tv Key Capitol Hill Hearings CSPAN December 4, 2013 8:00am-10:01am EST
washington are experts on how the supreme court works. they've known, and relatively small number of lawyers who practice, specialist and practicing before the supreme court, and you tend to see them over and over and over again. try to get one of them on the phone to answer a technical question about some arcane thing about how the supreme court works. tom has always been very generous with his time and i think that's one of the reasons why journalists have sort of flopped to tom and scotusblog in the early days before the blog took its current form because tom knows and amy know a lot about the supreme court works. they been very generous with their time. ..
tom had a whole lot of credibility even before the blog started as a supreme court advocate. i first started writing about tom when he was a clerk, when he was interning for nina tote 10 berg at n 3 r. as on -- npr. as an up start, somebody who did not fit the mold as pete said and who was cold calling, the losers of cases in lower courts to see if they wanted to appeal to the supreme court, was a model that really hadn't been used before. i remember interviewing another top advocate of the, before the
supreme court and asked him about tommy and he said, well, you know you wouldn't want your heart surgery done by the, by the heart surgeon who called you up and asked if he could do it. >> who was that? >> that was a fellow by the name of john roberts who became a chief justice. i think he is sort of eating his words on that. so i think, tom had the reputation of a real innovator within this stuffy world of the supreme court and he was a good media source. so that when the blog came along i think he was, he and amy were able to over come some initial suspicions because this was a totally unique creature here. it was a blog about an institution by someone who,
interacted with that institution as an advocate. somebody who wouldn't have an interest in pissing off that institution to be blunt about it. as, journalists, sometimes do we, you know, i had an editor once who said, you know, if the sources you write about are happy with everything you write then you're not doing your job and i think that's, that's a key element of being a journalist. the fact that scotusblog overcame that initial suspicion through an incredible array of resources, through its credibility and through lyle denniston who is fiercely independent i, i think that enhances the remarkable nature
of scotusblog and how it has become viewed as a journalistic institution. in almost every way. i mean it is possible we could seen talk about this at some point whether there are stories you might not write because arguing before the supreme court but i still think as a public resource, and i spent my career trying to lift the veil and shed light on the supreme court and i applaud anybody who does that and i think scotusblog has just been a remarkable public resource that's deserves all the applause it gets. >> if i can just, obviously this is way, way too generous. i would say one, if we try, in
my opinion this ought to be what you can extrapolate from our experience rather than than, yay, scotusblog. if we try to do the same thing in other places. what you have in us is, people who practice in front of the supreme court and who teach about supreme court litigation. so we know that place, okay? that's what we do. anybody who spends their entire careers focusing on one places going to understand it pretty well. what we aren't as journalists but what we do is appreciate journalists. we revere them. we crew up, either working for them or working with people like tony and pete who are better journalists than we could ever hope to be and there is a sense in an expert community, whether it's lawyers or doctors, whatever, of we're better, the journalists just report. but our attorney general eric holder wynn appreciation and
honor we give absolute journal system absolutely true. why it is if tony, pete or any of their colleagues come and ask us a question we think it is an unbelievable opportunity. it is also the case a lot of the people on the supreme court bar are more reactive and don't like to talk to the press. they think something will go wrong and upset the justices and that has never been our perspective but we really value it and that led us to hire lyle. it led us to adopt a set of values halfway through the existence of the blog where as if we were just out there pimping ourselves and the law practice the blog would be very different and much less successful. how well it does or doesn't right now really turns on the fact that people don't perceive it as something that's out there trying to sell you something or to develop the some advantage for our law practice and i do think tony raises a really
important set of issues that should be discussed and that is, okay, but can you truly have it both ways? can you practice in front of the supreme court, right, and your professional success there depends on your credibility with the justice and at the same time run an institution that is going to truly cover the supreme court? and truly be able to describe it warts and all? and how is it that you navigate that sort of thing if you want to really call yourself a journalistic institution? because that dilemma will repeat itself too potentially. if you're an expert in physickings, if you're an expert in plumbing there are lots of things you can talk about and write about and cover where you don't face the dilemma of really pissing some people off if you, you know, speak truth to power. we, the justices pay attention to their press and so there are a unique set of challenges.
i will identify one other thing we can talk about and that is we watch the court with a sun-like intensity because we're completely fan boy obsessed with it. and so we have a finger on the pulse of the institution so that when it has glitches, when it, as it does, releases opinions early when it doesn't mean to, when it identifies case that is its going to grant cert in, without days early and it is not supposed to do that and we because we're just watching them obsessively, we figure that out what is it that we, because we practice in front of the court and owe them a set of ethical obligations what do we owe them there? so there are a set of challenges. here is the weirdest anomaly about scotusblog. we have a bunch of people, we may have 200 people write for us during the year. we're only about the supreme
court. we are the only people who materially cover the supreme court in any way, even the thin nestest way the supreme court refuses to recognize and we don't have a press credential at the court. the court always followed a rule that says if you have a senate press credential that you will be credentialed by the supreme court and we got a senate press credential earlier this year and supplied our, then applied to the, the court's press office and at which point the court announced it was reviewing its credentialing practices. and i think genuinely. the court is an institution that is very stayed. its entire premise things shouldn't change very much. it isn't embracing technology because the company expects them to be exceptionally stable. as the law, the law is very ossified and we are a puzzle that the court hasn't quite been
able to figure out soft that is an interesting thing. that we are thus far unable to get credentialed by the court itself. >> explain that. give us limits. give us the nuts and bolts. during the doma and same-sex marriage case i was not going to wait for the legacy press to report it. i watched the feed coming from scotusblog. so do you have a mole? explain, explain the nuts and bolts how you go about that instantaneous reporting. >> sure. the courtroom itself is a vault when the court is announcing opinions. so there are no electronic devices allowed. but the press are, for covering really large opinions, for the most part not in the courtroom. they are outside the courtroom and at the point that the chief justice says, justice kennedy has the opinion in united states versus windsor, they start handing out the opinions to the press corps and then lyle denniston will get his copy of
the opinion and pete will be outside waiting for his copy of the opinion and we'll talk to us about what the opinion says and then we will be typing that into our live blog to go out into the rest of the world. >> so and to finish this off, you know, we're going to take advantage of every opportunity we have. there are a whole series of rules at the supreme court that are to be perfectly frank, adopted to prevent our invasion of various policies of the supreme court. so we're not recognized as members of the press corps, okay? then we'll not be subject to any of the constraints that the press corps is. so while the core press corps at the supreme court, the court makes a set of public information office available to them as many institutions do where you can have a person or two people there. well, we're not recognized as part of the press corps, so we'll have seven people running on five different internet
connections in another two unidentified places in the building. [laughter] around so we'll have, when the final decisions of the term came down we had a massive team of people, lawyers, technical staff, two backup technical team, when we had done the health care case the year before, hackers attempted to crash the blog. there were about a million people on the blog at once. and so we will set up an infrastructure that is designed just to push out information. the court does, i shouldn't leave the impression that the court is either agnostic about our existence or trying to prevent us from getting access because the court does give lyle denniston a press pass because he is also anomaly -- anomaly covering the court for wpr in boston. the court is trying to accommodate us. the court is not trying to prevent information getting out to the public but we will do
things like during oral arguments we'll sit -- the press corps is inside the courtroom and as amy says it is on lockdown. we're in the members supreme court bar. we'll sit in the lawyers lounge. listen to audio piped in. halfway through the argument, believe the building, collect our phones. used to allow us to keep our phones and then leave. but they have adopted a new rule that you have to put your phone in a locker. and so there are different, different on stag cycles that are being created but we will -- >> didn't you once try to blog from the lawyers lounge? >> yes. right. so this is, the fourth rule that was created to address our practices was there was an oral argument. audio was being piped in, i was, no problem with this, i will just live tweet the oral argument. i got a call from the marshall of the court and who said, you know, tom, we noticed this twitter thing.
we don't really know what that is, it was straight on to the blog. it was straight on to the blog. it was straight on to the blog, that's right. and we don't, you know, i didn't see you in the courtroom. what was going on? i said, we were just sitting in the lawyers lounge writing away. she says okay, that is not going to happen anymore. the next day they put in signs, no electronic devices in the lawyers lounge. so we have, you know, as anomalous as it is we're not recognized by the court we have great advantages. again this is a thing where experience and form present opportunities but they also constrain. if you just go in there and say, look i've got this technology, you have a set of rules? i will look where the margins of the rules are and i'm going to exist there. i have zero cost of distribution. nobody's ever done this before? that's not my problem. you're going to screw a lot of things up and you will upset some people and we have upset some people and they have been justified being upset with us.
not just because they're being crotch chetty. what i -- crotcety. people should look for targets of institutions a lot of places out there, fascinating to write and talk about. if one were to come in and say, look, all right, i will do that, get an audience for a million people to sit on the blog waiting for the results of the health care decision. we obviously have to thank cnn and fox contributing to the reputation that the blog developed. we have to thank the press in many different ways. but the, is an extraordinary statement about how it that's there is a hunger for information out there. how there are a series of institutions that their, their goal is not to make themselves more accessible. the supreme court is ironic in the sense that it is, the place, in washington that is most open
in some senses. you know, all the cases that they're going to hear. you know, all the arguments that they're going to consider. you see the results of their decisions in the opinions. that is unlike the presidency. unlike congress in any way. and so, at the same time it does very little to explain itself to the public. it kind of leaves itself out there. that is just waiting for someone to come along, okay, i will explain that place to you. and because it is so focused, because there are so few cases and briefs are available and that sort of thing it creates a incredible opportunity for us. if you imagine try to cover the presidency as a blog, who are they talking to, what information are they being presented with and same with congress. there are other things out there in the world, other areas of study, other places where you can literally own them and i think those are just waiting to be discovered. >> can i follow up on that? i think that's, you know tony and pete, journalist who is
cover the court and see us on a month to month, week to week, year to year basis, have sort of made their judgments about the broking's credibility but for reporters who don't cover the court regularly and on a beat where all of sudden they have a water case out of texas and they need to know what the supreme court is going to do with us they find us. i don't think they know a lot about us but they know we purport to be experts on the supreme court and we're willing to talk with them and we're willing to be resources for people on all kinds of topics. we get calls, give fashion advice, what can i wear to the supreme court arguments? when should i get in line? i got a lot of calls from the pattington case from hedge funds and how quickly would the court issue their decision and how quick we could know. if you decide to dominate a small niche, mind over matter, you can do it.
>> i want to ask a question that any or all of you can address and we've talked about it a little, tony used the word, there's a veil and tom just talked about the secretive nature. let's talk about the opening up and the role that scotusblog has played in providing if not more access, certainly a platform for dialogue, a platform for additional reporting. and that opening up it seems to me is also with the legal community. the scholarly, i mean the scholarly experts around the law can be very tightly arranged around law schools or law journals. how has scotusblog opened up both our knowledge of the court, our information about it but also the legal community and who is involved in this discussion? >> well i would say that it has maybe broadened the circle of people with special knowledge. it has brought more people into
the tent to use a perhaps a different term. you could get this insidey feeling about the supreme court by going to the annual seminar that law schools put on about the court or reading law school journal articles or hanging out with other law professors who are obsessed with this institution as much as tom and amy are but this has, scotusblog invited basically the entire country to come in and be a party to these discussions. so i think one of the things that we have to talk about today is the, you know, the sort of flow of information about the court. you know, no single institution, scotusblog included, can fundamentally change the way the court decides to let you know what it is up to. because, remember, it all starts with nine justices and only nine
justices. there are no staff people in the room when it decides to hear or not hear a case. the decisions don't leak. we're talking about another, this is very unusual about the supreme court. the number of times in the last century that what the supreme court was going to do in a case has leaked out i think is two. they're well-documented and both resulted in changes in the way the court operates to make sure that would never happen again. so the flow of information is very controlled by the court and so, you know, i don't think any blog or news organization can change that but the access to it, the scotusblog has certainly changed that by allowing everybody to sort of gather around this watercooler and hear about what the supreme court is up to. >> i would agree. i won't tell too many old guy stories but when i first started covering the supreme court it was literally, if you were not
in d.c. or if you didn't have some, a friend in d.c. who could go down to the courtroom to get the actual physical copy of the decision and then put it on a fax machine or something, you just, it was not accessible. you could not get a supreme court opinion until u.s. law weekly printed it up and sent it to you in the mail three days later. so it's, it's remarkable what scotusblog has done. the court has also entered this field gingerly. they have a pretty decent website and they do put up decisions fairly soon after they're announced. but i think, what the blog has done has been sort of an amplifier of that and has, added value to what the supreme court puts out and the supreme court doesn't put out all that much.
so it's tremendous. >> stone any says, the court now makes the audio available the same week. it makes the opinions available on its website within three minutes of them coming down. there is same-day transcripts. while that sound relatively modest, they are for the court very significant changes. the fact that there's an online docket. this is a place that lives on the principle that there woken be much change. and again that kind of non-dynamic environment is an opportunity, not a obstacle. a big institution lots of people care about sometimes during the course of the year lots ever people will tune in. is there constitutional right to same-sex marriage? yeah there's a big part of population interested of that. is obamacare constitutional? a huge number of people will focus on it in an institution will not adapt itself because it is very stayed in -- staid in getting that information out
there. what it is they're that we're doing as part after national conversation it should be clear to everyone we're hardly alone. so for example, american lawyer media for which tony now works, has this wonderful publication, supreme court insider, which is getting more information about the court. pete now reports not on, all the law that, the justice department, the supreme court but they have instead of one platform in nbc news now, msnbc ends the website of "nbc news." so i do think that we're far from alone in taking advantage of the lower cost of distribution. we should talk at some point what the economic models of all these places are because tony operates on one economic model. some of his material is free through the blog of legal times. some is subscription only through the supreme court insider. pete's work is advertising supported. we have this unbelievable sponsor in bloomberg law that
has been essential to, you know, financing a huge number of the things we do. the one other thing about the national conversation that i'll put on the table is an interesting dilemma for everybody who will run a website is, how much you allow that broader community to participate in your website through comments in particular? there are websites that have unbelievably substantive comments. that is to say one out of every three is intelligible. you know, give you the example of the volo conspiracy, fantastic website, largely libertarian in the law. they have a community of people that actually do write very interesting things. >> this is named after a law professor named gene volik. >> our experience with comments was uniformly horrific. i'll just say that we originally had anonymous commentary on the blog. then we had people put their names on it. for a while people felt constrained and couldn't control themselves.
you know, this is unfortunate because we would really like to be part of a actual, a forum for a national conversation. >> user of blog, i don't miss those comments at all. >> that's the thing. we actually thought they were reducing the reputation of the blog rather than increasing it. you can really increase your number of hits on a website by allowing a bunch of people, because they will come 48 times an hour to see if anybody responded to their comment. and then respond angrily to the idiots that -- so you can have a conversation but it's not a very good conversation. i wish that we, you know, i hope that websites can move forward. there are different technologies being employed about moderated comments and elevate comments as good and bad and we have not done that well. i really would like for us to be a place where people can come and talk about their supreme court because it matters.
when justices decide a case by obamacare or same-sex marriage they're effectively amending the constitution as a practical matter. they're reviewing the vague intricacies of the constitution to come up with a important result. it matters hugely and affects each of us and affects our daily lives and we ought to be more active in participating and talk about it. that is something we failed to do and a challenge for us going forward. >> this is a great opportunity to bring in janet murray. janet is one of the most distinguished scholars of digital media in the united states. janet, talk about blogs in general. blogs of course are not journalism yet they played enormously important role in rethinking our assumptions in society about expertise, who gets to speak, what conversations can be held. what access the audience should or could have. why is it significant to have blogs as such as scotusblog and what does a blog do that
journalism can't do? >> so it's a very, a very interesting to me thaw make that distinction and i was struck by the fact that amy took the award in that context said, oh, we're a blog and i'm so happy this validates blogging. because i think that blogs, we're living in an age of media evolution and i think what dave said about honoring scotusblog being a significant moment for media i think it's important but i don't think it's about the form of a blog. i think it it's about the having all affording the digital media allows to you do radical change thinking what is the at core of any profession. so the fact, it's a big, it is
particularly big in something like the, supreme court as i'm listening, i'm realizing it is like the icon of print culture, that we all live in the social orders formed by print culture but nothing substantiates that more than the law and then the supreme court with its very close -- they haven't, they literally closed out images. so they really want to keep to even the pretelevision era. so that,, and journalism is, in this, is also tied to print culture so that we think of people are saying that it isn't journalism because it's a blog. those two things are not, they're not of the same kind of generalization. journal system a human practice
that is separate from the medium which it is inscribed and the radical moment that we have when the new medium of technology comes into our hand which no medium of representation doesn't happen that often in human history, is that we can rethink these core activities in a wider space of expressiveness. so all of a sudden reporting on the supreme court whether you, and whether you're a practitioner. whether you're a fan boy, whether you're just a deeply knowledgeable and articulate person about something that is mystifying and wants to stay mystified and people make their living by keeping it mystified and keeping that gate closed, it allows, all of a sudden if you
really actually want to practice, i would say this is, what else is journalism if not saying what happens, saying what it means, being reliable, being authoritative, being complete, being comprehensive? that is journalism but the opportunity is it can be practiced in a much wider space. so the, so what the significance of the blog is that it got them started, is that there was this, i think of a dough messcation event, it is free, not just free but anybody who would write could use it. it is technically available, it is transparent enough that you don't have to learn too many codes in order to do it. and then this pent up desire to say what's happening and say what it means, of course it takes that form. >> you sound like tom wolff when he says, basically we're all journalists but let me, it is
too, a platform, and tom got this and i think this is worth our attention is the platform itself will allow for participation in the way that broadcast news does not and tom, you found that that is maybe a liability but yet a tremendous hunger on the part of the audience to participate in the conversation. so is it an either or question or is there a way that blogs can serve as this forum for those who do want to participate in the conversation? >> well, i do think, anybody can start their own blog about the supreme court. and we do have a in effect in a micro blogging platform like twitter, the number of people who tweet out, i have in tweetbot, number of people tweeting out about the supreme court is roughly about one every three seconds. so there is a national conversation going on. one of the difficulties people
think we are the twitter feed of the supreme court and they get very upset with us when we do things like invalidate part of the voting rights act. there is a whole internet medium wonderful about and we respond to them as if we're the supreme court and it can get a little mean. >> by me. >> by me, i, in the name of the blog. i do think the development of technology and the low cost of distribution means that if you have something to say, you have a vehicle to say it. now the question is really whether you have something to say because -- >> and whether you know what you're talking about. >> that's what i mean. that is do you have something intelligible to say that people will respect. recognize, for example, less than half a percent of what is written on the blog is written by me. we are a platform where you mention ad huge number of law professors will write for us because our distribution now is
something on the order of, you know, on a daily basis, you know, 50 times the annual distribution of the harvard law review, right? so that we are a way for people to push out their thoughts in, for law professors, for people involved in practice in a way they never could in terms of getting themselves an audience, and the questions, the marketplace of ideas actually works. people will come to the blog. if what they read is stupid, they won't come back. and so every day, and like "the new york times" built up a reputation, tony built up a reputation, pete at nbc news built up a reputation. what we're able to do is provide a low-cost platform. journalism is itself a piece of information that can be translated into ones and zeros. people can write. people can do videos. the university is streaming this. the ability to push information out and for other people to
consume and then respond through twitter, through their own blogs is very, is very high. the one advantage scotusblog probably has is a first mover advantage and that is, we've entered this space. we made the materials available to you. and the real question is, who will pay to create a competitor to scotusblog? if you wanted to create another one it would cost millions of dollars to do and you would have to have a very specific set of personnel, of a set of fan boys who are really interested in writing about the supreme court and knew about it and so i do think that the future of writing about the supreme court include the incredible contributions of traditional classical journalism and its evolution, places like scotusblog and then people just talking through sites like twitter. and you can, if you have something to say, your tweets will be noticed. your personal blog will be noticed and your voice will be
heard i think. >> professor jones, before we find ourselves too enamored about the technology and find ourselves with the digital fascination one point is made for the sake of old-fashioned journalism. that is the essence of the blog's reporting on what just happened at the supreme court is executed by either lyle, who is a trained journalist and can do this because he has been doing this so long. he can sit through an oral argument and get a sense how the court will decide a case because he has done it so many times before. he knows if justice scalia asks a certain question that is because he is defending a similar case, a decision he wrote 14 years ago he still has a stake in. he has that institutional knowledge. that's why people turn to tony morrow's scotus insider. they bring a lot to the table when they write about what they
just saw. so they're experienced people who understand the institution and have been through, this is not their first rodeo. when tom and amy write about the law or people in their firm write about the law, they're trained lawyers. i think this is just a point to say you're not going to learn about supreme court decisions from twitter usually. you know, what is twitter add to journalism. >> depends who is tweeting. >> well -- >> it is not about the medium. because they're knowledgeable you're right, not everybody is a journalist. >> yes and number the yes part as you just said it. the no part is that, you know, if this was your first time sitting through a supreme court argument and you tweet out your prediction how the court is going to decide a case, well, yeah, you've, you raised your hand but what you have to say is probably of very little significance. >> can i make one other point not getting out? front of ourselves.
i made the point we had a million people for the health care decision. 140,000 twitter followers. pete, how many people watch the "nbc nightly news"? >> billions. >> billions. they're healthy. they're strong. they're successful. [laughter] >> that is on our very peak. >> about 10 million. >> about 10 million. we can't run away with ourselves if, when pete reported for, you know, the "nbc nightly news" on that evening, order of magnitude of people saw that, saw that than saw it on the blog. it is an interesting change. it is an important development i do think and other similar things are important developments but we can not lose sight of the fact that the way people generally consume news in the united states is going to be through, pete, through -- right.
also through jon stewart. >> my students do not own television sets. they're, no. >> and they're doomed frankly. [laughter] >> i think tom's point is a good one too. last year when court issued the health care decision we were so excited we had a million people on the live blog. we had next day another live blog the court issuing orders. you can see how many people are following the live blog. and we had 200 that day. so it kept us humble. >> i want to say that i agree digital media have made it possible to receive news in new ways. i'm just saying that they're a lot to be said here. one of the reasons for the success of scotusblog is not merely the fact it is digital and on your computer and get it through the fillings in your teeth. it is what is put into it we can't lose sight of.
>> point well-taken. i would like to take questions. and there's a microphone on both side. if you would come up and be prepared. while you're queuing i will ask one more quick question and say, or follow-up to come men is, it is not really an either/or. if the conversation here is steered and said, the blog is the doom of legacy media and broadcast, that's a misconception. what's great about the blog and i think while we're all here and celebrating it, it offers things that the older platforms couldn't do because of time and space issued -- issues. that's a great contribution, again to our knowledge of an institution that's so important but we know so little of. we'll take a question here. >> hi. thank you so much. this is really good. this is a question for tom and for amy. you do so much work and you gather all this information.
do you feel like you're credited sometimes by people who use you as a source or is that a struggle? >> i do think we are accredited. we have had unbelievable kindness shown to us by other reporters, who have said, today is just one example among many although the most special really kind things about the blog and as pete said you can see citations to the blog in "the new york times" and lots of other places. we have, the relationship between scotusblog and the press is evolving. as scotusblog has gotten bigger it has taken on more of a role as a competitor, in some senses to some media, particularly in an economically-challenging time and particularly i think because we do have bloomberg as a sponsor. there was an era in which scotusblog -- the arc of
blogging has been as follows. you start ad website and everybody thought you were crazy. and you're not really worthy of respect. that was true about 10 years ago. it has been remarkable now that if you have something that has blog at the end of its name, it actually can be a sign of credibility and people have and the press has been very willing and very kind about crediting the blog. now our relationship is changing because between, you know, reuters and ap and bloomberg and american lawyer media, they are competing for advertising dollars and that sort of thing. i do think that journalists apply extremely high ethical standards in terms of crediting us. there are people who believe that there is copycat coverage from the blog that isn't credited and i think that is probably not right. there are only some ways to report supreme court decisions. the court does, i mean sometimes you can say that the health care
law was upheld or struck down. you're apparently given that choice but generally speaking there's only one answer and so i don't really see a phenomenon in which people are taking the content of the blog and not giving it credit. we, our careers and the success of the blog are largely attributable to the traditional press corps to be perfectly honest. you know, when pete is so kind as to put us on television, when tony has written articles about us, that is really how people have found us. so we have, we have nothing but the, you know, the highest level of gratitude for how we've been treated. >> you brought up the business model earlier on. would you talk about that a little bit and particularly you're relationship bloomberg law. where they put their money. how much money do they put in. do you do stuff exclusively for
bloomberg and their exclusive audience, the terminal users? >> right. so this is a good, another good illustration of a question that you can just extrapolate from, right? so we have this place and the cost of distribution is nearly zero but on the other hand we're adding a mobile site. we have to ramp up for the health care decision day. our spend about three years ago before our sponsorship deal with bloomberg law was a quarter million dollars a year and i was paying that out-of-pocket from the law practice. our spend right now is twice that. we spend about $500,000 a year, which is real money for sure but is nothing like the amount of money that a major news organization spend on covering a significant area that interests the public. the question of a business model is a fascinating one because there is no way that our traffic on a classical advertising model
could sustain what it is that we burn through. they're not enough eyeballs on the blog. we don't get, we don't have 100 million unique users. so that if we were to use a straight advertising model, the blog couldn't sustain itself at the level that it exists now where we have a reporter who -- in terms of numbers. >> yeah. >> in terms of just eyeballs but you have a very desirable focused audience that has some value in it of itself. >> right. so nonetheless. that is the transition. that is, if you were to just advertise cars or something like that. but there are a particular subset of people who are reading the blog that various people found to be valuable, and, because of the unbelievable kindness of things like peabody and the like which have kind of a halo effect that people do appreciate being associated with us. we're up credibly lucky in that way. so bloomberg law, which is our
exclusive sponsor, is thinks i think the community of lawyers and people interested in the law will use the blog a lot. we have demographic information about our readers as most websites do. we do have a relationship with them in which we write exclusive content for their, their users, their paid subscribers. but the principle focus is, they think that, they have made a judgment that advertising bloomberg law on scotus law has economic value for then. plus, they think it's a social good. you can't lose sight of the fact. they, bloomberg made a decision this was something good for the country. they may be right, they may be wrong. but that is part of their calculus. and they are unbelievably good to us. this is another very unusual thing about a sponsor. they give us money and they ask nothing of us. that's a remarkable relationship to have. we do identify things as sponsored by bloomberg law.
we do, you know, try and highlight what it is they do occasionally. but they just have decided to finance this operation. in terms of, the precise numbers are, something that i wouldn't want to disclose because it is a contractual relationship but it does cover the costs of the blog's existence. they also allow me, i personally have the opportunity to work with nbc news at the end. term. they don't put constraints on us. so long as people understand the blog itself is exclusively sponsored by them. what other people are going to be able to do in this era, where media obviously faces, people here know much better than me, media faces real challenges people like scotusblog are giving away information for free, what are other journalistic institutions going to do in terms of financing their operations? we create a problem, rather than solving a problem on some level.
what is it that supreme court insiders is going to do in terms of creating unique content? we may inspire people to do more innovative things to find their niche in the marketplace as we try to as we, but what you're going to do about a space like scotusblog if you're "the new york times" or a local paper or nbc or american lawyer media is a real puzzle and we have to recognize the possibility that we might celebrate its existence but as an economic matter, it may cause more problems than it solves and, you know, scotusblog itself may contribute some content but it is body of all the reporting by pete, by tony and by other that is really informs the country and what journalism will do to have a economic model so all of that can survive and thrive. is something that know the people in this room think about a lot. >> i would like to make one last
comment and we'll bring this to a close. this is pete's comment about credibility i think is very important but i want to tie it in with what janet said about generations and watching television. we know your real-time competitors on a breaking story like dome marks i don't know if nbc cut in on that? >> oh, yes. >> but cnn, fox, msnbc, their average viewer, fox viewer is 67. i believe, 64, 65, even for cnn and msnbc. now those of us who are standing in front of classrooms with 18 and 21-year-old's janet's point is well-taken. it is not their natural tendency to turn on their channels as the demographics suggest. there is something about why did jeff jones watch those major rulings on civil liberties on scotusblog and not on those other networks? and i think that there is something fundamental, in the
relationship of different generations to digital media, that is going to play out here and scotus plays an interesting role because precisely, because it is so good and precisely because i watched it because it was a peabody winner. >> let me say one thing. we're well aware of these trends. that's why if you're on the msnbc website you would have seen the scotusblog live coverage of the decision. >> we have a lot of croptive relationships like that where nbc, npr, "the new york times" had a relationship with us to take material from the live blog. c-span this year. last care on the health care decision, c-span put a camera on the live blog and streamed it out on c-span3 i think. so, you know, we, there is this adaptation where it doesn't have to be, you know, us or them. >> sure. >> where we're so grateful and it's, the distribution nbc news has, or that npr carried as
well, pbs carried the live blog as well, because we're not trying to, we don't have a pay vault, we don't try to make money on an eyeball basis and we know they reach a lot of people, we have a lot of these collaborative relationships. that is again something, to amy's point, if you create a website, people will learn about you, if you have something substantive to say. you will get exposure through media that really touch a lot of people. that's another example of that. people ought to realize that if they are good at one particular topic, their opportunity to reach a huge audience is not lilted to number of people who find you through google, but in fact principally through, i will say only the most positive way, legacy traditional media that has so many eyeballs itself. >> take about a ten-minute break. please join me in thanking our panelists. [applause]
going to get into the nitty-gritty of covering the supreme court. you notice on the screen above our panelists is a sketch which is the only technology that the supreme court allows in the courtroom and this is very graciously provided by art lean, who does sketches for a scotusblog and through our panel, i will rotate through a couple other sketches. >> [inaudible] >> veteran supreme court reporters frequently described collegiality among the members of the press corps. often attributing this to the lack of scoops on this beat. as linda greenhouse said, and she covered the court for 30 years for "the new york times,." we all have access to the same information. adam lip-tak currently covers the court, current washington focus on secrets does not apply to supreme court.
pete williams has said, this is not a source beat. yet shortly after the 2012 health care ruling january greenberg of cbs news wrote a piece about chief justice roberts switching his vote. she attributed the story to two sources with specific knowledge of the deliberations. her story recount ad months-long effort led by justice kennedy to bring roberts back to his original position. quote, he was relentless, unquote, one source said of kennedy's efforts. quote, he was very engaged in this. i want to start with tony more row, who has covered the court for 33 years. tony, why are there not more stories like this? >> i only wish. my, anybody could call me up and give me a story like that i would be happy to receive it. there are several answers.
one is basically it is such a sealed institution and the law clerks pledge to not reveal anything about their deliberations. the law clerks being the three, the four, usually young lawyers who, who help the justices screen cases and write opinions. they absolutely are not supposed to talk to us. there used to be the rule an apocryphal rule perhaps under warren berger that any clerk seen talking to a reporter for more than 90 seconds would be fired. and i don't know if that rule still holds but, you really, i, gotten to know some people who are, at law firms and then they go off to be a law clerk for a
year and i say to them, well, i'll talk to you on the other side, you know. it would be dill la tear just to their careers to talk to me during their clerkship. so that is one reason why it is so rare because law clerks would be a great source for, a pending decision or what recently issued decision, how it came about. but it just never, it just never happens. which makes me think that it probably was either a justice or a justice's relative because nobody is going to discipline them for talking to the press but a law clerk, it would really be a career-ending, possibly a career-ending move for a law clerk to talk to the press and give that kind of information.
and why did it happen this time? because i think the emotions were so strong. there was so much, a lot of conspiracy theories, especially when the decision did come out and seemed so anomalous for the court to declare the affordable care act unconstitutional under one part of the constitution and then constitutional under another part i think people were looking for the explanation behind these, this very peculiar decision. but i, my suspicion it was a justice or a justice's close relative who was the source. >> well i will ask pete to jump in. pete, why aren't you getting stories like this on a regular basis? >> well, let's keep our eye on the ball here. the sort of scoops that one values from the justice department is what they're growing to do, who they're going
to indict. what the department's policy is going to be about prosecuting marijuana users. who the attorney general is going to choose to do something. who the president is going to nominate to be the next justice. s so the number of leaks about what the court is going to do is very small. now these sort of after the fact, i mean look, let's give jan her due. it was interesting story. who knows whether it is true. we have to assume it is true. i've heard some different variations on it. we'll have to wait until the justices all involved in this die and we see their papers but it is to some extent a footnote about the real story which is the court upheld the obamacare decision and the question of whether a justice changes his or her vote, yeah, so what? they do that fairly often. one of the things one has to
argue i think the tenor of, if not the story, the person who provide the story, the chief justice changed his vote and that was wrong, how dare he. there was a certain, shall we say, idealogical point of view to the people who provided the story. i assume they were mad that the chief justice changed his vote, if indeed he did but i would argue that this is, this is scotusblog fodder. this is fascinating stuff for the people who care about the internal machinations of the court but for the public at large the question is, am i going to have health insurance or not? so i guess part of the reason is, you know, we don't spend a lot of our time trying to find out those internal machinations of the court because for us the action is what the court actually does and that is, that's in the decisions. but it is structurally just set up that way. i mentioned earlier that the people who would know this would be a very small number.
the justices themselves and the, the law clerks who in essence take holy orders not to talk about this stuff around some of them years later will talk about it but some law clerks will never talk about what they did when they were law clerks. so there's, you know, it is just different. the whole sort of engine that drives leaks in other government institutions is completely different. there are many motives for leaks. you leak something because you want to shoot down what you think is going to happen. you leak something because you want to basically, you know, get it out there and see how it's going to go. you test it out, launch a trial balloon. you leak just to say, i know something you don't know and to enhance your credibility. most of those things that drive leaks, and god bless them, we love them and give my number in a moment, just aren't at work in the supreme court. >> are there perils to the press
corps from reporting stories like this? >> i would say no, not really. i think individual journalists may from time to time offend individual justices, if they write stories that the justices don't like. guess what? those journalists still get to sit in and watch the supreme court work. they don't get, they don't lose their parking privileges or anything like that. they don't really pay a price for it. . .
so we're making progress, but still the norm is that you don't talk to the justices. so there are really no privileges that they could withdraw from you or to punish you for a leak. the only downside, the danger of publishing a leak is if it's wrong, then you will embarrass yourself. >> i want to turn to amy. if lyle denniston brought your story, would you run on scotusblog? >> i don't know the answer to that. i think we probably would. if jan's story came straight -- if jan's said your editors, we've got it straight from someone with specific deliberations and they've been working with the jan for years, we've been working with lyle for years and he said this -- i want
to run it, we would say yes. >> you have to distinguish kind of what i do and what lyle does. it's essential -- lyle was mentioned in passing of some of his very strong views, and lyle is the quintessential independent journalist. file has the right and partly anything and all of the blogs he wants and gets no real editorial publishing oversight from me because i'm such a relationship of trust. it's a very important actually because i practiced in front of the supreme court that while not feel any constraint. if you want to live as any constraint you should see lyle's a story about my oral arguments, which one would say not blowing. and so yes, unquestionably if lyle had the story we would to run the story. the puzzle is if i had the story, would we have rented. the answer is no. that's an interesting dilemma. that is, i have no with some
decent regularity when the court was going to do things ahead of time, as pete says, almost never as a result of a conscious leak. there's not the culture of leaking at the supreme court. the costs are too high. the relationships with the press corps, from people inside the building are too thin and there's too few agendas that would benefit rather than being harmed by leaking. that is an anomaly about scotusblog and that is we do almost no enterprise reporting at all. lyle doesn't like. lyall likes to look at the breese and listen to the oral arguments and write about the. that's what he does. lyle has no interest in the kind of underlying personalities, machinations, that kind of thing. that is a very good fit for us because it almost never creates this dilemma. lyle is not other trying to get leaks and people are not out there calling lyle with leaks. but as a journalistic matter, it
is one data point about us as a institution is that he never gets interference on what it is he's going to write about. >> jeffrey toobin's latest book about the book as the following statement about his sources. quote, this book is based principle, interviews with the justices and more than 40 of their law clerks. the interviews were on a not for attribution basis. that is, i could use the information provided but without quoting directly or identifying the source. tony, how does he get access to clerks and justices? is it because he's writing books, he's not dealing with breaking news? >> i think that's part of it. some justices will talk to book authors where they won't -- just a beat reporter. so i think that that's one advantage. and while clerks will also do it if there justice lets them, or
gives permission. the fact that it's "the new yorker" may also be a factor. there's another factor i guess you could call it the woodward and bernstein factor, which has to do with the fact that woodward and bernstein got all their scoops about watergate, but they weren't -- they weren't white house reporters. they were local beat reporter. sometimes you need to come in from the outside to get scoops like that. jeff toobin, while he is a supreme court a beat reporter, he's not there very often at all. he drops in for specific arguments. so in a sense he's not, he's not a daily presence of the court and sometimes that gives you an advantage in gaining access to the justices. >> tony, do you think it has anything to do with just the
distance, the time you get your three years out, people are more willing to talk? >> i think that helps. he has sometimes interviewed justices for some fairly real-time stories in "the new yorker." and sometimes the justices are not too happy about it. but, yeah, justices who do have -- feel the call of history to a degree. they do talk to scholars and authors about what's happened in the past. >> pete, any insight into toobin's source relationships? >> it's because of the book. remember, bob woodward was the first to do this with the brethren, which to shock the supreme court with a lot of inside stuff about how things happened there, and this is to woodward's standard operating agreement that he has with his sources in his several books is right about the obama white house, or the books he wrote
about military. his ground rules are that evil into the dim, but they can't -- material can't be used until the book comes out. he can't, in other words, rush something into his "washington post" column. so i think when you approach a justice that way, and remember, because it's a book you're not going to be writing about a decision that hasn't come out yet so you're writing about the past, hopeless understand that. one of the things that he charts in the book you're talking about is the supreme court's very important decision on whether labor unions and corporations can use their own money as opposed to setting up packs, but use their own money to spend independent of candidates to support a cat or a political party. the so called citizens united decision. citizens united case in a very odd way because it started out as a question of whether a paid
broadcast or political documentary about hillary clinton that would be viewed on demand on cable counted as a kind of an election message that the law banned in certain blackout periods before elections. that was the original question of citizens united. what you wanted to know is how did that turn into the citizens united case issue about this huge thing that shifted the ground under campaign finance legislation. so he wanted to know how did that work for the court and what with the ups and downs. you know, even when you publish a book like that and have sources like that, you still there from other justice is a, it was a very good book but i think jeff was wrong about this one point. but yes, in the main it's because he's writing a book. >> supreme court reporters failed to be for a long time. lyle denniston i believe has been there for 55 years. amy, do you worry about getting
too close to the institution? >> i don't think so. i think especially with lyle. lyle really calls them as he sees them, and he prides himself -- because he prides himself on being independent, not only of his editor and publisher, but also he's not somebody who is out interviewing sources and interviewing the justices. and so i think that he probably has the same distance -- i don't think that probably has changed at all over the years. i would say that his distance and attitude is the same one that he had 50 years ago. that he wants to call it as he sees it. >> i'm going to ask tony, do you think pete is too close to the institution? >> no, i don't think so. and i think just to add to what amy said, i think part of it is that this is the advantage of justices not talking to the press. they have little use for talking
to the press, so, therefore, we don't develop the kind of buddy-buddy relationships that some reporters have with members of congress or with other officials. so i don't think we end up being, you know, drinking the kool-aid quite as quickly and buying into everything that that particular justice or the court and jailed those. there's this built in independence that maybe makes it a little easier for us to stay on longer and not compromise. >> so my sense is on most beats to avoid capture by the institution, there will be a rotation. someone will stay on the beat for two or year -- two or three years with limited exception to ask tony says, that question if capture is less prominent
because there's nobody are talking to to capture you. the other side of the equation is it's a complicated audit of things to write about. it's very difficult to drop somebody in the supreme court and say have at it. the justices are writing in a language that is very different outcome of the legal things, and it takes little time, there are people who show up and decide who is on day one but generally speaking it takes people a year or two to understand the pace of this weird institution, the rhetoric is so different. and so you need people with a large body of experience and i think that's what most institutions have concluded is that they aren't worried about people losing their aggressiveness because it's not that kind of beat to begin with, and the longer a person stays, the better they aren't being able to explain these weird legal decisions to the public. >> i think if i may hazard a guess here, because there have been lots of articles, scholarly articles written about this, this question of whether we've become beholden to the source,
and we lose our utility as andy bennett challengers of what the institution is up to you. that's i think a lot of what goes on about this. tom is right. number one, adam the pack was on -- who writes for the new times, with talk about this phenomenon at a seminar earlier this year and he said you just get better the longer you stay on the supreme court beat because you understand the institution that much better. you know more about the case law. there's a reason people look over the supreme court tend to stay there. but the other part of it is, we could talk all day about whether the supreme court is political in the sense that it follows the election returns as has been nobody said, but it's fundamentally not a political branch. these folks are appointed for life. it's not like the congress but it's not like an executive branch agency. the sort of day-to-day push and
pull, political appointee, who is in, who's out stuff that you want to try to insulate yourself from if you're covering an executive branch agency or the white house or clinical institution or candidate. it doesn't really apply at the supreme court. fundamentally the court is either going to uphold the defense of marriage act or it isn't. you can look at the votes and what the justices said about why they did what they did, it's right there in front of you and you can say, whereas you might question the motives of somebody in the cabinet department why they did something or didn't, and it would help to have sources and be independent and question them, you can see what antonin scalia said right there. you can look at his reasoning and challenge him on that because he's putting it right out in front of you. so that's one difference i think, one danger that doesn't really exist in the supreme court is becoming beholden to the institution in a way that
the things you. >> to justices follow press coverage? >> yes. they do. they try to pretend like they don't, but we know that they read scotusblog. i don't know how many of them watch nbc news or read what tony writes about them, or read what "the new york times" writes about them. but yes, of course they do. >> i think they care about their press. we have heard from them come as amy mentioned. if we have written something that they disagree with. they are human beings, the justices really are. and in washington you have a sense that you get, the president is used to have people set all kinds of horrible things about him. but the justices, the more have gone to the principle of the appointment process which is horrible. people just make up crap about you, lie and slander you and that sort of thing because that
part is turned into a real political process. but these people value the reputation but they grew up in a very state occupation. they are used to being praised not harshly criticized. and now they are kind of in some small part of the world like the center of the universe, so people are running a lot about their big decisions. so you can believe that they are very aware of what's written about them and take it quite personally. >> tony, did you -- >> justice thomas has famously said he doesn't read any newspaper except a dallas cowboys fan newspaper. and his wife usually brings him up to date about what's being written about him. the rest of them do for sure. as has been said. and once in while i will get a call from a public information office. this is how it's done. you get a call from the office
and the officer said, you know, you wrote such and such the other day. are you really sure that's correct? you know, i'll be reprimanded and i know that it's coming from upstairs, it's coming from the justices. sometimes you make a change, sometimes you don't but that's about the only -- i've never gotten a call directly from a justice of saying that was a terrible thing he wrote your you get it kind of indirectly. >> unless they have books to sell, justices rarely gives interviews. yet adam liptak was able to into justice ginsburg a couple weeks ago -- >> so has everyone in america at this point. justice ginsburg has a message. she will take him or. she will come to your house if you're going to have a garden party. she will be there. she is not leaving. okay quick she wants everyone to know if she's staying on the supreme court so she's been doing interviews like mad to get
that point of view out. >> why aren't there more interviews like this? >> it -- >> go ahead, tony. >> it's because they don't have a message like that to get out. if they did they would. there are some justices who know if they stick their neck out and are interviewed they're going to get some questions that they don't really want to answer. that's another factor. i was able to once interview justice alito because i knew he's a philadelphia phillies fan. and the phillies had just one -- they hadn't won the world series but they had done well so i said that i interview justice alito about the phillies. and the public information officer said, he won't want to talk about it.
the next thing i know i got a call from justice alito of saying be here at noon tomorrow, and we talked about the phillies. while i was there i said, while i have you -- [laughter] and i was able to make a little bit of news, but that action hasn't happened lately. i think justice alito has joined the crowd of justices who don't talk. >> i mean, for one thing they don't need to. they have lifetime appointments and they don't need to renew them through us. they do make themselves accessible. they don't do interviews very often accept when they have books out. sonia sotomayor has been now i think every television show except possibly the food network. she's working on it. with her excellent book out called my beloved world. justice scalia, i interviewed him last you i with his book cae out about supreme court advocacy at how the supreme court should decide cases, his sort of judicial philosophy.
but they do a lot of, they appear before bar groups and the aclu will put on something as a we often can question them in those forums. but they don't do interviews very often because they don't want to and they don't have to. >> are the justices less accessible today than in earlier eras? >> i would say no. i would say more so. >> oh, yeah. partly because a lot of them are writing books, but i think there is a general -- generally they are more out there, more talking to law school audiences. and they always did that, but they used to be able to come and go without being noticed hardly. now, if a justices speaking to a law school audience, you're going to read about it on twitter feeds or you read about in the local media.
but i think generally they are more accessible. i think they generally take a cue from the chief justice on that. rehnquist didn't like it. berger didn't like it. roberts i think is a little us -- a little less fearful of the public eye, although he has not been giving interviews lately either. so it's just -- we kept thinking that as the younger justices came onto the court who grew up in the television age they would be more willing and eager to embrace that medium, which is not exactly a medium anymore, but that generally does not vindicate. >> one thing has to be said about c-span, which is that a lot of justices can be seen in their appearances at law schools and other forums like that through c-span.
>> fred grimm who covered the supreme court for the new york times and cbs from 1965-97 said only the vatican and the cia were less interested in press coverage than the supreme court. is this still true? >> well, that may be true but i've always said that the vatican and the cia are very interested in the press coverage. the vatican has a press office. the pope tweets. so does the cia have a press office. and maybe times have changed since the days when fred was covering, during the times when he was covering for cbs or for "the new york times." i think, again, it's because it's not a political institution and the justices are appointed for life, the day-to-day up and down sort of public institution credibility of the court is not
something that they followed that closely, but they do care about it. they are aware and -- i just think i just disagree with that now. i think that is no longer the case. >> one thing that is again the pete boyd, the court has no actual power other than its power to persuade. and one consequence of that is that there's great value to them in their oracle like standing in our culture. and that is the supreme court said in bush v. gore that the recount is done. that ruling a lot of cultures would'vwould have resulted in a. but in the united states it was simply accepted. and i think on some level despite the interest in the books or whatever, that justices recognized that in personalizing the court decision themselves and making it more about justice scalia over and justice ginsburg over there and justice sotomayor over here, they detract from the
sense in the nation that they are a group that objectively articulates the law. and so i do think they like their privacy on some level. that's a piece of the puzzle here, and that is vaguely like the fact that they can go around and be in the kennedy without having had the overwhelming security that a lot of senior government officials have to have. but the institution itself depends on the idea that it is not just take when cities of what nine people happened to be on the supreme court to determine the meaning of the constitution. >> let's get into the nitty-gritty of light you don't have press credentials at the supreme court. the only way that lyle denniston gets in the courtroom is through his relationship with wbur. could you describe your efforts to get press credentials and why that apparently has been unsuccessful? >> sure. and this is another instance in which the court itself is relatively opaque.
they have been thinking about this for a while. the history of this is that the blog originally asked to be credentialed in the supreme court. we were told that we need to have a senate press credential. the senate would not credential us because we were lawyers. and it took us a while to convince them that we worked the kind of lawyers that were trying to lobby the senate. i think to be perfectly honest, that the tipping point for us getting a senate press credential was the peabody. in the wake of the peabody, it became unsustainable i think the senate press gallery, which is essentially a private organization which the credentialing decision has been turned over, took a more strictly as an institution, and they were willing to credential us. they credentialed lie of. file is report for scotusblog. we then went back to the court and we applied him and as i mentioned in passing last time, the court which have had this
policy that says if you're credentialed by the senate, they chose to go get credentialed by the senate, then said we will we evaluate our practices and we'll be back in touch with the. i did check in with them recently and they said they were still working on the process. i don't think that they are trying to write a policy that excludes us in any way. i think that the court, it's hard to speak for the court as a whole bunch of public information office has gone out of its way to become because. and allowing lyle to have his place in the president in trying to do with us in that way i think that the court like a lot of institutions, places and government are trying to figure what to do with the new media. what visiting if you're credentialed scotusblog? does that mean someone else can go and create a blogger account and then come and get a credential at the supreme court? that doesn't seem right, so how is it that you draw the line?
there's also the puzzle of the fact i'm the publisher. amy is no longer in the law firm and so we've been trying to move the block more and more into independence. i'm the publisher and i'm in publisher and i'm in the law firm. what do you do about that? what do you do about someone who's practicing in front of the supreme court and you need to adopt a special role? the truth of the matter is that the world doesn't turn on the answer to this question because the court doesn't create obstacles to us covering the supreme court. if this was a question of getting a white house press credential so that we couldn't physically get into the white house, that would be one thing. but for us, what is it the supreme court press corps gets? they get preferential seating on the side of the court during all the oral arguments. they get guaranteed access, a hard pass to make it conference list of the cases that would be considered that you can actually get that through the supreme court's docket. it's more a question of -- and i do think it is a significant
question in this sense, and that is, the supreme court is a signal or the other institutions. and its decision about whether blogs deserve recognition is for that reason significant. and so i think they are studying it ver very carefully. it also has a first amendment implications. and the court is aware that if we are eventually denied a credential, we will sue. and so speed is scotusblog versus a scotus. >> i have said somewhat facetious and i like the idea of a lawsuit because it will be scotusblog versus scotus. but we are committed to the principle that we deserve a credential. we are not committed to like rushing their decision. they will make whatever decision they think is right, but if they face challenges in articulating a rule that distinguishes us from other people. i don't think -- i don't get me think there's a lot of debate that we belong on the right side of the line. the question of where to draw the line, they have to create a
policy and so it is a challenge to draw a line that is sensible. we can get many thousands of visits from inside the building every day. they use us. the chief justice wrote two things that were published on the blog, not that he was anyway giving a special consideration but they happened to be think he was writing about the rest of attribute. they had nothing to do with the law and he would've done for other people but it's clear it's not in the disfavored situation in the court. so it will be fastened to see how it is they work through this, and it's just something -- it's not an institution that was very quickly. that's one of its difficulty but also one of its great features. the supreme court doesn't change a lot, and that's all for the good sometime spend i don't know whether these guys were in institutions that have credentials -- >> the only thing i would add to that is, number one, the supreme court has a different policy
about press passes than others. i don't know how many passes nbc news has in the senate, radio and tv gallery. i would guess 100, maybe 200. all of our crews have been. the sound people, the camera people, the technicians, our producers, our correspondents, anybody who goes and covered a congressional hearing gets a congressional press credential. every news organization that covered the supreme court gets one. there is one hard pass for nbc news, and i haven't. there are going to be anymore for nbc news. so it's a different -- they really restrict the number of so-called hard passes that allow us easy access to the court, in essence guarantees us a seat for oral argument which is important for us because there's no other way to get back. if you're not in the courtroom. you can't listen to the audio until friday. you can't get the transcript into late in the day. there's just a substitute for being there. so that's valuable to us.
that doesn't mean that somebody from the atlanta constitution can't come up in here and argued because they do give out good for one day only paper passes as well. but i'm just saying, number one, the court has sort of a different policy about press passes. they tend to restrict it to the second thing is, i think tom is right. they're trying to say if we go to scotusblog how do we say that scotusblog is different than every other jason in the basement in his underwear who wants a press pass? what they will have to say somebody who commits full-time resources to regulate covering the court and so on. they have to draw up those rul rules. >> the court does not allow reporters to use electronic devices in the courtroom. so in this sketch here we have in the very foreground, adam liptak and robert barnes from the "washington post" hearing the announcement fisher v. university of texas. when the in the courtroom they are incommunicado.
that means they can't communicate their editors. they can't post or anything like that. and other journalists are in the press room one floor below. they're able to receive the opinion as it's announced and file it at that point. setting aside the issue of cameras in the courtroom, what is the outlook for reporters using electronic devices in the courtroom? will there be tweeting from the courtroom? >> i'd really can't conjure that up in my mind. so many courts are allowing it, and it's turned into -- even some federal courts have allowed tweeting from inside, but i just don't see it at the supreme court. there is this great sense of decorum in history that they think that would mess things up. and i just --
>> isn't against the law? >> what? >> to tweak. because i'm really thinking that thei should be -- >> you would lose your press pass. >> but just a citizen could be in there. >> you can't bring in electronic devices. you go through a metal detector. >> if they sneaked in with a be a rest of? >> you would probably be asked to leave just as in any federal courtroom for those devices are not allowed. >> so that an opportunity for aggressive coverage? >> they do very careful search of people going in. i once accidentally very recently took my phone in my bag into the court, just complete accidentally come and the police missed it. i could've gotten a call while i was arguing in front of the supreme court and then i would've plenty of time on my hands to talk about these issues. [laughter] but yeah, i cannot --
>> if there's a handbag in the supreme court ordered a physical search and they will go in each and every pocket and sometimes they'll open up your lipstick and things like that. >> a lot of miniaturization. the more i use, the more i am hoping that it is done soon. what you're all saying is that there is a tradition based on culture of maintaining and mystique that forbids any engagement of personality of the people who are making judgments that affect the lives and well being of the citizens of the countries major institutions. they are sacrosanct against any personal innovation, and that the press corps is completely 100% complicit in that, is fine by you. but we have a new technology
that lets us radically rethink what is the story. and i don't think it's going to stand. i mean, i'm not saying -- you should be differently, but i'm saying the profession as a whole is going to find out what they do with their spare time, what their wives are doing. that knowledge, who is pressuring him. there are people in washington who know that. and bob woodward gets all the information because people don't want to be the one -- they don't want their colleagues have found the story. so they will be spilling their guts, to. so i'm making a prediction here that a more pervasive media environment will overwhelm this set of really arcane prohibitions. >> give you one sense of the pace of the prohibition which
may well be -- it was a major development went about five hostages ago the supreme court allowed the audience to bring in a piece of paper to take notes. a piece of paper. >> because we are a university, we like the free exchange of ideas, let me offer a contrary view. the late great guiding genius behind "60 minutes" it was a pioneering producer at cbs news used to say, we can get cameras to the moon. do we really have to have cameras everywhere? does everything benefit from television coverage? when he was talking about whether -- i've been giving him abouabout cameras in court and t cameras in the supreme court. and he said, you know, this is a guy who practically invented television news, was one of the
pioneers of it, said maybe it's not so bad that we don't have cameras everywhere. you know, the contrary view to what you just said would be this, that a supreme court argument our supreme court decision benefits from some thought that maybe doesn't come out in 160 characters within five seconds of it happening. and that there is, whether it is a good thing or not to allow tweeting from the courts, from the supreme court, there's something to be said about a reflective moment. what does it mean? what's the significance of it before you speak? now as you say, it may be that our society has long since made the decision that those things are not as valuable as instantaneous access, but again,
i have complicated views frankly about television coverage in the supreme court. because i have sat there so often and thought, oh, my heavens, if my fellow citizens could just see this. it is so impressive. it is so inspiring to be -- you would be so proud of this institution of the supreme court if you could just see for yourself and realize how really good oral argument is. now, not attacks cases may be, but -- [inaudible] >> but on the other hand, it presents challenges to me as a television correspondent not to have any we present different challenges if i did. of the point is i have often thought, you know, and the justices are concerned about it for a lot of really good and some not so good reasons. but, you know, it is what it is, and i think you have put your finger on the basic point is, to some extent the supreme court is
afraid of this change, and very resistant, worried about -- >> either they have the mystique to declare george bush president, despite they count in florida, or they don't and there might be writes in the street. the next question is perhaps they might've decided differently. >> let's not use bush v. gore. let's use brown versus board of education. >> but i'm not even saying whether it's good or bad. i'm saying that pressure is there. and i think -- it's not just the pressure of social media as not just the media and the short. but it's the pressures to the wonderful pressure which is what i think is a real achievement of scotusblog which is why -- its database, it's following a story
over a period of time. talking about the case as if you might come back to the subject some of the time spent by the question about electronic devices i think really is about instantaneous. >> but i'm saying there's a radical shift here in redefining the story. journalism is not telling the story in the most authoritative way. that when you get a new media form, you get to think, what is the story? and so it's interesting that these questions arose. made we should be covering other things if we had more access. and then the other question is, how do you honor the complexity of the part of the procedure part of the court which is the focus? and that's enough. i'm not saying you should all go -- i'm just calling attention to the two ways in which changing
immediate -- medium changes will we take for granted about what is the story. >> if you had a press pass and you are in the press room one floor below the courtroom, the audio despite thin and you could tweak from there. >> no. you can't tweak from the pressure. spewing a bunch of the file the internet, correct? >> no. i've not done this, but -- because i usually grab the opinion and run outside. my sense is there was an overflow room for one of the arguments but i don't know the judge or electronic devices in there. >> i think we're talking about slightly different rooms. g37 or whatever it is, the rumor the actual opinions are handed out to the press, not to the public, no electronic devices are allowed in there. but you can take the opinion, go
out of that room -- >> he's talking to listen to the audio. >> while you're listening to the audio you can be in that room with electronic devices. so you can't in real-time -- there's no place in the supreme court where you can receive and distribute information about what is being said in the courtroom, except that i suppose you could stand outside the door to g37 and to the ambient sound, in which case they would then change the rule and close the door probably. they do not want real-time distribution of that piece of information. they will make the audio available speed is what they are afraid of is somehow the audio of what's happening in the courtroom getting out being broadcast or being put on the internet. they don't want that. >> and even if they forbade that, the institutional press is there and they would know and people would get in trouble and publishes the hard pass.
but they're not interested -- they are interested in making sure people and information about what's going on in the supreme court. they do mak make the audio of ae at the end of the week. there's a same day transcript but they are not interested in turning themselves into an institution that is really in real-time breaking news that is personalized about them. they want to be separate and distinct and different because of the -- and have all these rules about the courtroom because it is actually the important to the credibility and to the strength of their division that they have this essentially moral force. >> one other thing up like that i should bring up. you can go online and get the transcript of oral argument. what you cannot get online is the transcript of what's called the bench announcement when the justices come and announce their advantage.
in the very old days they used to read these all the way through. thank god they don't do that anymore but they summarize the opinions, and sometimes if there are strong feelings, the dissenters will summarize their dissent. we've asked the court can we have that audio, to? because it would be great for me because there's often a lot of passion in the way a justice will summarize his or her opinion. there's oftentimes even more passion in the way a dissenter will summarize a decent. i'd love to get that into my peace. so we've asked for that, and we've been told no. here's the reason. the explanation we get is this. the opinion itself that the five justices signed on to, striking down the defense of marriage act, they've all read the opinion. they are all happy with it. they all have gone back and forth with it. they know what it's going to see. their names are on it and they agree with it. they have no idea if justice
kennedy, for example, is writing the doma decision. the other four justices who signed onto the dipping have no idea what he's going to say, how he's going to explain it, with emphasis he's going to put on certain points. they cannot sign onto that. so they don't want that out there as though he's speaking for the court. the only thing that speaking for the court is the opinion itself. that's the reason they give us for why we can't get the audio of the him down, the decision handed down process. i understand the point of view, but i would still love to have it spent two things about that don't make sense. never won, it's not off the record. they say in the courtroom. it is written down by people and then repeated. nina totenberg famously has -- is scalia. it happened. [laughter] and it was reported that the court did not permit audio of
it. and then sorting doesn't approve the of the. and then it actually does release the audio. it releases the audio at the end of the term and releases the audio of the oral argument at the end of the week spent you can't get the handout audio. >> yes, he can. >> they have told me no. >> it's on the internet. [laughter] >> is it in the stuff that goes to the archives? >> yes, it is. >> no. it gets plucked off in september after the term. >> the court releases at the end of the term. >> not during the term. >> right. but it is out there. it's actually from. but one should be honest i think that while there is a slight technical advantage to the court of not releasing audio until the end of the week, prepare the files and everything in a very organized way, one principal consequence of is they're releasing the audio but just
late enough so that it is not useful in stories on reporting by the court. >> there's no question about that. remember, this whole releasing the audio jazz started with high profile cases including bush v. gore were so many of us, including c-span, asked the court for access to the audio and video releases. they did during the health care our goods as well. they've done it maybe 10 times, tony, would you say? when we pressed forward. they don't do that anymore. >> they do it occasionally. >> they will do it -- a used it -- a ucsc spindle and that was when c-span but it was so important, they changed that. >> but the amount, we did it this year during the voting rights act but they're doing it a lot less than they used to. you are right. what they told us was, look, we're going to go you one better. we're going to release all the audio, and court experts and
academics can hear it. but you're right, they do it when they opened the valve and release all the news value and it's completely useless. then it goes on the web. >> i just wanted to say, the net result of all of these arcane little customs and traditions and rules is, and close to janet's point, the court even aids totally evades one of the most important modern-day forms of accountability of a government institution, which is broadcast access. in a sense i think you were saying we sort of let them get away with it. and i guess we have. i've only been abdicating cameras in the court for 30 years, but unfortunately it's left up to them.
congress doesn't have the will or the couch and the force it on them. >> there's a question whether it has the ability to do it. >> no question it has the ability, but anyway. >> what if it went into more with a little pin camera and a microphone. it's the we'll. i hope -- >> if only it were that simple. >> i have said perhaps on the last day i go to the supreme court which is a day yet unknown, not for a long time, i will bring in a plastic camera and a pin tape recorder and then they will carry me out last night. >> another illustration. i gave a brief illustration of the notepad. i believe that there are only one or two known photographs in the entire history of photography of the supreme court actually in session where people snuck into his. it is -- both the structure of the rule, the way to enforce the rule, and our willingness to
accommodate it. i do not want to talk about cameras in the courtroom but i do think it's fascinating where we are a visual culture and the way the supreme court prevents fat to cut also the question of what would happen to the video? and what di the concern is how e video would be used that makes it such a red line that cannot be crossed. >> i'll tell you what they say. one objection they have is that as the supreme court does, so go the lower courts. they don't want to force all the federal courts to allow cameras in the courtroom, which would be not only the other appellate courts like the supreme court is, but also the trial court which raises a lot of different issues about cameras in the courts. number two is, now we get into lots of different explanations depending on the justices you talk to. i truly believe that one motive is, despite the fact that they do a lot more interviews now and
write books, they just don't want to be hassled in the salad bar. they would like to issue complicated decisions and not have to be constantly answering questions about them from people who go up to them on the street. they think that it would change the nature of oral argument. they think that it would affect the performance of arguing counsel. i find that hard to believe myself, if i'm a lawyer for a case which hundreds of megs of dollars are at stake, i'm thinking about persuading these nine justices not how it's going to play on c-span. they also think, and justice breyer said this himself, in the last time that the members of cars go up and argue for their budgets before congress, he said i worried that i would change how i act. i would worry about how my question of going to put on television later and i might censor myself, and i might not ask all the questions i was going to ask. and then finally, justice
scalia's favorite objection is can he said all going to see on television is snippets. and that's true. i would point out to him though that all juicy in "the new york times" are snippets. they just happen to be in print and they have quotation marks around them but guess what? "the new york times" doesn't publish the transcript of every oral argument. they write stories about them which feature snippets. i really think that what they're concerned about is sitting down at home and watching jon stewart pull certain isolate parts out of supreme court arguments and making fun of them. i think they truly are worried about that. >> after the oral arguments in health care case, republicans put out an ad featuring a solicitor generals stumbling. do you think this affects the attitudes among members of the court? >> i know does. i know they were offended by that. they thought it was terribly unfair, and i think it put a damper over getting one of the many reasons we don't get in a
lot more audio as we do. >> that was my first reaction. that you set the cause of the cameras back 10 years. >> i don't understand this policy on releasing same-day audio, because from 2000-2009 they did it 29 times. they said we're not going to do anymore. are going to release all audio at the end of a week and then they make exceptions recently for the health decades and then the defense of marriage, same-sex marriage case. why are they -- if they have this policy -- y. back to this, oh, every now and then we will let release same-day audio? why not every case? >> i think we should added don't see any harm in it. when you see it on c-span and you see -- data very carefully. they play it and very faithfully make it available. what the chief has told us is he
doesn't want to be in a position of saying that one case is more important than another. he didn't want to be picking and choosing which cases he would give the benediction of oral argument, of audio released to. so he didn't make that gesture by the way when he said it. i want to be very clear about that. but that's their claim. >> linda greenhouse to begin coming to court in 1970 described the leisurely pace that existed at that time, where she would get an opinion and then out to lunch and studied it and then found something early in the evening for the next day's papers. with the web and cable tv today, there's an enormous pernicious need for speed. now reporters are also filing on multiple platforms. so, for example, jeff's video on "the wall street journal.com," pete, you do things on the internet as well. how have these communication
technology changed the coverage of the court? >> tremendously. it's just -- luckily, some of us have the luxury of working at places that don't put a high premium on being first with a tweak. and i'm lucky to be one of those. but still, we have to get something up online. if it's a ranger case, as soon as possible. one of my -- one of the things i always tell young supreme court news reporters is, whatever you do, don't forget to read the opinion. [laughter] you would think that sort of obvious, but it's so easy to, now you look at the syllabus and i usually go to the dissent
because the dissent often tells you it's really important, the majority, and you go to the majority. you can can get a good idea if you just do it on the fly. but you really missed out if you don't sit down and read, close the door, read the whole thing. >> so linda tells me her predecessor at the new york times had a more leisurely and a lucrative thing. he would go to the court, get the opinions, go home, open a bottle of wine, you know, call of the experts, think about and then write the story. so yes, times have changed. so i can't sit and the supreme court room and hear the opinions announced anymore on the cases. i used to be able to do that before there was msnbc, the cable network. i can't do that anymore. now with the big cases i had to be standing outside or standing in the pressroom grabbing the opinion and reading it as i run outside, or the last time
standing outside so that -- there are these parallel universes. so i'm out there in this intensely competitive hurry up what is the decision thing, when seconds count in terms of bragging rights. who got it first. and my colleagues say nina totenberg from national public radio is inside, and she won't know for 20 more minutes what the supreme court has done with the health care case, or on the last day of the term when the big ones, they don't always announce the big one first. they do it by inverse order of seniority. so the least junior justice goes and finally the most senior one who is most likely to have a dd. for the health care case it took been a long time to finally get there. so with reporters who in the courtroom came out, we have been hammering this thing out for almost an hour. >> one highly technical distinction. there will be a moment in time where a justice in the courtroom will start announcing the
opinion. and at that moment downstairs the court will hand out the opinion. so the people downstairs can physically skim through the whole thing, whereas in the courtroom it may take 20 minutes in an extreme example like health care, before chief justice roberts gets to the punchline of who won or lost. so there's a distinctive advantage of being in the room and that is your hearing the explanation that they've tried to make, but there's a massive disadvantage because you don't -- they don't hand out the opinion in the courtroom. >> this played out quite interesting in a same-sex marriage cases because as pete said, they announce in reverse order. the justice committee announced in another key reason is opinion. justice scalia region has dissent. justice alito and chief justice roberts also have the sense that they don't read from the bench in which they indicate that the court is going to rule on the
standing issue in the carry case that do not decide whether or not -- california prop eight case. they were not decide whether prop eight is unconstitutional to everyone who is -- everyone who is outside the courtroom knows this almost immediately. meanwhile, inside the courtroom test of inside the courtroom test of skill he has to first announce his decision in out obscure criminal case. to the people who were in the courtroom don't get the news for a half hour. >> it hasn't changed, to some extent it hasn't changed what is done to it changes who has been a. this the what the wire service live and die on ever since they started covering the supreme court. just before i started covering the court the way it worked was they literally headed the decision down from the bench, a copy went down but if you were from upi or ap, or i guess united press, international news service and ap, someone would
take the decision up in the courtroom to roll it up, stick it in a pneumatic tube and it would go down one floor below the bench were a reporter was waiting with one of those things that punch paper tape and they would start -- so this rush to get the supreme court decisions out quickly has always been the case but only for a very you. now it's for everybody. now anybody who covers the supreme court for a mainstream news organization has to quickly get a decision out and then through the day you keep updating and moving your story and pressure, more deeper insights. you know, when i first started covering the supreme court we did have a cable network. that wasn't an issue for us unless it was a huge decisions were going to interrupt the network and they're just with that many of those major decisions. >> to the members of the audience, we have microphones or if anyone would like to step up and ask questions. >> hi.
i've been scribbling all morning. i'm happy to be. i'm not the students -- >> we will be the last few minutes of this event to go live now to the house energy and commerce subcommittee, hearing on health and the impact of the health care law on medicaid advantage programs. medicare beneficiaries have until december 7 to change the health plan as a part of the annual enrollment opportunity. a committee chair is congressman joe pitt. ..