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Erik Wemple
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Posted at 03:28 PM ET, 06/21/2012

Supreme Court health-care decision: Source of lame anticipatory stories


What’s going to happen at the courthouse? (Evan Vucci - AP)
The United States Supreme Court is one of the country’s great journalism-proof institutions. The building comes with a leakproof sealant. The justices work on their own schedule. All this means that outsiders can mostly speculate about when the quite-possibly-historic ruling on the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act will be issued. And about what it’ll say.

A paucity of information, however, never stops the media, which is always prepared to speculate, project, hypothesize and conjecture. Here are some choice examples:

1) Boston Herald: “High court’s health care ruling may redefine race.” The lead paragraph of this story says this:

A titanic decision from the Supreme Court on health care due as early as today could be a pivotal moment for President Obama’s re-election campaign, with a potential overturn of the controversial law threatening to undermine a cornerstone of his presidency — but it could also inspire liberals to hit the polls in November, pundits and party operatives told the Herald.

In other words, read no further.

2) ABC: “Health Care Challenges: Supreme Court Decision Expected in Late June”

Will Justice Anthony Kennedy, the swing vote on so many cases, once again be the critical vote? If the mandate is struck down, what will happen to the rest of the law? Could oral arguments have represented a head fake, and the conservative justices will vote in favor of the individual mandate?
The cars to the roller coaster are pulling up after a long and dizzying ride and no one is quite sure.

I’ll have to check Nexis, but that could be one of the few times that the plodding consideration of a Supreme Court case has been compared to a roller coaster.

3) Bennington Banner:”Lawmakers Await Supreme Court Health Care Decision.”

Vermont’s congressional delegation, like most politicians in Washington and around the country, are bracing for a Supreme Court decision on President Barack Obama’s health care reform law that will impact millions of Americans.

Nothing like an instance of false localization!

4) Convenience Store News: “Retailers Await Supreme Court’s Health Care Reform Decision

Will the regulations be thrust upon businesses in bulk once the individual mandate is decided? If the mandate is upheld, will the administration set rigid regulations that ignore challenges and costs to employers? If the act is overturned, what will happen to employers who can’t comply with PPACA regulations given the time constraints? And is there a back-up plan if the administration can’t meet the deadline of finalizing the employer mandate regulations?

And one more question: Is there merit in raising questions that no one can come close to answering?

5) Digital Journal: “Consumers Still Confused and Uniformed About Health Care Reform

Bolded text above added to highlight scary prospect: Are consumers really putting on uniforms over health-care reform?

6) PolicyMic: “Supreme Court Health Care Ruling LIVE: Will the Obamacare Law Stand?”

Bolded text added above to highlight, uh, just what is “LIVE” about this pending ruling?

7) The Hill: “Tensions rise as justices kick healthcare ruling to next week

This story’s documentation of these “tensions” consists of the following:

Tense Situation No. 1: ”Television camera crews set up outside the court Thursday just in case a decision on the healthcare law was released.”

Tense Situation No. 2: “Interest in the court’s docket was also reflected at the SCOTUSblog, which said it had 22,000 visitors on Thursday morning.”

Tense Situation No. 3: “The court’s public information office implemented new protocols starting Thursday in order to accommodate the vast interest surrounding the healthcare decision.” Protocols, always tense.

Tense Situation No. 4: “Legal insiders believe the justices will strike down all or part of the healthcare law, according to a survey released Wednesday.”

8) The Hill: “Supreme Court police prepared for ruling on health care reform law

Now there’s some tension. Why didn’t you put that stuff in the “tensions” story, The Hill?

9) FCN: “US Poised for Crucial Health Care Ruling

Good to hear.

10) Government Health IT: “Supreme Court ruling on health reform will not have huge impact

Say what?

By  |  03:28 PM ET, 06/21/2012

 
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