Astute readers of this blog will have long ago noticed a connection with the BlueOregon blog edited by Kari Chisholm, Jeff Alworth and Charlie Burr. This connection is personal, not political, and is due to the fact that Jeff is a very close friend and has been for two decades. Jeff and Kari, from time to time, mention my blog on BlueOregon and have increased my traffic considerably. However, I try not to engage in politics (as opposed to policy) in my blog and have just as often rankled BlueOregon readers as have pleased them with my analyses of policy proposals. In my blog roll, I link to BlueOregon and its closest right-wing counterpart, Oregon Catalyst, because I have the arrogance to believe that people of all political persuasions can benefit from some well thought out economic reason.
With that said, BlueOregon has become the target of a little yellow journalism hatchet job from Willamette Week which attacks the blog and suggests bias and conflict of interest. This amuses me for just what does WW think a blog is? It appears it thinks blogs are a form of journalism and thus should be subject to the rules of journalistic ethics. But this is patently absurd. While a few blogs explicitly aspire to a form of journalism, most notably Talking Points Memo and especially its related projects, the vast majority are simply opinion. Even at TPM the bias is up front: "Commentary on political events from a politically left perspective."
I have no illusions about what a blog is; it took me about 3 minutes on Blogger to set up this blog and get it up on the world wide web. This blog is a representation of my opinions, biases, peccadilloes, etc. What I love about the web and the blog-o-sphere is the very embodiment of the "marketplace of ideas." But in this market, as in any market, the burden is on the consumer: "caveat emptor." This does also suggest a burden on producers to truthfully reveal relevant information about the product. I have disclosed that I am a economist and professor and, in fact you can visit my web site and CV to decide if you think anything I say should be taken seriously or not. You can easily satisfy yourself with an echo chamber of like minded bloggers, or you can (as I do) look to find a spectrum of opinions that will challenge your views on an issue and make you a better and more nuanced thinker. It is entirely up to you.
But this is a marketplace and the consumer has only to click a mouse button to quickly express their preferences. Which gets me back to the WW article. The logic of the article seems to go like this, because BlueOregon is so popular it should be held to journalistic standards of ethics, and conflicts of interest on the part of its editors should not be allowed. Then, through strong innuendo they imply terrible bias on the pert of BlueOregon itself (talk about journalistic ethics). There are two things wrong with this argument. First, as I said above, a blog is not journalism, and second, WW does not seem to believe in markets.
If the blog is biased and there are a lot of dissenting voices that are being suppressed, then other outlets could and should emerge. BlueOregon is in a hyper-competitive market: new entrants can start up at zero cost - there are no barriers to entry. This is very different than print journalism in which there are extremely high start-up costs. So the very fact that BlueOregon is so popular does not suggest that they are some kind of gate-keeper for Oregon progressives on the web, it suggests the opposite - that BlueOregon is extremely good at doing what it aspires to do, provide a forum for these progressive minded Oregonians to express themselves. Its success in the marketplace of ideas in other words, is not due to some market power, come corner on the market, but is due rather to the fact that it offers a product many want to consume. There is one requirement for the market outcome to be efficient and that is full information. Thus it is important for the editors of the blog to be up front about conflicts of interest they may have, and the editors of BlueOregon are.
Finally, though it is in one's nature to defend oneself against unfounded and unreasonable attacks, BlueOregon really has no need to do so. The product and its success speaks for itself.
By the way in the further interest of disclosure, I do not define myself by political party but I did once take a (slightly silly) test on Political Compass to assess my economic and social leanings - here is my result:
So there. Apparently I am in good company with the Dalai Lama...