Opinion and the Supreme Court Press Corps:
In a Slate column on the future of the Supreme Court press corps, Dahlia Lithwick asks whether Supreme Court reporters should inject more opinion into their reporting:
While most of the Supreme Court press corps still strives mightily to report both oral argument and the decisions with perfect neutrality, some have increasingly incorporated a little point of view into their diet. Longtime print veteran Lyle Denniston blogs for SCOTUSblog, and fellow print vet Greenburg blogs for ABC. Liptak, whose brilliant Sidebar column is all the better for his opinions and point of view, may, by necessity, light the way toward some new kind of objective-expert-opinion Supreme Court coverage that isn't nearly as horrifying as it may sound. It always struck me as doubly peculiar that the folks with the most expertise about the court were the ones forced to keep their views to themselves.
  I have a very different perspective. It seems to me a notable feature of Supreme Court reporting that regular readers often tend to know the reporters' personal opinions. Styles vary, of course. Some reports are more "just the facts, ma'am" than others. But it often happens that the reporter's personal opinion is part of the story itself. Lithwick's own Supreme Court reporting provides a good example.

  To be clear, I think that the members of the Supreme Court press corps are an outstanding bunch of reporters. All are smart, dedicated, and work extremely hard to translate the complex and technical work of the Court into language nonlawyer readers can understand. But as Supreme Court geeks know, a lot of Supreme Court cases are awfully dry. This is a particular problem when the Court's docket is unusually low and the Court's cases are mostly interstitial. When the Court's opinions themselves aren't very bold or dramatic, it's hard to write engaging and exciting articles without some added color commentary. In that setting, a little personal opinion adds a lot of pizzazz.

  But I think of this as a bug, not a feature. The problem is that the personal opinions of reporters too often reflect their political views rather than some kind of objective "expertise." Reporters are only human — seriously, it's true — and like most of us they sometimes see their own worldviews as The Truth. As a result, sometimes political views can be presented as deep insights gained by expertise; opinion can be represented as fact. None of this is the end of the world, of course. I think regular readers realize the reporters' personal viewpoints and tend to adjust their sense of things accordingly. Still, on the whole, I tend to think the public would be better served by a turn to less personal opinion in Supreme Court reporting rather than more.