On the one hand, I have to hand it to the Los Angeles Times. They have run a front-page story about Justice Ginsburg’s speech to the NOW Legal Defense Fund.
On the other hand, why did I have to be the one to tell them about it?
The other day, when the Times ran a story about Justice Scalia’s having spoken before an advocacy group, I told you here that Justice Ginsburg had done substantially the same thing in January. I explained that the experts’ criticisms of Justice Scalia’s speech applied equally to Justice Ginsburg’s speech. I noted the fact that the group before which she had spoken had filed an amicus brief in a case on which she had ruled just 15 days before the speech.
I also told you that I had sent an e-mail to the Times‘s “Reader’s Representative” about Justice Ginsburg’s speech. In a subsequent post, I explained that I didn’t really expect the Times to do anything about it.
I was wrong.
The next day, the Reader’s Representative sent me an e-mail saying that she would forward my e-mail to the national desk editors immediately. I will admit that I was skeptical that it would go anywhere. I then received an e-mail from Richard Serrano, one of the co-authors of the Scalia story and of today’s Ginsburg story, asking me for details. I sent Serrano links to the relevant Supreme Court decision, and to the NOW web page in which they boasted of having filed an amicus brief in the case.
Serrano said they would follow up on it, but I still didn’t think anything would happen. I believed that Serrano was looking into the story, but I just didn’t think the editors would print it. When I described the e-mails to my wife, she said to me: “Now you’re picking on poor Ruth.” I said: “Oh, come on, they’re not going to run anything on it.”
But, to its credit, the Times has run the story, quoting the same experts they quoted for the Scalia story.
I have mixed feelings. I don’t know that either speech was really a big deal, in my opinion. I don’t think the Times really should have picked on Ruth or Nino. But if they’re going to run one story, they have to run the other. That much seemed obvious.
I am pleased that the Times has recognized that fact.
But the obvious question still remains: why did the Times not independently look into whether other Justices had done this sort of thing? Wasn’t there someone on the paper who was eager to investigate the liberal Justices as well as the most conservative one? Why did they wait until the issue was stuck right in front of their nose?
Why did I have to be the one to tell them about it?
(Cross-posted at Oh, That Liberal Media.)
UPDATE: A commenter at “Oh, That Liberal Media” says that it was “bad form to critique them for any portion of their having run the story” and that I should simply have said “well done” and leave it at that.
I disagree, for the sake of accuracy, if nothing else. If I had simply praised them, without explaining that I had tipped them off, that would have left the impression that the paper’s reporters dug up this story on their own. The fact is, they didn’t. And the fact that they didn’t is troubling to me, for the reasons expressed above.
However, it may be worth re-emphasizing: I am impressed with the Times for running this story. It’s considerably more than I expected. I have to admit that I was shocked when I saw the story. The reporters called the same experts they had called for the Scalia story, and elicited the same opinions. The paper’s editors gave the story appropriate prominence: above the fold on the front page. I do think the reporters and editors deserve our respect for having been intellectually honest about this. If I didn’t make that clear before, I hope I am doing so now.
UPDATE x2: I hope new readers bookmark this site, and then pay a visit to Kevin Murphy’s site. If I recall correctly, I first heard about Justice Ginsburg’s speech several weeks ago, at Kevin’s site.