I have just read an excellent account of the events around the US Supreme Court’s ruling on the Affordable Care Act (aka ‘Obamacare’).
If you love news and journalism it’s a ripping tale and one in which CNN and Fox News both end up with egg over their faces (though at least CNN admitted their mistake – Fox never did).
But both journalistic organisations were principally guilty of trying too hard, not of a worse crime.
But what are we to make of the Supreme Court itself:
The Supreme Court will not grant SCOTUSblog a press credential.
This is despite the fact that literally millions read it and other media organisations and the White House are relying on it to interpret the ruling.
The Court’s own technical staff prepares to load the opinion on to the Court’s website. In years past, the Court would have emailed copies of the decision to the Solicitor General and the parties’ lawyers once it was announced. But now it relies only on its website, where opinions are released approximately two minutes later. The week before, the Court declined our request that it distribute this opinion to the press by email; it has complete faith in the exceptional effort it has made to ensure that the website will not fail.
But it does. At this moment, the website is the subject of perhaps greater demand than any other site on the Internet – ever. It is the one and only place where anyone in the country not at the building – including not just the public, but press editors and the White House – can get the ruling. And millions of people are now on the site anxiously looking for the decision. They multiply the burden of their individual visits many times over – hitting refresh again, and again, and again. In the face of the crushing demand, the Court cannot publish its own decision.
The opinion will not appear on the website for a half-hour. So everyone in the country not personally at 1 First St., NE in Washington, DC is completely dependent on the press to get the decision right.
OK, not my country, but it looks like the court is struggling to update its approach to communications.