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Monday, August 01, 2005

How to Cook with No Ingredients

Journalists covering the legal beat get paid to do a job.  And when a nomination to the Supreme Court is announced, the story commands the attention of the nattering class. 

The trouble with the Roberts nomination, of course, is that there is nothing to natter about.  It was pretty much all covered in the first 24 hours.

But I invite you to mosey on over to How Appealing to see how many articles, commentaries, blog posts, and op-eds are constantly being churned out, precious few of which really say anything new; and given the dearth of real information, even the old news on Roberts is somewhat less than substantive.  It is a lesson in cooking without ingredients.

Posted by Hillel Levin on August 1, 2005 at 01:17 PM in Law and Politics | Permalink


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(Side note: It is actually a generic AP story, not one personal to that paper.) But aside from that, think about the title: He will be the fourth RC; no one knows what that means. Yes, there are interesting commentaries about the RC question, the religion question, and so forth. But at the end of the day, does this article impact upon how my senator ought to vote? Does it give us (and by "us" I mean general readership, not scholars engaged in nuanced discussion) any import information that impacts upon our judgment of the nominee? I think not.

Does any of this mean it shouldn't be written? Of course not. You are certainly correct that there's far more tripe out there than this. My point was only that in our media-dominated world, it is amazing how so little can take us so far.

Posted by: Hillel Levin | Aug 1, 2005 2:59:57 PM

Hillel: How so? I actually think that article -- an examination of whether Roberts' Catholicism should or will effect his jurisprudence and/or his confirmation hearings -- is actually pretty thorough and interesting for a newspaper of that size. And it's about a topic that has fairly consumed serious academics types on at least a couple of discussion lists and on some esteemed blogs. Believe me, Bashman links to articles *far* less worthy than that one all the time -- as well as to some very predictable pablum in the blogosphere that consists mostly of self-congratulation and public relations for the already-converted.

Posted by: Marty Lederman | Aug 1, 2005 2:42:27 PM


Most of the articles on Roberts are of this ilk: http://www.nctimes.com/articles/2005/07/28/special_reports/religion/16_37_197_27_05.txt

I think you'll agree that the author is cooking without ingredients.

Posted by: Hillel Levin | Aug 1, 2005 2:11:47 PM

This strikes me as a strange indictment of the press. Most of the recent, substantive stories have involved the 14,000+ pages of Roberts memos that have recently been released (with more apparently on the way) -- along with stories based on Roberts' opinions, briefs, and experience clerking for the SCOTUS. If anything, I'd say that the press has barely skimmed the surface of the extensive public record of Roberts' work and expressed views. Other common stories involve discussion and debate on whether still further memos should be released -- a very interesting question on which there has yet to be any really rigorous analysis -- and the important issue of what sorts of questions the Senators should ask, what sorts of responses Roberts ought to give, and how the Senate should assess those responses if (as expected) they are not terribly specific or revealing.

If anything, the problem is that much of the press is repeating the bromides and cliches that appeared in the first 24 hours, when in fact there is a great deal of important work still to do . . .

Posted by: Marty Lederman | Aug 1, 2005 1:53:42 PM

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