Blogging the Case

June 1, 2007
Blog about the lacrosse case

Communications technologies, especially blogs, have continued to keep the issues surrounding Duke lacrosse simmering—for better or for worse. For many followers of the lacrosse case, the go-to blog has been "Durham in Wonderland," which has drawn some 15,000 visitors daily.

The blogger behind "Durham in Wonderland" is KC Johnson, a history professor at Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center, who (with journalist Stuart Taylor of the National Journal and Newsweek) is writing a book on the case. He has also stepped out of New York occasionally to blog "live" from relevant sites, including the press conference featuring the newly exonerated players. Johnson's is one of several blogs that had been generated by, and continue to feed off, the case; among the most popular are "Liestoppers" and "John in Carolina," the latter written by a self-identified Duke alumnus who keeps his identity hidden.

With any campus controversy, "There's always an opening for someone to simply follow that story more obsessively and closely than others," says Jay Rosen, a press critic and writer who teaches at New York University. "Very often that blog will become very influential, because people who have a high degree of interest in the case—which is not by any means most of the audience, but a small portion of the audience—will end up relying on that blog a lot. And those are the people who also talk about the case.

"The blogosphere is way more interconnected than the traditional media. Even though there are blogs that exist with one point of view only and push that perspective, there are lots of ways in which the blogs comment on each other and influence each other very quickly."

As is clear from the avid, sometimes vituperative, lacrosse-inspired online conversation, the blogosphere doesn't just attract those tied to the interests of the institution. The lacrosse case is "almost custom-built for the Culture Wars," Rosen says, and professors perceived to be on the wrong side are tempting targets. "I would expect a lot of—shrillness would be a mild word for it. I would expect hysteria." If you're a tenured professor, he says, "that means you are armed to participate in debate more than just about anybody, with the exception of Supreme Court justices. I do, however, believe that you have to be smart about what you say. You have to think through what you are saying, in light of the cascading effects of the Internet. But if academics with tenure can't speak publicly to public controversies, who the hell can?"