A Cautionary Tale for the News Industry

On June 28, the United States Supreme Court issued its ruling on the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Both CNN and Fox News, in an effort to break the news quickly, announced the plan had been struck down by the court -which was wrong. Ten days later, enough information about the news errors had been unearthed and validated that a timeline of events could be constructed to explain how and why they happened. SCOTUSblog presents it all in a long but fascinating account.
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.

The opinion will not appear on the website for a half-hour.  So everyone in the country not personally at 1 First St., NE in Washington, DC is completely dependent on the press to get the decision right.

That explains a lot, but it's only a small part of the events leading to a major SNAFU in the broadcast news industry. As technical as the story is, I can see how it might be made into a movie someday. Link -via Jason Kottke

(Image credit: Gary He)

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I recall this BS about process being floated about the 2000 election too. So I expect we will see that it was some Bush cousin or similarly connected person who made the call because that is their bias.
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