Four years ago, a small group at Boise State launched The Blue Review with a quote post from Walter Lippmann, attempting to explain our tagline — “Popular scholarship in the public interest.”
Lippmann wrote in his 1921 book, Public Opinion, that the primary defect of representative government is, “the failure of self-governing people to transcend their casual experience and their prejudice, by inventing, creating, and organizing a machinery of knowledge.”
Lippmann tasked journalists with at least organizing, or explaining, the knowledge that our society produced. My job, as a journalist and founding editor of TBR, was to serve as a bridge between town and gown, to publish articles grounded in academic research but written for the general public on topics of local interest.
We wanted to transcend the trivial and dull, as Lippmann might have put it, in favor of “lively commentary, informed scholarship and critical conversation on politics, cities, the media and the environment,” as we put it.
It is because they are compelled to act without a reliable picture of the world, that governments, schools, newspapers and churches make such small headway against the more obvious failings of democracy, against violent prejudice, apathy, preference for the curious trivial as against the dull important, and the hunger for sideshows and three legged calves. — Lippmann, Public Opinion
And we did. Over the past four years, we published almost 400 articles from some 175 scholars and public intellectuals, garnering more than 2 million page views and curating special issues on elections, schooling, cities and race. It was fun, stimulating and fascinating to meet so many energetic and well-read professors at Boise State and beyond.
We achieved a tone that I think Lippmann would have appreciated, but we also injected some of the democratic ideals of John Dewey into those pages, inviting writers from all walks of life to contribute, hosting public forums and debates and opening up the comment sections. This formula — a highly curated, well-crafted, transdisciplinary, town-gown blog — remains unique in higher ed, and I want to thank Boise State University and all the people who supported it over the years for providing such a forum.
This is my last week at the helm of The Blue Review and I’m eager to transition from editor to reader. Jill Gill and Justin Vaughn, who co-direct the Center for Idaho History and Politics, will become the publication’s new stewards. Justin and Jill have both written extensively for TBR and are committed to scholarship in the public interest and the type of community engagement we’ve cultivated these past four years.
I am moving on to a new chapter of my writing career, which I will announce next week — still crafting and organizing the “machinery of knowledge,” but in a different context and forum.
Here’s a few of my favorite TBR posts from the past few years:
- Shallat’s big picture and turn of a phrase (“WASP tribalism!) in Red Tide Rising (Todd!)
- Legitimately Ancient Ideas about Rape
- “I am Adam Lanza’s Mother,” of course
- Jill Gill’s “Playing Dixie” in exposing “state’s rights”
- Medberry’s walk up the LA River
- Mark Bieter on the end of ETA
- And best headline, from Ziker (SEO!)
There are many, many more, and I encourage you to explore the archives (hint: change year in URL), to add your voice to the comments and to keep an eye out for future TBR events.
Here’s to the next four years!