US Senate revokes press credential of SCOTUSblog because, old men

The rather renowned Supreme Court blog SCOTUSblog had its US Senate press credentials revoked recently, while the Supreme Court refuses to credential SCOTUSblog at all.

Why? Because SCOTUSblog is run by a law firm that argues before the Court. Thus, the Senate press credentialing folks think SCOTUSblog has a conflict of interest. Unlike every other press venture in America, and the world, that is owned by major corporations with interests before the Congress and the Supreme Court.

That’s not to say that the Senate press credentialing committee, made up of a bunch of reporters, doesn’t have a legitimate concern. I had no idea that SCOTUSblog was run by a law firm that argues before the Supreme Court. How does SCOTUSblog cover its own firm’s clients? Its own boss’ arguments before the court?

Photo by ©John Aravosis.

Supreme Court photo by ©John Aravosis.

Then again, how does Fox News cover Republicans? Or Justice Scalia? With a softer touch than it gives Democrats or Justice Kagan, one presumes.

Is Fox any less biased than SCOTUSblog? On the contrary, say what you will about SCOTUSblog’s ownership, its coverage of the court has been impeccable. Fox News’ coverage of Washington has been less exemplary.

Again, I get the concern about bias and conflicts of interest. And a blog that covers a court that it argues on behalf of paid clients before is a clear potential conflict. Could, would, SCOTUSblog ever feel the temptation to go softer on a justice that the firm’s owner needed on his side in a future case?  Could the blog be tempted to craft its analysis in a way intended to woo a justice on behalf of a future client?  Maybe.  But again, we’ve yet to see any indication of bias by SCOTUSblog so far — in fact, the publication has had a stellar record of impeccable quality journalism unparalled on the Web.

And, we see bias every day from other publications that are credentialed before the court, be they Fox News at the extreme, MSNBC, or even the progressive Huffington Post.

While I get the Senate press credentialing folks’ concern, and I get that they worry about the precedent this might set, at the same time it all feels very 2004. That was an era in which blogging was the wild west of journalism, and no one knew if those kids in their pajamas would ever grow up to become real journalists.

Well, the kids grew up years ago. And the fact that the Senate revoked SCOTUSblog’s credentials once — and not, apparently, because SCOTUSblog showed any bias or conflict in their reporting — means that if there’s a problem in the future, the Senate could do it again, if needed. So why sweat it now?


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Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown (1989); and worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, and as a stringer for the Economist. Frequent TV pundit: O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline & Reliable Sources. Bio, .

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  • LosGatosCA

    Ethics panel needed.

    Herr Doctor Roger ‘Goebbels’ Ailes please pick up the white courtesy phone.

  • Mike_in_the_Tundra

    It seems strange to say this, but that was fun.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    No, they can’t pick who can and cannot do the job of being a journalist…but they can control who is allowed into the rooms and the buildings. Hence press credentials. Congress, the Supreme Court, the Executive branch — they’ve been playing favorites as to who is allowed into the buildings and whose questions will be answered for as long as the U.S. has existed as a nation.

    The far more disturbing outcome is when they DO try to to declare whether someone is a journalist or not, and thus eligible for First Amendment protections in a global sense. But that’s a whole different matter.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    aka his real name, Jim Guckert.

  • Mark_in_MN

    That’s just it. I don’t think they should be responding on the basis of circulation or viewership.

  • perljammer

    Well, you can call or write your representative, but with your rather limited circulation, you probably won’t get much attention.

  • Mark_in_MN

    On this I very much agree. I think that’s what’s going on here. They are protecting he turf of the “traditional” media and their special access privileges.

  • Bill Larson

    This also gives these organizations too much control over the process and they have an interest in excluding what is basically reputable competitors

  • Mark_in_MN

    Or maybe there shouldn’t be a group of people who have special access to Senate, House, SCOTUS or White House. Why should a star reporter get to ask questions but not someone like John or an average citizen like you or I?

  • Mark_in_MN

    In this case it’s not the government, other than the Senate sanctions the committee to make policies and decisions on credentialing. The credentials committee is run by the press association for the Senate. That is, it’s representatives of the reporters, photographers, etc. who are already credentialed that form the committee.

  • Mark_in_MN

    I don’t get the Senate press people’s concern. SCOTUSblog gives more reputable and complete coverage of matters pertaining to SCOTUS than most of the “traditional” media that the Senate press credentials people represent.

    I really think that the claim of a possible conflict of interest is a good sounding excuse. The real reason is an attempt to shore up the “traditional” media and cut down a blog that might actually do a better job than than do. I think it’s about petty turf protection.

  • Bill Larson

    Freedom of the press under the 1st amendment does not give the government any rights to identify or define what is, or is not press.

  • perljammer

    Really? So the whole idea of requiring a press credential to gain access to Senate or SCOTUS or White House press briefings is unconstitutional? Maybe you think every journalist in the country (or why not the whole world?) should have unfettered access at any time?

    The First Amendment constrains Congress from making any laws impinging on the freedom of the press. That doesn’t mean Federal bodies can’t make rules concerning the granting of press credentials.

  • pappyvet

    Thanks Mike , I was not aware of that.

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    Yep, Jeffy boy :)

  • nicho

    I agree, but then I didn’t think the US could torture people, execute American citizens without charges or trial, or go to war with a country that posed no threat to us. Shows you what I know.

  • Mike_in_the_Tundra

    I’m certain John remembers. He really went after Gannon.

  • Indigo

    See there? You’re not supposed to rock the boat, it’s in the Bible about that, somewhere . . . probably.

  • Drew2u

    Tangential Q: Has, or Is anyone working on a book describing the failure of the 4th estate as a fact-checking, journalistic institute and not just a sensationalistic stenographic institute chasing the almighty ratings? Threats or actions against the 4th estate such as this development, could be part of the overall narrative of access vs truth (sort of like the HRC’s activism vs. dinner parties).

  • ComradeRutherford

    The Senate and SCOTUS banned the blog because they are not allowed – yet – to do what Egypt just did: sentence journalists to seven years in prison for reporting truthfully.

  • pappyvet

    I think I just answered my own question.
    I think it an outrage to deny SCOTUSblog press credentials when this was allowed to go on at the White House.

    http://www.theguardian.com/media/2005/feb/17/pressandpublishing.usnews1

  • pappyvet

    John do you remember that rabid wingnut that was allowed to attend Bushes press conferences for no other reason than to throw knives at Liberals. I do wonder what stouthearted publication he was associated with. I recall the fellow but not much else.

  • caphillprof

    I do not think the Senate, under the First Amendment, can pick and choose journalists, either directly or through a committee of “supposed” journalists. Same for the Supreme Court.

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