Is it just me, or is the AP being fundamentally unserious here? Justice Scalia comes to give a talk at the American Enterprise Institute on the use of foreign law in American court opinions. It's a moderately interesting and topical subject, that bears on some sexy issues (the death penalty, natural rights, and the like). Scalia gives a substantive talk, with a decent amount of quotable material. (I wasn't there, but I read the transcript online.) He even seems to speak out in favor of the individual rights theory of the Second Amendment:
In number 46 of The Federalist, James Madison speaks contemptuously of the governments of Europe which are, quote, "afraid to trust the people with arms," close quote.
Should we revise the Second Amendment because of what these other countries think?
It's a little tangential to the rest of the talk, but it sounds pretty juicy; he had said the same in his essay in A Matter of Interpretation back in 1997, but it still seems like an interesting tidbit.
What does the AP story talk about? A heckler, it appears, interrupted Justice Scalia, and then was escorted out. That's the lead of the AP story, and it occupies the majority of the story; the rest of the article goes on to say that Scalia refused to answer questions that were unrelated to the topic of the talk, surely news of earth-shattering importance and great public interest. Not a word
about what the substance of the talk was even summarizing what Justice Scalia was actually saying.
This is the Associated Press, an organization that's supposed to be dedicated to conveying the important news of the day. Newspapers and their readers rely on it to convey the important news of the day. Opinion writers (whether columnists or bloggers) are entitled to focus on those little tidbits that they find particularly interesting. But serious news organs are, I think, rightly expected to exercise serious news judgment: To figure out what's especially important, and to cover that for their readers' benefit. (An occasionally lighter side story is fine, of course, but not when the lighter side or the fundamentally irrelevant side is covered to the exclusion of the important side.) Can it really be that a Lyndon LaRouche activist's heckling of Justice Scalia's speech (the part about his being a LaRouche activist, by the way, was Ted Frank's catch, not the AP's) is so much more important than the substance of what a Supreme Court Justice is saying?
UPDATE: Thanks to commenter BikerDad for pointing out that my original assertion, "Not a word about what the substance of the talk was," was an overstatement; the AP did report generally mention the topic of the talk -- it just didn't report on what Justice Scalia actually said about the topic.