Chapter 5: Media

Studying media coverage of courts and their decisions is a natural pursuit for students of the judiciary. Courts are passive institutions and judges generally do not hold press conferences, send out constituent mail or tweet. What most people know about courts and their work, then, is often filtered through the lens of the media. Understanding the judiciary and its role in our society, then, requires us also to understand how and why the media covers the courts. To this end, our volume has two contributions—one that examines how the media covers the judiciary and the potential fallout of that coverage and one that examines what the media chooses to cover, and how those choices may impede steps taken by the judiciary to become more open to media coverage. First, Professor Douglas R. Rice examines whether coverage of the U.S. Supreme Court has changed over time. Using an original dataset that includes newspaper coverage spanning over fifty years, Professor Rice employs machine learning and textual analysis to his research question. Specifically, Professor Rice focuses on the coverage of conflict on the high court and finds that reporting of conflict has increased. Moreover, the increase in this type of coverage is echoed in the declining public approval of the Court, escalating scholarly concerns regarding the declining legitimacy of the U.S. Supreme Court. Second, Professors Joseph P. Bolton and Christopher D. Kromphardt examine media requests for televising hearings of the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit from 1991 through 2005. Assessing the requests of local and national media, allow Bolton and Kromphardt to investigate what drives coverage of oral arguments versus coverage of court decisions. The analysis finds significant differences between local and national interest and some divergence in factors that spur a request for coverage versus factors that yield coverage of a court decision.


5.1 Rice, Douglas. “The Language of Newspaper Coverage of the US Supreme Court.”

5.2 Bolton, Joseph P. and Christopher D. Kromphardt. “Black Robes in the Limelight: News Values and Requests to Televise Oral Arguments in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, 1991-2005.”


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Open Judicial Politics Copyright © 2020 by Rorie Spill Solberg, Jennifer Segal Diascro, & Eric J. Waltenburg is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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