Best Reporters On The Supreme Court Forced To Grovel Before Competitors To Prove They're Worthy Of A Press Pass

from the ridiculousness-defined dept

Back in April, we wrote about the travesty of the very best reporters on everything Supreme Court related, SCOTUSblog, still not having a press pass to the Supreme Court. The issue is somewhat complicated, in part because of the seriously arcane credentialing process involved. Basically, the Supreme Court looks kindly on reporters who already are credentialed by the Senate. But the Senate credentialing process involves the "Standing Committee of Correspondents" who get to decide who else to let in. The committee, basically, are journalists who have already been let into the club deciding who else can join them. When you set up a guild that lets you exclude innovative and disruptive players, guess what happens?

While the Senate had allowed a SCOTUSblog reporter, Lyle Denniston, in the past, it revoked that credential and said that it wouldn't give him or SCOTUSblog a new credential. While they don't say why, the main issue seems to be that the blog's publisher is Tom Goldstein, a practicing lawyer who does, on occasion, practice before the Supreme Court. Yet, there's a clear separation between the reporters covering the various cases and Goldstein's legal work. In fact, SCOTUSblog will not cover cases Goldstein's firm is involved in. And no one seems to deny that the reporters who work for the blog do great work.

In an effort that seemed to only highlight the ridiculousness of the situation, the "Standing Committee of Correspondents" decided to hold "a hearing" about the issue, which seemed merely designed to make them look as pompous and out of touch as possible. Or, at the very least, to show what happens when petty people are put in a position of power over others. Goldstein notes that the "hearing" seemed to involve all of their (apparently jealous) competitors on the "Standing Committee" digging up any reasons they could think of to deny them a press pass:
But the Standing Committee seems committed – having previously granted us a credential – to reaffirm its decision revoking our pass.  In listening to our appeal, which the chair labeled a “hearing,” the Committee members carefully divided up materials that they could use in an effort to undermine our qualifications.  (My favorite by far is that, unbeknownst to us, the Gallery’s staff director came to our office to take pictures of our signage and doors.)  No member of the Committee even acknowledged the recognition by others that the blog is engaged in high-quality journalism.  The closest it came was the chair’s firm statement that the Committee had a duty not to bow to “public pressure.”  That seems to miss the point.
It appears to be nothing more than a guild process to exclude competitors.

The main point that critics of SCOTUSblog have, concerning Goldstein's day job, is that publications are supposed to be "editorially independent from any organization that is 'not principally a news organization.'" And, specifically, they are supposed to avoid giving press credentials to someone who may be lobbying Congress. But Goldstein quickly points out that the Committee appears to have no problems violating those rules for other publications that either are controlled by foreign governments and/or large companies:
  • Several credentialed organizations are government agencies:  Xinhua News Agency, the official press agency of the People’s Republic of China; Saudi Press Agency, an organ of the Saudi Ministry of Information; Itar-Tass News Agency, the central information agency of Russia;  Akahata, the official paper of the Japanese Communist Party; and Notimex Mexican News Agency, which has an executive editor appointed by the President of Mexico and a governing board of representatives of five government agencies.
  • Several credentialed organizations are affiliated with commercial businesses directly related to the subjects they cover:  Energy Daily has several credentialed reporters, and it is owned by a substantial provider of energy consulting services, IHS, Inc.; LRP Publications has credentialed reporters, and also puts on trade shows and conferences; MLEX has credentialed reporters, and provides clients with “Market Insight” and “Predictive Analysis of Regulatory Risk.”
Goldstein wonders how it could be that SCOTUSblog, which is widely respected for its reporting on the Court, somehow creates "a greater risk of entanglement of journalism and other activities than state-sponsored news organizations."

A NY Times article about this quotes someone noting that the whole setup is one of "the fox guarding the henhouse." Though, it's not even clear that's the right analogy. This seems more like petty tyrants using their power to exclude someone who often does their job better than they do. And the whole show trial aspect of forcing SCOTUSblog to attend a "hearing" where a giant stack of "evidence" is presented against them merely confirms the travesty of the whole situation. The members of the Standing Committee of Correspondents should be ashamed of themselves. Just admit the facts and grant SCOTUSblog a press pass.

Reader Comments

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  1. identicon
    Rich Kulawiec, 9 Jun 2014 @ 4:37pm

    Standing Committee of Correspondents?

    No, no, no.

    Standing Committee of Stenographers.

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