U.S. Supreme Court

SCOTUSblog publisher expresses frustration with press pass appeal

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Tom Goldstein, the founder and publisher of SCOTUSblog, wrote a lengthy blog post Thursday expressing frustration with its lack of a Senate press pass.

In April, the blog and one of its reporters, veteran reporter Lyle Denniston, were denied credentials by the Senate Press Gallery. (Denniston still has a press credential issued through WBUR in Boston.) The blog appealed those decisions in a May 23 hearing before the Standing Committee of the Senate Press Gallery, with arguments that focused heavily on the issue of the blog’s editorial independence from Goldstein’s law firm, Goldstein & Russell.

But, wrote Goldstein yesterday, the lack of credentials has hurt blog editor Amy Howe’s ability to cover a June 4 Senate Judiciary Hearing on legislation intended to overturn recent Supreme Court decisions. According to the post, Howe arrived early but was unable to get into the hearing until it was halfway over. This made it harder for Howe to cover protests and other untelevised developments, Goldstein wrote, and “seems to be a good illustration of why we need and deserve a press credential.”

Goldstein went on to criticize the Standing Committee’s apparent focus on the blog’s editorial independence from his law firm. Committee chair Siobhan Hughes of the Wall Street Journal told the New York Times on June 2 that the committee looks at whether “the editorial side is independent of any group that … is not principally a news organization.”

Goldstein noted that the committee has issued press credentials to state-controlled news organizations, industry publications associated with related commercial businesses and a freelance gossip columnist. He also outlined his efforts to separate the blog, financially and editorially, from his law firm.

And he noted that the Standing Committee is made up of working journalists that regulate competitors’ access to the part of government they cover.

“The Committee seems intent on interpreting its standard in a way that gives its members extraordinary power to exclude—and in particular to exclude an emerging model of competitors,” he wrote.

More than just Senate access may be at stake; the Supreme Court traditionally takes its cue on press credentials from the Senate. Goldstein said in April that he expects to sue if the appeal is denied.

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