Andrew Hamm, firm manager, Goldstein & Russell, P.C. / Kevin Russell
It simply makes no sense.
SCOTUSblog is a Web destination that exists solely to cover the U.S. Supreme Court. It's a go-to place for people who care about the court. It has won accolades and awards for the quality of its reporting. In prime time - like when the court announced its ruling on the Affordable Care Act - its traffic is enormous.
Yet it can't get credentials to cover the Supreme Court.
In fact, its efforts to do so are going in reverse.
Only in the never-never land they call Washington, D.C.
You would think a body that makes decisions with far-reaching implications, like upholding the Affordable Care Act and allowing an ever-increasing torrent of money to flow into political campaigns, could figure out on its own who should be allowed to cover it. But you'd be wrong. The court tends to follow the lead of the Standing Committee of Correspondents, which decides who can get credentials to work out of the Senate Press Gallery.
At first, the Standing Committee had no love for SCOTUSblog, apparently because of its ownership structure.
The blog was founded in 2002 by lawyers Tom Goldstein, its publisher, and his wife, Amy Howe, as a vehicle to attract attention to their law firm. But the mission morphed into sophisticated reporting on one of the nation's most important institutions. Its lead guitar is Lyle Denniston, who has been covering the high court for well over 50 years. Denniston can take in the action because of his connection with Boston NPR station WBUR.
But the blog shouldn't be entirely dependent on Denniston forever and ever. Also, the blog would like the Senate credential so it can cover deliberations over Supreme Court nominees and the court's budget.
It looked like things were moving in the right direction when the Press Gallery in April 2012 OK'd Denniston as a SCOTUSblog rep. But that still wasn't good enough for the high court, which, rather than give up the credential, said it was going to review its whole credentialing process - as well it should.
But now, as Goldstein revealed last week, things are going seriously backward. The press gallery has decided not to award a credential to SCOTUSblog or renew the one it had issued to Denniston just a year ago.
Goldstein says he'll appeal, and if that doesn't work, he'll go to court.
"It's certainly disappointing," he told me, "and we're certainly not giving up."
No reason has been announced for the decision. Siobhan Hughes, a Wall Street Journal reporter and chair of the Standing Committee of Correspondents, tweeted, "The Standing Committee looks forward to commenting after Scotusblog makes its appeal. Until then, we want to be respectful of the process."
Goldstein says he doesn't want to speculate on the reasons for the surprising setback. He hopes to get word Wednesday on the committee's rationale. Let's hope he does. It's hard to know how to frame an appeal if you haven't been told why you've been kicked to the curb.
That first appeal goes to the people who made the original decision. If that doesn't work, Goldstein can seek help from the Senate Rules Committee. There's precedent for the Standing Committee changing its mind and for the Rules Committee overruling it. But neither happens very often. Similarly, a court fight would also be uphill, Goldstein says, given that the Senate gets a lot of leeway over how it does its business.
The dispute highlights the challenge of issuing credentials in a rapidly transforming media landscape. A website obsessively focused on a single subject is a relatively new phenomenon. And many news outlets today aren't funded by the traditional mix of advertising and circulation. (SCOTUSblog gets all its money from a single sponsor, Bloomberg Law.)
"This is important to the future of how blogs will be treated," Goldstein says. "We have hoped we could be a good transitional example. So far, no luck."
Despite the frustration, Goldstein clearly is pleased about his baby's impact. "We do one thing and try to do it well," he says. "You write about what you love and what you are good at."
And he's pleased by the way fans have rallied round after the recent reversal.
"People have been incredibly kind," he says. "People are trying to encourage us to keep up the fight and say they hope we win."
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Read the original story: Rieder: Supreme Court blog deserves credentials