August 10, 2007

"Now, it's certainly true that Linda Greenhouse isn't a fan of 'meta-coverage,' i.e., coverage of her coverage of the Court."

On first glance at that photo, I thought she was holding a dagger.
What we're hearing is that Linda Greenhouse wanted to be as free as possible to criticize the Supreme Court's recent turn to the right -- without having to worry about such pesky things as, you know, "impartiality"....

And criticize Greenhouse did, after she had the cameras killed. We understand that Linda Greenhouse had some not-so-nice things to say about the latest SCOTUS Term as a participant on the panel.

During the question-and-answer session, someone asked about the so-called "Greenhouse effect" -- LG's ability to influence the Court through her coverage (due to the desire of some justices, such as Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, to win favorable press in the New York Times). In response to this question, apparently Greenhouse said something along these lines: "I WISH I had more influence on the Court, given some of the decisions from this Term!"
ADDED: More here:
Greenhouse said that she had come prepared to speak to a “room of academics.” She added, “I didn’t want to have to modulate my comments for a national audience.”...

Perhaps the longtime Times reporter has grown wary of too much public attention because of the bad press she received last summer after a speech she gave at Radcliffe College....

At the very least, the public was denied the chance to listen in on what turned out to be an interesting discussion. And at worst, a New York Times reporter used the power that comes from being associated with the Times to prove nothing more than that she could get her way.

MORE: Slate's Jack Shafer notes the controversy and asks "Does a reporter have a duty to appear on C-Span?"
CJR's Beckerman writes that Greenhouse may have "used the power that comes from being associated with the Times to prove nothing more than that she could get her way." That speculation would have bite if somebody could prove, for example, that Greenhouse demands that Washington Week's producers serve only yellow M&Ms in its green room as a condition of appearing on the show. But they can't. Greenhouse can be stubborn, but I've never known her to lord it over others. Besides, what sort of diva agrees to appear gratis on a huge panel of colleagues to talk to a roomful of out-of-town academics about her profession? Case not proved.

19 comments:

Donald Douglas said...

Actually, I like this line, from the C-SPAN letter:

"If professors of journalism and working journalists taking part in a journalism education conference don't stand up for open media access to public policy discussions, who will?"

Joan said...

She didn't really say modulate, did she? I mean, I'd think she'd use her best public speaking voice no matter who was in the audience.

Donald Douglas said...

Hey, did you just change pictures right now? I must've been paying too much attention to the FireDog post!

That's a breasty shot, in any case, and appropriate for this blog!

Jessica you ain't seen nothin' yet!

tjl said...

Why should Greenhouse show displeasure at an open discussion of the "Greenhouse effect?" The NYT, and Greenhouse along with it, have long since shed any pretense of impartiality. Instead, they've more or less openly embraced advocacy journalism.

lurker2209 said...

As a grad student at the University of Washington (the other UW!) I've noticed that more and more professors are podcasting lectures. The University has a set up with iTunes that allows the content to be downloaded. Some of the material is restricted to students who register for the class, but much is available to the general public.

So Greenhouse's distinction between an academic panel discussion and a national audience isn't one that really holds up in the real world. Academic discourse isn't the sole property of an educated elite. That's an attitude shift from previous centuries that technology and media are simply reinforcing.

Simon said...

If only I'd have been there, you wouldn't have needed CSPAN coverage.

I think it's Greenhouse's prerogative not to appear on CSPAN, but I think it's out of order for her to refuse assent minutes before broadcast, and the moderator should have simply told her that the panel was being carried by CSPAN, and it was her choice to be on the panel or not. She's already flown down and showed up, what's she going to do, refuse? And if she does - what of it? It's been quite some time since Greenhouse was the premier supreme court reporter, certainyl displaced once Lithwick and Greenburg started covering the court, and arguably the same for Savage and even Biskupic.

Simon said...

Donald - when that pic was originally posted, I thought it'd be a good choice for a profile pick. Cute as a button.

Paddy O. said...

Who does she think she is to censor C-SPAN?

Is Greenhouse the AT&T of news reporting?

Simon said...

Here's a question for contract nerds: according to CJR, "Sending a C-SPAN crew is a big outlay for the low-budget network." can CSPAN recover - either from Greenhouse or the organizers - under some theory of implied contract?

rcocean said...

For C-span the solution is simple.

In the future, ask if Greenhouse is on the panel, and if so, refuse to cover the event.

C-span is doing the organization sponsering the event a favor, not the otherway round.

And BTW, is there *any* informed person who doesn't know that Greenhouse is a left-wing idealouge and not an objective reporter.

Jeff said...

"And BTW, is there *any* informed person who doesn't know that Greenhouse is a left-wing idealouge and not an objective reporter."

Without the internet, would they know now? I think that's why so many of them seem angry. They know the good old days are gone for good.

B said...

tjl said,

The NYT, and Greenhouse along with it, have long since shed any pretense of impartiality. Instead, they've more or less openly embraced advocacy journalism.

Tjl, we are on the same side as regards the slant of the Times, but it is precisely because the Times has refuses to "shed any pretense of impartiality" - it's editors and writers are always defending their paper as being in the center and mainstream and fair - that is the problem.

Yes, the Times has been doing "advocacy journalism" for years. The damage comes in that that the Times refuses to say so, seeking to delude many into believing that they report down the middle.


They have literally fooled millions of Americans into believing that the Times does report down the middle.


When you tell someone that the Times is putting a slant on reporting because they are left of center, some people actually say no - because they read in the Times that the Times says it is not slanted! What a circle!

jeff has it right: without the internet millions more would be duped daily in their understanding of issues. People are busy and just don't have the time to look past their noses - the Times in the am - and get more of the whole story.

tc said...

As to Linda Greenhouse,she is a woman and is subject to the limitations imposed on a human being who happens to be a female thereby (see below).
In today's issue of The Journal News (Westchester County,N.Y.,p.6b,
Letters to the Editor,8-10-07),I am
castigated by a Jane Owen,RN as "always speaking first (to the Westchester County Board of Legislators and) spewing insults at women,minorities,politicians or all three...(and that)more often than
not (my) focus is denigrating women,especially in the areas of intelligence and abilities in the work force".
She further states that I am "allowed to speak because no matter how inane the message,free speech is our right...(and that my) ethnic slurs,misogyny and intolerance are allowed...".
As a lawyer myself I would hope that my comments are allowed, especially as I am doing a duty that became mine when I was sworn in as an attorney -viz. "to help shape and form public opinion".
My "ethnic slurs,misogyny and intolerance" are no more than recognitions of the reality of the world today. The three black members of the Board,my friends
Lois Bronz,Ken Jenkins and Clifford Young might think a bit otherwise about her use of the words "ethnic slurs". As for her complaint about my "intolerance",I say that I am intolerant about stupidity -espe-
cially the stupidity that is endemic to females who think that they are,or can be,the equal of men.
How else can you get men or wo men to act like the sex they are born as other than to "insult" and "spew insults" at them until they change ?
"Denigrating women,especially in the areas of intelligence" is no more than a recognition that women are differently "intelligent" than men -and a plea for women to rea- lise that their kind of intelli- gence is not all that suitable to the world of today,2007.
As to a woman's ability in the workforce,I never said that women were not competent -only that they were differently competent... And that their competence might not be sufficient to accomplish the so- neccessary (and peculiarly male) tasks of today's world.
As to politicians,part of their job is having their rears in the line of fire when things are really bad -as they are today. For poli- ticians are the one's who initiate change. But they wont do so unless it becomes unavoidable.
So lets realise that all women face a handicap when trying to be a part of the male world. And I'll be the first to admit that we men are limited when it comes to women. But when it comes to changes such as those needed in the world today,
only men are capable of such...not women.

Simon said...

B said...
"The damage comes in that that the Times refuses to say so, seeking to delude many into believing that they report down the middle. They have literally fooled millions of Americans into believing that the Times does report down the middle."

The bigger problem isn't that the Times seeks to portray themselves as throwing straight dice, or that millions of Americans believe it, it's that anyone believes that any news paper or other media entity is capable of throwing straight dice. That premise is fundamentally wrong, and has been falsified by experience. This isn't to say that it's not possible for an individual reporter to be unbiased, but they are the rare exceptions, not the rule, and the chances of gathering a few hundred of them together under a single roof are as close to zero as any finite number can get.

It would be much healthier to shed the pretense: Greenhouse isn't an awful writer, she's certainly an opinionated and biased reporter, and if she didn't know enough to have formed an opinion, that wouldn't be a mark of distinction either. I'm willing to bet she's a lot more effective when she doesn't have to struggle to seem unbiased, a struggle she isn't equal to and in the attempt of which she diminishes herself. It seems to me that to know something about the court's work is to have an opinion about it, which leaves you three choices. You can patiently and carefully work to understand how both sides think and try to present a careful balance, e.g. JCG. Or you can embrace your opinionation, and compensate for it by writing idiosyncractically, fluently and wittily, e.g. Dahlia. Or you can dissemble and pretend that you really don't have an opinion or an agenda.

B said...

Simon,

as always, your concise writing says it so well. I wish I had your gift.

I actually believe that Linda Greenhouse is a talented and interesting writer, even though I often disagree with much of her analysis and conclusions. One can still learn much from her. And, frankly, I could care less that she is a flaming liberal. I just want her front page "news" articles to be identified in some way as either analysis or editorial or "news from the liberal perspective of Linda Greenhouse". Then have at it with gusto!

But I am skeptical to a degree of all news sources that I read everyday. But as I wrote above, millions of Americans - mostly because of habit and time constraints, are not skeptical at all.

And sadly, most of them can vote.

Simon said...
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Simon said...

B - Thanks. I just try and force my natural tendancies into a form - crisper! "[C]learly written ... [with little or] no blather or hedging in the prose" - more likely to be palatable to Ann's tastes. :) I think that heroes - that's an emotive term, but I mean people to whom one looks up, or aspires to in some way, or is desirous of the approbation of - can be a positive force in a person's life. :)

I posted a video interview with Justice Scalia recently, and therein, he talks about admiring Potter Stewart's ability to cover a lot of ground that would take some judges pages in a single short paragaph - I think that's a good standard to aspire to, too, and if Scalia endorses it, I'm in. ;)

tjl said...

"The Times has refuses to "shed any pretense of impartiality" - it's editors and writers are always defending their paper as being in the center and mainstream and fair"

B, in a sense the NYT is absolutely correct. They are in the center and mainstream of elite Manhattan opinion, which happens to be skewed 90 degrees to the left of the national median.

Otherwise, I agree with Simon: it would be helthier for our political discourse if journalists discarded their clumsy mask of feigned impartiality. The result would be more honest writing, and therefore stronger writing.

From Inwood said...

Sorry Jack S. from Slate

It's easy to speak before a bunch of NYC Intellectualoids who think alike, talk alike, understand what each other means, than to speak before a national audience which does not have the magic decoder ring & which might seize upon something you say & make it seem, out of context, of course, to be, well, less than perfect.

Why should she have to "cut [her] conscience to fit this year's fashions"?