Mon. Jul 15th, 2024

Technology replaces Supreme Court ‘running of the interns’

By 37ci3 Jun30,2024


If knowledge is power in Washington, then for a moment each year some of the most powerful people were once sweaty young interns who knew before the rest of the world whether same-sex marriage was legal or whether health care was destined. They literally raced to deliver paper copies of Supreme Court decisions to waiting TV reporters in the summer heat.

Their only weakness was the risk of facing off on national television in front of all their superiors and colleagues.

The so-called “running of experts” was the quickest way for the world to learn about a Supreme Court decision in the paper age. And the faster they ran, the faster the news got out.

But now the high court is finally entering the internet era, with judgments being instantly posted online. So the interns stopped running, and the high-stakes annual nerd race goes the way of the once-ubiquitous pay phones inside the nearby Capitol, where reporters race to dictate news to their home offices before their rivals.

“Do I regret that the decisions of the Supreme Court are more extensive and transparent? Of course not,” said Pete Williams, who will retire in 2022 after decades of covering the court for NBC News. “Certainly when you’re standing on the sidelines and America is hanging on your every word, it takes some of the drama out. days are over.”

During the pandemic, the court stopped meeting in person and decisions were only posted online as judges spoke in conference. Today, hard copies are back in the building, but since the decisions are immediately posted online, there is no need for an intern athletics program (although a few still work to provide copies for reporters who prefer to read on paper). instead of on iPads).

On Monday morning, the court will make its final decisions of the term, including a long-awaited decision on whether Donald Trump can use immunity from criminal prosecutions, but it will be a PDF, not a paper copy, that delivers the news to most people. .

Court watchers and former practitioners agree the change is for the better, making the notoriously traditional high court more accessible to the public. But they also agree that there is something romantically analog about this tradition that they will miss.

News practitioners run away with judgment
News interns confirm the 2015 US Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage.Alex Wong/Getty Images file

The roughly 1/4-mile stretch from the courthouse’s public information office deep inside the building to the television cameras outside was “a kind of platonic ideal of what journalism is” — literally bringing the news to the people, he said. Jess McHughHe is a journalist and writer who interned at CNN in 2014 and currently lives in Paris.

“Once you say something, it kind of makes it real in the world. So whether it’s good news or bad news, you’re in this ultimate space of news when you’re driving it,” McHugh said. “As an asthmatic can take any run seriously, I took it very seriously.”

Before everything went online, runners worked long hours in newsrooms, government agencies, and other places that needed to transfer information quickly. The Supreme Court’s “random run” first gained widespread notoriety on the night of Bush v. Gore in 2000, when the court was thrust into the unprecedented position of essentially deciding a presidential election.

Cable news was still relatively young and competition was fierce. Millions of Americans anxiously awaited news from the court. At that time, as now, cameras were not allowed in the court.

Then the interns appeared above the Sistine Chapel like white smoke signaling the election of a new pope and sprinted across the darkened piazza to announce his decision in front of his rivals.

“Experts were very important because that was the only way to find out what happened,” said Williams, who was one of the reporters standing outside the court that night.

“Interns Escape” matured as a meme in the 2010s, during the Internet’s irreverent adolescence of new media outlets like BuzzFeed. covered fake ESPN enthusiasm and interns working with crowned winners.

Advantages were measured in seconds or minutes, but in the competitive world of live news, every moment mattered.

Although the court began to publish decisions online, practitioners were still faster. For example, in the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decision that legalized same-sex marriage, the justices began announcing their decisions from the bench at 10:00 a.m. online by 10:05 a.m. respectively SCOTUSBlog.

Courts now publish decisions online immediately, sometimes without even distributing paper copies.

Yes, the interns really ran to win.

“It was like a madhouse. It was chaos. People just try to catch the decision and then take off and try not to run into each other,” said one of the winners, who requested anonymity due to current professional considerations. “Someone tried to grab one of my hands, but luckily I was stronger.”

“Obviously you want to be ethical and kind and polite, but you want to win and you have to do what’s best for your people and your network,” the former intern added.

The competition was good-natured and professional, but you don’t get a prestigious Washington internship without at least a little competitive drive.

“You wanted to be first. You wanted to show your bosses that you could be the fastest runner or that you could do anything,” said former NBC News runner Gary Grumbach, still at the network. “If a CNN guy is ahead of you, you run to catch up with the CNN guy. You want to be first, not second. “.

Their uniforms became familiar – business on top, running shoes on the bottom.

Former runners recalled walking with leaders and planning routes. When one of them returned for its second season, he said they were Googling interns from other networks to increase the competition. Some said it was best to take a position nearest to the Bankers Box, where the resolutions were copied, while others said it was wiser to wait, as the first to receive the copies were sometimes crushed.

The route is between a quarter-mile and a half-mile depending on which camera the camper goes to, and temperatures are often in the 80s and 90s as decisions are usually made in June.

After emerging from the public information office with papers in hand, the interns walked briskly — Supreme Court police strictly enforced the court’s no-escape policy — before stepping out into the sun through a side entrance on the court’s north side. This led to an open passage along the facade before exiting to the wide open marble of the neoclassical square of the court, on the left side of the colonnaded facade if one is facing the building.

At this point, in full view of hundreds of protesters and dozens of live cameras, the interns would turn on the fuel to sprint across the plaza to deliver their packages to their reporters, often already live on air, who would immediately start reporting. news.

“It’s a moment in Washington that I still think about a lot,” said Summer Delaney, a former ABC News intern who oversaw the court’s landmark Affordable Care Act decision in 2012.

Delaney is running now ASSOCIATE WORK, the recruiting platform he co-founded, so he thinks a lot about how many experiences can be frustrating for both interns and employers. When he was an intern, someone joked to him that running would be the most important thing he would do all summer, but it was true, he said.

And it offered a valuable lesson about journalism and information sharing. On the contrary, perhaps he found it more important to be precise than the former, as he witnessed several networks misinterpreting the Affordable Care Act ruling at first.

“It was a great experience, and I’m sorry that future interns won’t get that experience,” Delaney said. “But this is Washington. Practitioners always have ways to make a difference.”



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