Profs contribute to new blog

Yale professors have been voicing political opinions this month on a new blog titled “Open University” on the Web site of weekly opinion journal The New Republic.

A U.S. publication known for its moderate-liberal viewpoints, The New Republic added the blog to its site in order to give members of academic institutions a forum for political discussion. Two Yale professors, David Bromwich and Jacob Hacker, became writers for this blog after contributing other work to the magazine. A Yale alumnus, David Greenberg ’90 — currently an assistant professor of history and journalism and media studies at Rutgers University — is the moderator of the site.

Greenberg, also a contributing editor for The New Republic, said Open University differs from other blogs in its content and approach. Writers — almost all current professors in the humanities — contribute short entries throughout the day, commenting on topics ranging from international-student enrollment to professors with political ambitions.

“The idea, as I understand it, is to bring together a number of scholars from different fields, of differing views, of different ages and degrees of experience with blogging,” Greenberg said. “The hope is that collectively we will have something of interest to contribute to debates about politics, culture, academia and education.”

Whereas Hacker joined Yale’s political science faculty in the last half decade, Bromwich has been a member of the English Department for about 18 years. Both are taking different approaches in their contributions to the blog.

Hacker posted an entry earlier this month on Open University discussing the future of American democracy in which he wrote, “There is a good deal more interest in democracy promotion abroad … than in the state of American democracy at home.”

Bromwich’s intentions at this stage are more vague.

“[I] can’t say yet,” Bromwich said of his plans for blog topics. “It’s too early to tell.”

Martin Peretz, editor-in-chief of The New Republic, said he expects the blog to help bridge conversations that would normally be contained within the walls of universities like Yale, Duke and the University of California, Berkeley.

“This is really New Haven dinner conversation, Berkeley dinner conversation, Durham dinner conversation,” Peretz said.

But because of the relatively open form of the blog — only selected writers can post, but anyone can leave comments — both its merits and faults are discussed by its readership.

“How come there’s only one economist (former Harvard President Lawrence Summers) … among the almost two dozen contributors? Do the editors think there’s not much worthy of discussion in academic economics?” one reader wrote.

Another reader noted that of the 20 contributors listed, only three are female.

Peretz said that while he is proud of the open format of the blog, he recognizes that blogging — in contrast with traditional journalism — can lead to statements that are less carefully thought-out and researched.

“I can see ways it might lead to sloppiness,” Peretz said.

At The New Republic, there has already been some controversy over the management of a past blog. This month, Senior Editor Lee Siegel was suspended after it was revealed that he had used a pseudonym to praise himself and attack readers who disagreed with his posts.

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