University of Wisconsin Law School professor and high-profile blogger Ann Althouse is the subject of a cover story in the April 23, 2010 issue of Isthmus. The following interview by Kristian Knutsen was published September 23, 2005 on thedailypage.com.
Ann Althouse is the subject of the latest in The Daily Page's series of interviews. The Robert W. & Irma M. Arthur-Bascom Professor of Law at the UW Law School, Althouse publishes one of the most-read blogs in the world. Beginning in January, 2004, Althouse quickly reached the top echelon of bloggers, becoming in the process, a ready source for local, state and national media outlets on courts and constitutional issues. Graduating from the NYU School of Law in 1981, she joined the UW Law School faculty in 1984 and "has a scholarly interest in constitutional law, federalism, and the jurisdiction of courts."
On her blog, titled Althouse, she publishes photos and comments on current events, particularly those involving the federal courts. But it's her thoughts on pop culture, such as classic rock, the ups and downs of art endeavors worldwide and TV shows like Six Feet Under, American Idol and The Apprentice, which distinguish her from the bloggers who typically devote their energies exclusively to politics (or pop). Its breadth of subject matter makes her blog a particularly interesting read.
In addition to the blog, Althouse also produces Althouse is by far Madison's (and Wisconsin's) most popular blog, though finding precise measurements and rankings is a difficult proposition. According to its Sitemeter, the blog currently receives almost 8,000 unique visits and nearly 14,000 page views each day. Measuring links to her site ranks it 85th out of nearly 40,000 English-language blogs in the Truth Laid Bear ecosystem, where it is categorized as a leader in The Academy. Meanwhile, Althouse is through Technorati, both calculated using links as well.
Althouse runs BlogAds, the most-widely adopted blog advertising format. As an affiliate, the blog is pitched as: "A lively mix of law, politics, and pop culture. Written by law professor Ann Althouse. Average visit length: an extraordinary 2:51. The active and civil comments pages show the high quality of the readership of the Althouse blog." Among BlogAd affiliates, where advertisers can buy space via the Law Blog Ad Network and the Conservative Blog Advertising Network, Althouse is ranked about 110th as measured by Sitemeter traffic.
The following interview, conducted last month in a State Street coffee shop, covers some of the professor's thoughts on blogging, politics, pop culture and living in Madison.
The subhead on your blog once read, "politics and the aversion to politics." Can you elaborate on that?
Althouse: I don't use that subhead anymore, so maybe I'm not as averse to politics as I used to be. But when I started the blog, I was unhappy with the way people were too passionate, too partisan about politics, and I felt that as a political moderate, I had something to offer from the perspective of someone who was tired of hearing people be too passionate about politics.
You write extensively about pop culture, and it seems to drive a lot of the comments on your site. Why do you do that? What motivates you?
I really just blog about whatever jumps out at me and strikes me. I read the New York Times every morning, and there's just something about certain articles that jumps out at me. Pop culture is just another one of those things. If I happen to watch a show on TV, or go to a movie, or hear a song on the satellite radio, I'll blog about that.
I also feel like I have another perspective, because being somewhat older than a lot of people who read the blog, I have a lot of intact memories especially from the 1960s.
It seems that a lot of the pop culture stuff you write about is from the Sixties era. What were your experiences in that era and how did it inform you politically?
Well, I just was a teenager in the 1960s, so I feel that I was lucky enough to hear the greatest music when it was coming out. I really closely bonded with it, so it's just kind of a part of my mind. Whether that affected my politics, I don't know. I certainly remembered everyone being against the Vietnam War and living through that and having that connected with the songs. Reliving it now in the modern national security environment where I'm not really on the side of the anti-war people is kind of interesting.
Can you tell me about the group of faculty and other UW staff bloggers with whom you have dinners and go out photoblogging? How did that come about?
It's interesting to think that 'in the future when everybody blogs, people won't have real life friendships. In fact, a lot of friendships have been formed over the local blogging that we've done. A bunch of us who were not really doing things together before now have a regular social group.
The original group was me, Tonya Brito and Nina Camic; all law professors. I can't remember exactly how we got started, but Nina wanted us to met . I guess I would be talking with him and interacting with him just because he's right there in the building, but we also talk a lot about blogging. It's something that we bond over. There's another law professor who blogs pseudonymously; his pseudonym is here] and also the photographs I took of the Kerry rally in the last week before the election [Note: available here and here]. I think those were pretty sympathetic and fair to the people who were involved. So I don't accept your characterization.
What is the future of the medium of blogging?
I don't know what's going to happen. I think there will be some efforts to absorb blogging into mainstream media. Lots of different kinds of things could take hold, but right now, what are there, ten million, twenty million blogs? Who knows what direction that will take? I'd like to see a lot of diversity and different things be done, for different styles of blogging to take place, not just political ranting.
What about yourself?
I think I have a pretty well established pattern of blogging. I've blogged every day since mid January of 2004, so I expect to just keep going that way. I want to be independent. I would take advantage of opportunities to make money blogging, because I put a lot of time into it, and I could imagine writing a book related to my blogging. But, for the most part, I'm a law professor. I've been here for twenty years, so that's my job, that's what I do. The blogging is a hugely important sideline for me that I expect to keep doing the way I've been doing.