July 6, 2012
SCOTUSblog at Work on the Supreme Court's Health Care Ruling: On "being first AND accurate at the same time"
Many mainstream media sources got the SCOTUS ACA ruling wrong in their knee-jerk initial reports. That included CNN, Fox News and NPR. Not so with the best source for SCOTUS news and analysis, SCOTUSblog. paidContent's Staci Kramer reports on how the editors of SCOTUSblog strived to be first and accurate at the same time:
[T]he team at SCOTUSblog took three long minutes from getting the ruling to reporting that Chief Justice John Roberts led the 5-4 majority declaring the Obama administration had a mandate, then another two minutes to declare the whole ACA was upheld with the exception of narrow reading on Medicare. Howe almost instantly mentioned the part about the mandate being judged a tax but held off on the rest. The screengrab from the CoveritLive replay below covers that three minutes:
For Supreme Court watchers, SCOTUSblog has been the web destination to go to for a very long time. Due to the blog's coverage of the Court's end-of-term dump of some very significant decisions last month, it appears that the site is now receiving long-overdue recognition beyond SCOTUSblog's regular audience for its excellent coverage by way of current awareness, source documents and analysis. See Kramer's SCOTUSblog: After a decade, an overnight sensation for more. Reportedly, President Obama initially thought that the Court struck down "Obamacare" based on early mainstream media's inaccurate reporting. Reporting an "existential moment," LLB's co-editor and SCOTUS watcher Mark Giangrande wrote:
What a difference an hour makes. I checked in with CNN this morning just before I left for the office and saw the headline that the individual mandate was struck down. I get to downtown Chicago and every news site trumpets that the mandate is upheld. I guess that’s what happens if one reads the first few paragraphs of the syllabus.
Mark accurately reported the ACA ruling in his June 28, 2012 post, Supreme Court Action Today: The Mandate Is Constitutional, Lying Is Constitutional, And Another Ooops. Without his headcount analysis, I would have had a very difficult time trying to map out who agreed to what:
I’ve tried to summarize, albeit briefly, the net effect of the decision. Chief Justice Roberts wrote the main opinion, but five justices did not join all of it. The opinion of the Court is contained in Parts I, II, and III-C where the Chief Justice was joined by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan. Justices Breyer and Kagan joined in Part IV, which is the Medicare section. Parts III-A, III-B, and III-D are all Chief Justice Roberts. Justice Ginsburg filed a separate opinion concurring in part, concurring in the judgment in part and dissenting in part in which Justice Sotomayor joined, and also joined by Justices Breyer and Kagan as to Parts I, II, III, and IV. Justices Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, and Alito filed a dissenting opinion. Justice Thomas dissented separately, agreeing with Chief Justice Roberts analysis on the limits of the Commerce Clause power. Got all that?
Yup, got it. See also Mark's Reactions To The Health Care Decision post.
The White House has all kinds of special assistants to the President and the President receives a daily briefing from the CIA but it looks like there is one huge gaping information hole in the current awareness feed of information to the Office of the President that requires law librarian skills. Either the Chief of Staff has to censor major media coverage that gets to the President so he (or someday she) does not experience an OMG reaction to sloppy major media reporting or hires someone for an official in-house, non-political appointment as the president's law librarian with information literacy skills. What a gig that would be! I doubt that would happen so Obama might want to take the SCOTUSblog RSS feed by the time the Court reconvenes.
Endnote. SCOTUSblog's coverage of the ACA ruling has not ending with just accurately reporting the Court's holding. See Special Feature: Post-decision Health Care Symposium. It features expert guest commentary in a series of published posts. [JH]