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?
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?