Tom Goldstein’s account of how people got the initial reporting of NFIB v. Sebelius right or wrong is fascinating if you’re into that kind of thing. This struck me above all:
The Supreme Court will not grant SCOTUSblog a press credential. Lyle Denniston is the only member of our team permitted in the press area; he has a press credential because of his reporting for WBUR in Boston. There are six other members of our team nearby, running nine computers on eight separate Internet connections.
I wonder if this policy would have been maintained if Denniston wasn’t eligible based on his past work. It’s pretty amazing that the most important media outlet for reporting on the Supreme Court is denied press credentials. Since I was working from my office without a TV and relying on the not-really-media SCOTUSblog, I never saw the erroneous reports.
Another interesting takeaway is that despite the attack of some dime-store nihilist the non-media source was able to keep its service going while the Court itself was not:
Our problem at the moment is that someone is trying to crash the blog. At 10:00 exactly, hackers are launching a “distributed denial of service” with 1,000 page views per second to try and bring us down. It does not work; our tremendous Deputy Manager Max Mallory has spent months augmenting our capacity, and the hackers give up after a few minutes. We do not know how many readers are on the Live Blog for the opinion announcement; our data at the time indicates it is rapidly approaching one million. During the day, we will receive 5.3 million hits (more than ten times our all-time daily high) from 1.7 million unique readers.
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.
Goldstein is also good on the pointless scoop obsession that caused CNN and Fox to get it wrong.