real issue and he really shouldn’t have said that. He needs to apologize right away.

And I continued posting through the weekend and, you know, I have been given credit for breaking that unfairly because they were really on it before I was. But I think even Duncan Black said that he thought me jumping on the issue made the big difference because then it wasn’t just Democrats complaining about what Trent Lott did. And I think that’s right.

LAMB: Who is Duncan Black?

REYNOLDS: Atrios is his blog name. He’s a blogger. He actually works at Media Matters, which is sort of a lefty media outfit.

LAMB: The David Brock thing.

REYNOLDS: Right. And he blogs under the name Atrios, which used to be a pseudonym, he used to be in the closet on that, but he’s out in public now.

LAMB: So what else? Trent Lott -- you are talking about Trent Lott’s speech on…

REYNOLDS: The Strom Thurmond speech.

LAMB: … Strom Thurmond, yes.

REYNOLDS: The Rathergate stuff with Dan Rather and the CBS documents. And one thing I did that seemed to have a lot more impact than I thought it would was the speech John Kerry had given on the Senate floor about being, you know, in Cambodia on Christmas Eve in 1968, and how that was seared in his memory.

And some people had posted about it on their blogs already, but people were actually doubting whether it really happened. So I went into the law library one day with a digital camera and looked it up in the Congressional Record and took a picture and posted the actual image of the thing from the Congressional Record on my blog.

And, weirdly, that seemed to have a huge impact. I mean, because somehow then it was real. And, of course, the Kerry campaign eventually did back down from that claim and admit that it wasn’t true. And I think that you -- it shouldn’t have made any difference because it was already out there, but it did because it just looked real.

Some other stuff recently, Michael Yon, who is a military blogger, who blogged a lot from Iraq, and did a lot of stuff, he had taken a photo that the Army picked up and distributed, crediting one of their own photographers, and while I think that that was just a mistake on the Army’s part, they didn’t back down from it. And he had a big stink.

And I some of the other big bloggers jumped on that on a Thursday, and by Friday it was settled. And Michael Yon told me that he can attest firsthand that many high level brass in Pentagon read the blogs and pay attention to what they say. So I think that’s a recent example.

LAMB: A lot of people in the government, in the Bush administration and in the military say that the media -- what they are calling the ”mainstream media,” doesn’t tell the good things that are going on Iraq. Is that your sense? And if there are good things, are there places to find them?

REYNOLDS: There are. That is my sense. I get so much e-mail from people who are serving or have served in Iraq or Afghanistan. And sometimes I have had my own correspondents in Afghanistan and Iraq who send me photos on a regular basis and stuff too. And they all do say that.

I mean, absolutely, you know, it’s just a recurring theme. And, you know, part of that is just the news doesn’t like to report good news about much of anything, although there’s a sense that there is more of an agenda on the war. I think the military blogs are a very good place where you get a lot of firsthand reports from people who were actually there.

And while, you know, they may not see the big picture because your average, you know, noncom or private or even, you know, low-ranking officer doesn’t see the big picture, they do see stuff that doesn’t ever get on the news. And it’s interesting.

I like the Mudville Gazette, which is mudvillegazette.com, as sort of the starting point for military blogs. There are a number of other really good ones, too many to name, Black Five is a good one, and there is just a huge -- actually, if you go to either of those, they have links to lots of other military blogs. There are just a lot of really good ones.

Michael Yon’s reporting from Iraq was terrific but he’s back in the States at the moment. And J.D. Johannes is a documentarian making a film called ”Faces from the Front” for PBS, who has been in Iraq a lot and has blogged about it and posted video from there. He’s an excellent source too.

LAMB: What are you sensing as you read all of the blogs about 2008 and the presidential race at this state?

REYNOLDS: It’s hard to say. I have to say I view the 2008 race with no great enthusiasm at the moment. I think the sense of inevitability that, you know, Hillary Clinton has had is under a lot of fire mostly from the lefty blogs, where there is -- you know, they have had a lot of trouble with her positions on the war, which I actually like, and I think she is going to take a lot of potshots from the left.

On the right, I think a lot of people would like to see Condi run. And, of course, Dick Morris has been pushing this whole Hillary versus Condi race which is a pundit’s dream race, but I don’t know whether it will really happen.

I think when you start looking at the benches for both parties, there is not a lot of depth there. And maybe, you know, something will happen. I mean, I remember very clearly showing my degree of political acumen by thinking in late ’91, you know, this guy, Bill Clinton from Arkansas, you know, it’s nice that he went to Yale Law School, but you know, where is he going to go in this? You know, who is going to elect an Arkansas governor to be president? And, you know, I was wrong, so.

LAMB: Did you ever work in politics?

REYNOLDS: Not full-time. I worked on the Gore campaign in ’88 as a volunteer. I did a fair amount of issues work for them. I did a little bit of work for the Clinton campaign in ’92. I have done some other work, you know, in a small scale way. But I never had a full-time political job.

LAMB: What are the other issues that you take some strong positions on that would not be conservative?

REYNOLDS: Well, pretty much everything is sort of I guess you could call a ”lifestyle issue.” I mean, I’m pro-choice on abortion. I favor gay marriage and gay rights generally pretty much. I am a big fan of stem cell research. And, you know, I’m sort of an agnostic -- I mean, I’m not prepared to say that embryonic stem cells are the only way to go, but I think that the pro-life people who say that adult stem cells are the obvious way to go and it’s only enthusiasm for abortion that causes people to look at embryonic stem cells are right either. I think we don’t know enough in the science now. I think we have got to let the science decide.

LAMB: Where are you on George Bush?

REYNOLDS: Well, you know, my expectations for him were pretty low. And in some ways, I guess, he has exceeded them. I mean, I think actually on the war front he has been pretty good. On the other hand, while my expectations for him in terms of restraining government spending and such were pretty modest, he has disappointed them anyway.

LAMB: Go back to the name Instapundit. Did you have another name before you got to that one?

REYNOLDS: Well, that was the name for blog. Actually I sort of cut my teeth on this kind of stuff in the discussion forum at Slate magazine, called ”The Fray.” And I posted mostly under another pseudonym, ”A.G. Android,” which is actually a reference to a Tom Tomorrow cartoon but was also the name of my pseudonymous name in a techno band called Mobius Dick that I perform in sometimes.

But I picked the Instapundit name one day just for fun. I kind of liked it. So then when I started a blog, that just seemed like the natural way to go.

LAMB: Can you just change that name if you want to for -- I mean, obviously at this point you probably wouldn’t want to, but is that totally under your purview as to what the names are?

REYNOLDS: Oh sure. I control the domain and everything. I could change the name to whatever I wanted I guess, as long I wouldn’t infringe on somebody else’s trademark.

REYNOLDS: We don’t have a fixed schedule, which is part of the fun. And the beauty of podcasting is people can subscribe and it’s kind of like TiVo for radio. They just get it whenever you do it. But we do it roughly once a week-plus. We plan on doing it once a week, but then we will get excited about something and do an extra one.

So we have been doing it for a little over a month, and we have done nine episodes, I guess it is.

LAMB: And how do you do that?

REYNOLDS: Well, I already had a recording studio in the house, because I’m kind of an amateur musician and…

LAMB: What do you play?

REYNOLDS: Keyboards and synthesizers and -- so it’s techno, so it’s really mostly done on the computer. And -- but I had everything I needed except for a little box to connect up to the phone line to do phone interviews, so I ordered one of those and hooked it up.

And she’s a great interviewer because when you are a forensic psychologist, you are used to talking to crazed killers, you are a pretty good interviewer. And it has been a lot of fun. It’s part of the do-it-yourself thing.

LAMB: So somebody is listening to all of this, and they are kind of confused at this point because of all the language. The podcast means -- what does that mean?

REYNOLDS: It’s basically just an Internet radio show. And they call it podcasting because you can -- through something called RSS, people can subscribe. They just click on a link and plug it in and you can get it through iTunes or through Yahoo! or through a whole bunch of other services.

And what happens is we put it up on the Web, and of course, people can just listen to it by clicking directly on the link on our blog, but if you have got iTunes or whatever setup to subscribe, it just automatically downloads whenever a show appears, and you can listen to it in your car or at the gym or whatever on your iPod or your computer.

LAMB: And how often -- I mean, how many people listen to your iPod -- your podcasting?

REYNOLDS: We just started counting them. It turns out counting those is actually sort of hard. And we have had 30,000 listeners this week, which is a pretty decent number for something that is done on a shoestring. Today we are number six in the talk radio category on iTunes. Although Howard Stern I think is pretty safe in the number one slot there, so.

LAMB: And how long do you make your discussion?

REYNOLDS: They vary a little. You know, the other nice thing about it is you don’t have to cut it off in time for the car commercials or the next program, so we can run a little longer if we want, or not. They are generally between 25 to 30 minutes, and sometimes they are more like 40 or 45 if it’s a real interesting topic.

LAMB: So where is your server that serves your blog?

REYNOLDS: You know, I am actually not sure where it is physically. I think it’s in Jacksonville, Florida, now. It used to be Parsippany, New Jersey. But for me it really makes no different. I mean, I have got a Web address I go to with a control panel that lets me do stuff. And the actual physical location of the server just almost doesn’t matter.

LAMB: What does it cost you a month to do this?

REYNOLDS: I hate to say, because people will laugh, but it’s $36 a month.

LAMB: For everything.

REYNOLDS: For everything.

LAMB: Including your podcasting.

REYNOLDS: Including my podcasting. The hosting company gives me a deal because I run a little button for them on the site. So I guess it’s -- $36 a month is just their standard charge and they are willing to give me all the extra bandwidth I use in exchange for the ads. So it’s a pretty good deal.

LAMB: Now in your book, ”An Army of Davids,” you tell people how to do all this or…

REYNOLDS: I do have some discussion on how to be a good blogger and how to do a lot of this, and some discussions on what the impact of all this is. And, you know, one of the things that a lot of the discussion of all these phenomena brings out is it’s fun. It’s fun to make your own radio shows. It’s fun to make your own music in your basement. It’s fun to put up your own blog. I mean, it’s just lots of fun.

And people talk about how you are going to make money out of it and monetize it, and I mean, that’s all fine and I’m happy for people who make money any way they can, but, you know, it’s fun. That’s really why people do it.

LAMB: Another part of your blog is this ”Porkbuster” thing.

REYNOLDS: Yes, yes, that has been a blog campaign that has been going on for -- I guess about four or five months now, since early last fall.

LAMB: And you can get T-shirts and logos and all that, Porkbusters. Who invented this?

REYNOLDS: I made the phrase, or the name, Porkbusters, my readers came up with the idea. I was complaining about pork barrel spending and somebody wrote in and suggested you should get people to write their own representative and ask them to cut a pork project in their own district to help pay for Katrina relief, because that was the big topic, was the rebuilding money.

And I thought that was a great idea. So I put up a list and people started doing that. And people started e-mailing me with particularly grotesque pork projects in their own district and talking about it.

And then another blogger, an anonymous blogger who blogs under the name NZBear, actually a guy that works in the software business out in California, came in and said, why don’t we set up a Porkbusters page. And he set up a page.

And the T-shirts and stuff are all actually by the guy who designed our logo. And he didn’t charge us anything to use the cool logo, which is the pig with the bag of cash, but we put up a link to his CafePress shop where he is selling his T-shirts and stuff. So he makes a little money that way, and that’s fine with us.

LAMB: So what is the basic kind of information that people can get if they go on Porkbusters?

REYNOLDS: If you go to Porkbusters, what we have is we have an index of pork projects by state and what members of Congress have said to constituents who have e-mailed and asked about them. And some have admitted that they are not very good. And some have said there is no such thing as pork when it’s in their district. And, you know, we have all that stuff indexed and collected.

LAMB: But you also have the amount of pork that comes to a state under each congressperson or a senator on there.

REYNOLDS: Right.

LAMB: And who does all of that work?

REYNOLDS: That’s done by a number of readers and put together by NZBear. We also have a lot of stuff on the new bill, the pork barrel reduction act, the McCain-Coburn bill. We have the full text of that up there. And we have a chart now showing who is supporting that index by member name and by state and that sort of thing.

NZBear is really good at the Web graphics and the interactive stuff, which is something I’m not so great at.

LAMB: Is there any danger that -- of a person, NZBear is anonymous, and if all of this…

REYNOLDS: I know who he is.

LAMB: I know you do. I mean, but, I mean, the audience out there doesn’t, I assume the media doesn’t know and can you find out other than the fact that you know?

REYNOLDS: Yes. I mean, he is anonymous, but some people know who he is. And, you know, he is also providing hard data that is easy to check. I mean, it’s not as if -- you know, you post the content of an appropriation bill, it’s not something people can check against the real bill. So it’s kind of not a lot of room to fake.

LAMB: Ever going to expand and have more people involved in your blog?

REYNOLDS: Yes, I don’t know. The funny thing is, I originally planned for Instapundit to be a group blog, and I e-mailed three or four of my friends to see if they were interested in joining in. And none of them did. And there are a couple of them, Eugene Volokh, for example, who now has his own blog, but he didn’t start blogging for like another year.

A couple of them later told me that they would have joined, but they didn’t really know what a blog was, so they didn’t. But that was the original plan. And, you know, there are some fun things about a group blog.

I mean, when you blog solo like I do, it’s like being a standup comic, you know, it’s all you up there, and that’s both the upside and the downside. And I can see why it would be kind of fun to blog as a team.

LAMB: But the day you get tired of all of this, you can just shut it down.

REYNOLDS: That’s the beauty of it. That’s the beauty of it.

LAMB: Glenn Reynolds, new book, ”An Army of Davids,” of Instapundit, based in Knoxville, Tennessee, law professor at the University of Tennessee, thank you very much for your time.

REYNOLDS: Thanks for having me.

END




C-SPAN  ·  American Writers  ·  American Presidents · Booknotes  ·  Book TV
Capitol Hearings  ·  Students & Leaders