The missions of both the mainstream and specialized press affect their coverage of the Supreme Court, which in turn might well affect how their audiences perceive the institution.
T"he U.S. Supreme Court regularly articulates policies of profound political and social consequence. Rarely, however, does it take an active role in the broad dissemination of those policies to the public. Indeed, while members of the executive branch or Congress often appear publicly to make the case for a given policy, the Court simply delivers its opinion. As a result, the Court's policies are vulnerable to the way in which the media disseminate the news to the public-no small matter inasmuch as the media have a significant bearing on public opinion towards the Court's policies.1
This article investigates how different media outlets, particularly the mainstream, Black, and Latino presses, cover Supreme Court policies. To this end, we interviewed journalists from the mainstream and specialized presses who covered the 2003 University of Michigan affirmative action cases or the Supreme Court in general. Journalists seek to present information that is newsworthy, appealing to the audience, accurate, and understandable. To achieve this, they are expected to follow universally recognized norms and values of the profession-objectivity and fairness.2 These norms influence how journalists receive, select, and present information.3 Thus, we queried journalists on their selection of sources, their audience, norms, and the effect of exogenous forces on their coverage.
Given the two-sided nature of the affirmative action issue, we expected journalists to be "fair" and "objective" in their coverage of the cases and their selection of sources. We also expected that both the mainstream and specialized presses' content is constrained by the structure of their organizations. Nevertheless, we did not have identical expectations for both media outlets. Unlike the mainstream media, the Black and Latino press are also driven by their mission of advocacy. These specialized media act as a corrective to the mainstream presses' incomplete and often erroneous coverage of minority affairs.4 Thus, while objectivity and fairness are valued by the Black and Latino press, those norms are counterbalanced with the need to report from a minority angle. Consequently, we expected journalists from the specialized presses to present news differently from their mainstream equivalents.
The affirmative action cases
On December 2, 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to revisit the issue of the use of racial preferences in higher education in the University of Michigan affirmative action cases.5 By doing so, it placed itself in the middle of an emotionally charged and controversial issue. The Court had not spoken to the use of racial preferences in higher education since its seminal Bakke decision in 1978.6 There, it ruled that the use of racial quotas or "set aside" programs for minority applicants were unconstitutional. Higher education institutions responded by developing admissions procedures that promoted diversity by using race, gender, and other background characteristics as "plus factors" in their admissions decisions, while avoiding the use of racial quotas.
These procedures, however, had not settled the issue, and by the close of the twentieth century the post-Bakke affirmative action system was under significant stress; cracks were beginning to appear. In 1996, for example, the Fifth Circuit invalidated the University of Texas Law School's affirmative action admissions program altogether, and five years later, with substantial media attention, the Supreme Court denied certiorari.7 In 1997 and 1998, California and Washington state banned all forms of affirmative action in state institutions with Proposition 209 and Initiative 200, respectively. Finally, Florida approved the "One Florida" initiative in 2000, ending affirmative action in their state institutions.
Clearly, critics of affirmative action were on the offensive, and successfully so. The policy's supporters, however, could take some heart in the fact that each of these breaks in the system was constrained to a specific region or state. That was all to change with Grate and Grutier. Because of their appearance in the Supreme Court, they jeopardized affirmative action policy on a national scale.
The University of Michigan affirmative action cases began in 1997 when disgruntled White applicants filed lawsuits alleging that the University's admissions policies used unlawful racial preferences for minority applicants. Specifically, they contested the undergraduate admissions program's use of a points based "selection index" and the law school's use of race and ethnicity as a "plus factor."
Not surprisingly, given the stakes involved, the cases commanded tremendous attention from interest groups and the media. A record number of amicus briefs were filed by groups ranging from the Bush administration to Fortune 500 companies to retired U.S. military leaders to civil rights groups. Newspapers across the country carried the Michigan rulings as their lead headline, along with related reports or "sidebars" placed above the fold.8
On June 23, 2003, the Court announced its decisions. It upheld the law school admissions process that allows the consideration of race, but also ruled against the point system used in undergraduate admissions. Justice Sandra Day O'Conner, the majority opinion author in the law school case, held that a diverse student body is a "compelling state interest" and Michigan's policy was narrowly tailored to achieve that goal. Writing for the majority in the undergraduate case, Chief Justice William Rehnquist argued that a point system based on race was not narrowly tailored and therefore was unconstitutional. Taken together, the Court ruled that a university may not employ whatever means it desires to obtain a diverse student body, but if race is used in an individualized manner, it could pass constitutional muster. In the end, the Court maintained the use of race based affirmative action programs in higher education, while limiting the form of the programs.9
The media and the Court
The media make it possible for citizens to gain information on the performance and activities of officeholders and institutions. This is especially true in the case of the Supreme Court. Unlike Congress and the presidency, the Court rarely takes steps to engage the public. Instead, the media are the main sources for communicating judicial activities.10 In delivering this information, the media have other attendant effects. Through framing, the media can shape the public's understanding of the Court's policies." The media define and construct political issues, identifying which elements are important and which are not.12
Does the way in which the media present the Supreme Court's policies and actions affect the Court's role in the political system? The short answer is yes. Studies show that the Court is more capable of legitimizing policies than other governmental institutions.13 The manner in which the media present those policies, however, has a significant effect on the Court's legitimizing capacity.14
Focusing on the quality and quantity of mainstream media content, differences in Court coverage have been extensively examined by previous scholars.15 Coverage, however, also varies across mainstream and specialized media outlets, particularly the Black and Latino media. These specialized media target a narrow audience by appealing to their unique background, culture, and interests while the mainstream press tends to be dominated by a culture of objectivity.16
For example, mainstream and Black newspaper coverage of the Court's 1995 affirmative action case, Adarand v. Pena, differed in systematic ways.17 Fulfilling its role as an advocacy press, the Black media discussed the implications of the Court's decision from a "Black angle" by relying on more pro-affirmative action viewpoints and sources. In contrast, the mainstream media's emphasis on journalistic norms of fairness and objectivity'" resulted in it mentioning both pro and anti-affirmative action interests and sources. Moreover, consistent with its tendency to rely on official sources, the mainstream press cited Supreme Court justices far more than the Black press, with the exception of Justice Clarence Thomas. In the Black press, Thomas was criticized as a Black justice who did not support minority interests, whereas the mainstream press mentioned Thomas only in the context of his concurring opinion.
To explore these differences across media outlets, we conducted semistructured interviews in the summer and fall of 2004 with 12 journalists working in the mainstream, Black, and Latino media. We recruited and interviewed national and local journalists who reported on the University of Michigan affirmative action cases or the Supreme Court in general.19 (see "Journalist and newspaper information," above.20)
The interviews began with a battery of items concerning the journalists' general approach to covering the Court. Then we moved to a series of questions specific to the Michigan cases. We asked the journalists how they prepared for the cases, whether they used a specific organizing theme or structure, how they selected their sources, and whether they attended presentations on the cases organized by interest groups. Finally, we queried them concerning objectivity, the influence of other actors in the newsroom, perceptions of their audience, and some basic background characteristics. The nature of these data allow us to systematically compare how journalists present Court decisions, while also attending to variation among the different types of media outlets.
We found that all journalists felt that news coverage of the Court begins with deciding the "newsworthiness" of the issue.21 Newspapers receive massive amounts of material daily, and journalists must pick and choose what information is of interest. In the Michigan cases, all journalists indicated they had allocated a great deal of coverage due to the controversial nature of the issue and the potential implications of the rulings. Stephen Henderson from Knight Ridder,22 like other mainstream journalists, explained the newsworthiness of the issue:
The affirmative action cases were, in most peoples' minds, very important because affirmative action is such a hot button issue and almost everybody had an opinion about it, even if they really didn't understand how it worked. It's just one of those issues that you say to somebody and there's an automatic light bulb that goes off in their mind about what they think about it...this provided grounds for an incredible amount of attention from the media. I don't think that I've ever seen that kind of attention given to something the Court did, other than during the 2000 presidential election.
For the Black press, Dr. George Curry, editor of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), noted that the affirmative action issue was very newsworthy; indeed, it was so important he had been covering the issue years before its arrival in the Supreme Court:
...long before the Michigan cases came to the Supreme Court, we did a piece on racism on college campuses, and our reporter went to Michigan and did a story based on it...so something we cared about, so we wrote about it a lot beforehand, during, and after. It was just something we watched, and was actually ahead of it on the story. And this is the most important affirmative action case in 25 years before the Court, so we knew that, and we acted accordingly.
According to Graber, a journalist's selection of news coverage depends primarily on the amount of audience appeal rather than just the importance and impact of the issue.23 Journalists present their stories based on the orientation of their audience, such as the audience's location, cultural norms, demographics, and level of interest.24 We found, however, that when reporting on the Michigan cases, the mainstream press rarely considered audience characteristics in a conscious manner. Many mainstream journalists were unconcerned about the makeup of their target audience and were unable to characterize their typical reader. As Anne Gearan of the Associated Press put it:
I think it didn't really matter who the readers were. Anybody can see immediately that this was a case with implications far beyond the specific people on the campus at hand. The basic goal is to write a story in an attractive way that is also fairly straightforward and uses pretty simple language so certainly people who haven't gone to law school could understand, but also people who haven't gone to college.
Black and Latino journalists, however, indicated they approached the affirmative action issue from a different perspective. They were consciously aware of their audience and focused on presenting their Michigan coverage in a manner that appealed to readers who were directly affected by changes in affirmative action policies. These journalists explained that their audience of minority readers made the coverage of the Michigan cases more relevant, because the Court's decisions affected their readers differently than mainstream readers. According to Curry:
The characteristics of your audience influence a great deal. You know what your audience is, you know what your audience cares about, so what you do is write more about affirmative action than you probably would if you were a certainly white owned newspaper, it's a different audience, so [for the Black media] you would write more before, during, and after because it's just a more important issue to the community and to the readers we serve....The question is, what is the most important issue for our readers, there's no question about that...affirmative action is our number one issue.
Similarly, Black and Latino journalists suggest that citizens want to read about issues involving their unique cultural background that directly affect their community. Unlike the mainstream press, the Black and Latino media included more information on the affirmative action cases, such as the history of affirmative action, the origin of the Michigan cases, and the meanings and implications of the rulings. Specifically, Black and Latino journalists aimed to illustrate what the affirmative action rulings meant to Blacks and Latinos, and how the decisions affected their community members. For example, Sharon Egiebor from the Dallas Examiner explained that it was not only important to inform citizens, but also the elites, such as community leaders and officials:
Our paper is an African American centered newspaper, so our audience was very much interested in what was happening in these cases. These characteristics influence our reporting because we know who is listening. And we know that the issues we were reporting on, were 1) very important, period. And 2) it was very important to the people who were making decisions about how this would affect our community. In that sense, it influenced our reporting because we know who can make changes and we want to make sure that they have all the information in which to make the changes.
While Black and Latino journalists have similar missions, we found that Latino journalists presented Court coverage that was more educational for their readers. Latino journalists were also the most conscious of their target audience, which largely consisted of new immigrants unfamiliar with the inner workings of the Supreme Court and the U.S. legal system. Thus, Alejandro Macial from Diario Latino, commenting on general Court coverage, explained that Latino journalists felt their role was not only to report the news, but also to teach their readers about the judicial system:
The frame that we establish, as I insist, has to be very simple so that people can understand it. As all cases are different, our readers are new to this country...it is very important for our readers to understand and believe in the judicial system in this country. We come from systems that are very scarcely believable. It is important that people believe that things work and that they work properly. And that is what we want to promote to our readers.
Further appealing to their audience, Latino journalists emphasized the importance of reporting the news in the Spanish-language. Many Latinos, regardless of their language preference, receive news in both Spanish and English.25 The Pew Hispanic Center reported that Latinos who speak mainly English still rely on Spanish-language media coverage involving their communities and Latin America.26 Diane Cervantes, from El Latino, highlighted this point:
The Spanish-language media are definitely educating and informing and making the community a part of what is happening in the U.S. I think it is our job and it is very important with the cooperation of the media, ... in order to get the information to Latinos and the news about what is going on, inform them about American policies that affect the immigrant communities.
Andrea Acosta from El Pregonero explained:
We try to report more thinking of how it would affect the lives of our readers. I would characterize our readers as mostly people that have arrived in the U.S. in the last decade, who do not speak good English, who feel more comfortable reading in their own language. People that have a necessity to know how the education system works, the judicial system, the political system, and is in need of information because he or she is in a strange land, therefore there is a need to be informed...I think that even though one has the capacity to understand the Washington Post it is always good to read a newspaper in our own language because it reflects exactly what is going on in our communities. Compared to other [newspapers] in English, they do not have the same grasp of what is going on in our community when they try to inform.
Selection of sources
As communication scholars have found, the selection of sources can dictate how issues are covered.27 In general, the way in which the article is framed depends on the material and sources at the journalist's disposal.28 When reporting on the Michigan cases, we found that all journalists gave a great deal of attention to such sources as amicus briefs, transcripts of the oral arguments, experts, academics, and parties involved in the cases. All journalists indicated that interest groups bombarded them with calls, faxes, and emails, but they either carefully used interest group information or refused to use them as a source. For example, Anne Gearan explained that she rarely relies on interest group information:
...we got zillions and zillions of offers to speak with the various interest groups and a lot of material that came in...I don't really think I paid much attention to it. I mean, there were a few things I read and saved, but I don't have time or space frankly to fool with a lot of that.
According to Andrea Acosta:
I have a lot of years writing on the Latino community and we pay special attention to whom is sending the [interest group] press releases. Because we are continuously working with the [Latino] community...we know very well the dynamic of how things are done, we know the leaders, the true leaders of our community. In general, when we get press releases we consider who sent it, what organization is behind it. If we consider that the organization is not serious enough, we immediately discard it at the editor's desk.
The difference here, however, is that Black and Latino journalists used more information from interests groups and individuals that represented the interests of their community. The Black media relied on press releases and information from The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Congressional Black Caucus, and the Urban League, along with interviews from political figures such as Jesse Jackson, Louis Farrakhan, and Al Sharpton. For example, Dr. Curry, who is somewhat dismissive of interest group attempts to influence him, explained:
I like primary documents, and I don't like people telling me what some document said, I can read the documents myself, so I will look at the pleadings, and...the actual documents that have been filed...the friend-of-the-court documents, because a lot of information is contained in those documents beyond what might even be reported. For example, the history of University of Michigan racism, it's in the Court pleadings. Also, I talk to people who are involved, especially the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, for example, was involved in this case.
Latino journalists used information from the League of United Latin American Citizens national office (LULAC), National Council of La Raza, and Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF). Latino journalists placed more importance on presenting the Michigan cases from a Latino perspective by using sources that "ethnically represented" their community. As Acosta explained:
In this case, I used sources like MALDEF, Marisa Demeo [Regional Counsel of MALDEF's Washington D.C. office] was at the meeting, she is the leader of our community and I always try to focus on such things. There could be leaders from other communities, Black, White, of course, I focus on the Hispanic leader because they know very well the problems that are affecting us, they know very well our necessities, and they are well informed how the ruling will directly affect our community.
Along with information from interest groups and experts, journalists also rely heavily on authoritative, official sources produced by the government, particularly Supreme Court justices.29 For the Michigan cases, we asked journalists whether they quoted justices as official sources. We found that all journalists sought to cite justices who highlighted a particular aspect of the case, such as the majority opinions from Justice O'Connor and Chief Justice Rehnquist. In divided cases, such as the Michigan rulings, mainstream and specialized journalists indicated the importance of mentioning both the majority and dissenting opinions. From the mainstream press, Anne Gearan explained:
When you get to the decision, you always need to quote pretty heavily from the main ruling again, if not directly paraphrasing. You need to tell the reader what the court did and why, reflecting as best we can, the way that the Justice wrote the opinion, and that may be by doing a bit of paraphrasing. ..If on a divided case, we try to sprinkle a little bit of the dissent in up high rather than relegating it some position low in the story. I'd rather that the reader have a little of both sides of a divided case....
Andrea Acosta noted:
I usually use them [quotes from justices] to try to capture as many different [justices'] opinions as I can to give the article a diverse feel. I use important quotes from different people, to try to include three or four quotes from each side, as many as I can.
Given the racial nature of the affirmative action cases, we asked journalists if they had paid particular attention to Justice Thomas as a source. As we expected, the mainstream journalists cited him only in the context of his dissenting opinion. Jodi Cohen from The Chicago Tribune explained that she included quotes from all justices:
He [Justice Thomas] wrote a dissenting opinion if I remember and I'm pretty sure that I quoted his opinion. I think we tried to get a quote from every judge in the story and we had a graphic that went with every single judge. At least everyjudge that wrote an opinion and we did that also with oral arguments...we had a quote from every judge. We were trying to get all of their views across, in both covering of the oral arguments and when we covered the decision.
Journalists writing for the Black press, however, explained the importance of mentioning Justice Thomas in the context of a Black justice who directly benefited from affirmative action, but did not support it. For example, Dr. Curry explained:
He is important because we've had only two African American Justices on the Supreme Court in the whole history, and this one is totally different from the one we had before and this one personally, Thomas, has personally benefited from affirmative action yet remains an opponent. He's a contradictory person because he's [on the Court] by the virtue of his race...you know where he's going to vote but you still have to talk, look at it, and analyze it. It is important that you know how he votes, even what his rationale is, that's important for that reason only, but he's nothing but Scalia with a black face....
Sharon Egiebor from the Dallas Examiner noted:
We want to know what he (Justice Thomas] thought, how he weighed in on the decision and what his opinion was. As a black press, it was extremely important to point out Justice Thomas' opinion.
In contrast to the Black press, several Latino journalists felt that Justice Thomas' race had no bearing in these cases. Thus, similar to the mainstream, the Latino journalists mentioned Thomas only when discussing the dissenting opinions.
Objectivity and fairness
Though the mainstream, Black, and Latino journalists covered the Michigan cases from different perspectives and used a variety of sources, all journalists acknowledged the importance of objectivity and fairness. Specifically, journalists from the mainstream and specialized media included both proand anti-affirmative action positions. Thus, all advocated serving the public by offering the opportunity to be informed about the affirmative action issue at hand in an unbiased presentation. Jacques Steinberg, an education reporter for the New York Times, explained that there was a balance among his articles:
...I'm writing a piece explaining the decision, and it's not a down the middle piece saying, here's the justices who say they're for affirmative action and why, and here's the justices who said that they're against affirmative action and why. That wasn't my job that day, but...if you look at the body of my work; I think there's a balancing. The same guy who writes here's all these colleges applauding the fact that they can continue to practice racial preferences is the same guy who wrote...a very human look at the people who would like this law changed. So...there's a balance. There's also a balance within the paper.
Representing the Latino media, Ketty Rodriguez from El Nuevo Herald explained:
We try in our articles to reflect all positions. For and against the position, and [we quote] people who can comment on one side versus the other. So we create balanced articles that will be as impartial as possible. We like to present our readers with two sides of the coin. We present the facts or general ideas and then we make a contrast with opinions that differ....
In addition to asking journalists if they reported both the pro- and anti-affirmative action sides, we asked if they felt it was appropriate to be an advocate for one side or the other. All responded that their position was not to be an advocate. In fact, most stated that such behavior was completely inappropriate when reporting the news and should be reserved for the editorial pages. Explaining why she was not an advocate, Linda Greenhouse said:
I was simply reflecting what was occurring.... What I try to do is reflect the reality that's occurring, and the reality was that the Michigan position seemed to be attractive to a very wide slot of society...to me that was news. Whereas on the other side, because there was really no participation in the debates by organizations beyond those whose own mission...was just to defeat affirmative action, there wasn't a lot to say on that side.... I felt I had to kind of struggle to reflect the other side that wasn't doing a very effective job of reflecting itself.
For the Black press, Dr. Curry explained:
For news, you're obligated to give the arguments from both sides. You're supposed to write the news story, write the cover story, not be an advocate for anything when you are writing a story.
Despite the emphasis on fairness from the specialized media, it is evident that what is considered "fair" is different for the Black and Latino media than for the mainstream media. Fairness for the mainstream media is presenting both sides of the issue in a neutral and balanced manner. The specialized media also present both sides of the issue, but they present the news with a Black and Latino angle. Several Black and Latino journalists explained that, while reporting on this controversial issue, they struggled to balance their desire to give voice to their minority group with the need to be impartial. Often, the journalists' mission to appeal to the unique interests of their audience outweighed the norms of objectivity and fairness. Andrea Acosta explains:
I think it is important to present both sides of the story. However, obviously when you are talking about a newspaper that services the Latino community it becomes a bit difficult to be totally impartial. What we try-like good Latinos, we have the intention to favor the rights of Latinos. Here we are talking about values that weigh more on the balance because we feel that we are the voice for the Latino community, generally, a community that does not have a voice. Therefore, you could say that our articles sometimes come out a little less balanced. Generally, however, we reincorporate both sides of all topics.
In addition, consistent with their mission, several Black and Latino journalists indicated that they reported information that was not included in the mainstream media. For the Black press, Dr. Curry explained that the mainstream press failed to include a full description of Michigan's undergraduate admissions policies:
...what is the most underreported things about the Michigan case.. .which was on all other instances where people get points, for whether you live in the upper North peninsulas.. .whether you are a scholarship athlete, or whether the provost decided to give you extra points, and these things are just as important because they're given the same amount of points if someone is a person of color. If it is a disadvantaged white, a poor white person, they get the same amount of points...If you tell me all that, I'm going to look at things differently. ..If you only tell me you are giving 20 points to African Americans, then I have a different point of view...So what irks me about the [mainstream] media is that they have been acting like this is an isolated incident by only referring to people of color....
Constraints of the newsroom
Journalists represent organizations that place limits on their decisions. In many instances, these restrictions are subtle and partially self-imposed. For example, Linda Greenhouse explains that she limits the length of her stories to strengthen her reputation:
It's always competing with everything else that's going on...but I've made modest space requests because I want to preserve my credibility for something really important. But there's been a lot of competition for real estate in the paper...these days and so I've been asking for say, a thousand words, when, in the past I might have asked for 1200 or something, you know they say build up a reputation for credibility.
Additional constraints include the structure of the news organization. Mainstream papers have a large staff, which allows journalists to work only on the Supreme Court "beat." The Black and Latino media do not have that same luxury. Dr. Curry elaborated:
When you have a limited staff, you can't write everything that the AP can write about, you don't have this big news organization, hundreds of people...so you make choices...and the reality of it is you got to make decisions about what's the most important [issue].
For the Latino press, Retry Rodriguez explained:
In this case, we tried to inform the public [about] what's going on. Unfortunately, we do not have enough personnel or reporters who can write everything about something that we consider important and controversial for the implications it has, especially in minority groups.
Discussion and conclusion
Clearly, the missions of both the mainstream and specialized press affect their coverage of the Supreme Court. The ethnic press's emphasis on presenting stories in a manner that is reflective of their readers' interests influences both their selection of sources and the manner in which they present information concerning the Court and its rulings. For sources, they emphasize actors who are ethnically or racially representative of their audience. As a result, different viewpoints or notions of the issue and the Court are likely contained in their accounts. Perhaps more important still, these presses seem to be more mindful of their audience's interests with respect to certain issues. This leads them to present more detailed information concerning the issue before the Court as well as the effects of the Court's rulings for their readers or those like them.
In short, it appears that the specialized press's mission with respect to their audience encourages them to cover the Court more directly as a political actor that renders decisions with real and substantial policy implications. Therefore, the specialized press's Supreme Court coverage does not contribute to the myth of the Court as an apolitical guardian of the Constitution. Consequently, their readers may hold the Court in less high esteem than the readers of the mainstream press.
The mainstream press's mission, for the most part, is to inform the public in a "neutral" or "objective" manner. This press is less mindful of structuring coverage to play to the unique or special interests of its audience. Instead, its emphasis is presenting the "facts of the story," covering both sides of the issue. Obviously, this affects the mainstream press's selection of sources, leading them to draw on "official" sources and to search out, if necessary, sources to square the coverage. Linda Greenhouse illustrated this point rather well when she noted that she had to seek out information from the anti-affirmative action side to ensure that it was adequately represented. "I really had to sort of labor to cover the other [anti-affirmative action] side because I didn't think [it] was presenting itself in a way that was generally all that newsworthy."
As was the case for the specialized media, the mainstream press's mission affects how they cover the Court, which in turn might well affect how their audience perceives the institution. The mainstream press's emphasis on official sources, balance, and objectivity results in stories emphasizing the formalistic and legal nature of the Court's actions and it as an institution. And this in turn likely contributes to their readers possessing rather high levels of diffuse support for the Court. As Gibson, Caldeira, and Baird put it, "to know the courts is to love them, because to know them is to be exposed to a series of legitimizing messages focused on the symbols justice, judicial objectivity, and impartiality."30 Although likely true in the abstract, our interviews suggest that the effect of this exposure might vary with the source of the exposure. It might well be that the audiences of the different presses have very different attitudes toward the Court because of the way the Court is presented to them. Resolution of that question, however, must await another day.
Demonstrators gather as the Court considers the University of Michigan affirmative action cases.
This paper was presented at the Southern Political Science Association Meeting, New Orleans, Louisiana, January 6-8, 2005. We appreciate the feedback from the panel and audience participants, with a special thanks to Stephen Washy for his comments. Katsuo Nishikawa, Kasie Mitchell Roberson, and Sharron Towner also provided able assistance. This research was supported by the Purdue University College of Liberal Arts.
Barbara Grutter (left) and Jennifer Cratz speak outside the Supreme Court on April 1, 2003, after listening to oral arguments in the cases they brought challenging the University of Michigan's affirmative action policies.
Black and Latino journalists suggest that citizens want to read about issues that directly affect their community.
Black journalists used more information from individuals who represented the interests of their community, such as Jesse Jackson.
All Journalists acknowledged the importance of objectivity and fairness.
It might well be that the audiences of the different presses have very different attitudes toward the Court because of the way the Court is presented to them.
1. Rosalee Clawson and Eric Waltenburg, Support far a Supreme Court Affirmative Action Decision: A Story in Black and White, 29 AM. POL. REV. 566 (2003).
2. W. Lance Bennett, An Introduction to Journalism Norms and Representations of Politics, 13 POL. COM. 373 (1996).
3. Gaye Tuchman, MAKING NEWS (New York: Free Press, 1972).
4. Rosalee Clawson, Harry "Neil" Strine IV, and Eric Waltenburg, Framing Supreme Court Decisions: The Mainstream Versus the Black Press, 33 J. BLACK STUDIES 784 (2003); America Rodriguez, MAKING LATINO NEWS: RACE, LANGUAGE, AND CLASS (Sage Publications, 1999); Roland Wolseley, THE BLACK PRESS, U.S.A. (Ames, Iowa State University Press, 1990).
5. Gratz et al. v. Bollinger et al. (539 U.S. 244 ); Gratter v. Bollinger et al. (539 U.S. 306 ).
6. Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (438 U.S. 265 ).
7. Hopwood v. State of Texas, 78 F.3d 932 (5th Cir. 1996) and Hopwood v. University of Texas Law School (518 U.S. 1033 ).
8. Newspapers included here were The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, USA Today, The Los Angeles Times, The Dallas Moming News, The Miami Herald, and The Chicago Defender.
9. In fact, some observers view these split decisions as consistent with the 1978 Bakke decision.
10. Charles Franklin and Liane Kosaki, Media Knowledge, and Public Evaluations of the Supreme Court, in Lee Epstein, ed., CONTEMPLATING COURTS 352-375 (Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly Books, 1995); Doris Graber, MASS MEDIA AND AMERICAN POLITICS, 5th Ed. (Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 1997); David Grey, THE SUPREME COURT AND THE NEWS MEDIA (Evanston, Northwestern University Press, 1968); David Paletz and Robert Entman, MEDIA, POWER, POLITICS (New York: Free Press, 1981); Elliot Slotnick and Jennifer Segal, TELEVISION NEWS AND THE SUPREME COURT: ALL THE NEWS THAT'S FIT TO AlR? (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998).
11. Supran. 1.
12. William Gamson and Andre Modgliani, The Changing Culture of Affirmative Action, 3 RES. POL. Soc. 137 (1987); Thomas Nelson, Rosalee Clawson, and Zoe Oxley, Media Framing of a Civil Liberties Conflict and its Effect on Tolerance, 91 AM. POL. Sa. REV. 221 (1997).
13. Rosalee Clawson, Elizabeth Kegler, and Eric Waltenburg, The Legitimacy-Conferring Authority of the US Supreme Court: An Experimental Design, 29 AM. POL. RES. 566 (2001); James Gibson, Understandings of Justice: Institutional Legitimacy, Procedural Justice and Political Tolerance, 23 LAW & SOC'Y REV. 469 (1989); Valeria Hoekstra, The Supreme Court and Opinion Change: An Experimental Study of the Court's Ability to Change Opinion, 23 AM. POL. Q. 109 (1995); Jeffrey Mondak, Perceived Legitimacy of Supreme Court Decisions: Three Functions of Source Credibility, 12 POL. BEHAV. 363 (1990); Jeffrey Mondak, Institutional Legitimacy, Policy Legitimacy, and the Supreme Court, 20 AM. POL. Q. 457 (1992).
14. Supra n. 1
15. See Dorothy Bowles and Rebekah Bromley, Newsmagazine Coverage of the Supreme Court During the Reagan Administration, 69 JOURNALISM Q. 948 (1992); David Ericson, Newspaper Coverage of the Supreme Court: A case Study, 54 JOURNALISM Q. 604 (1977); Ethan Katsh, The Supreme Court beat: How television covers the US Supreme Court, 67 JUDICATURE 6 (1983); Stephanie Larson, How the New York Times Covers Discrimination Cases, 62 JOURNALISM Q. 894 (1985); Chester Newland, Press Coverage of the United States Supreme Court, W. PoL. Q. 15 (1964); Jerome O'Callaghan and James Dukes, Media Coverage of the Supreme Court's caseload, 69 JOURNALISM Q. 195 (1992); Slotnick and Segal, supra n. 10; Michael Solomine, Newsmagazine Coverage of the Supreme Court, 57 JOURNALISM Q. 661 (1980); Rorie Spill and Zoe Oxley, Philosopher kings or political actors: How the media portrays the Supreme Court, 87 JUDICATURE 22 (2003); Douglas Tarpley, American Newsmagazine Coverage of the Supreme Court, 1978-81, 61 JOURNALISM Q. 801 (1984).
16. Rodriguez, supra n. 4; Wolseley, supra n. 4.
17. Clawson, Strine, and Waltenburg, supra n. 4.
18. Supra n. 2.
19. Due to high turnover rates at Black and Latino newspapers, we had difficulty contacting journalists who had reported on the Michigan cases. Two Latino journalists in our sample, Diane Cervantes from El Latino and Alejandro Maciel from Diario Latino, did not cover the Michigan cases and were queried only about how they cover the Supreme Court in general.
20. We used several sources to construct the list of journalists who reported on the University of Michigan affirmative action cases. In order to identify mainstream and minority journalists, newspaper searches were conducted using LEXIS-NEXIS and Ethnic NewsWatch. The search terms included "Grate v Bollinger," "Grutier v. Bollinger," and "University of Michigan affirmative action cases." We narrowed the search between December 1, 2002, and August 1, 2003.
21. Pamela Shoemaker and Stephen Reese, MEDUTINC THE MESSAGE: THEORIES OF INFLUENCE ON MASS MEDIA CONTENT (New York: Longman, 1991).
22. In our sample, Stephen Henderson was the only African American journalist from the mainstream media.
23. Graber, supra n. 10.
24. Shoemaker and Reese, supra n. 21.
25. Rodriguez, supra n. 4.
26. Roberta Suro, Changing Channels and Criss-crossing Cultures: A Survey of Latinos on the News Media, PEW HISPANIC CENTER (2004).
27. Supra n. 2; Dan Berkowitz, Who Sets the Media Agenda? The Ability of Policymakers to Determine News Decisions, in J. David Kennamer, ed., PUBLIC OPINION, THE PRESS, AND PUBLIC POLICY 81-102 (Westport: Praeger, 1992); Jane Brown, Carl Bybee, Stanley Wearden, and Dulcie Straughan, Invisible Power: Newspaper News Sources and the Limits of Diversity, 64 JOURNALISM Q. 45 (1987).
28. Herbert Cans, DECIDING WHAT'S NEWS (New York: Pantheon Books, 1979).
29. Supra n. 27; David White, The Gatekeeper: A Case Study in the Selection of News, 27 JOURNALISM Q. 383 (1950)
30. James Gibson, Greg Caldeira, and Vanessa Baird, On the Legitimacy of National High Courts, 92 AM. POL. SCI. REV. 345 (1998).
TERRI L. TOWNER is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Political Science at Purdue University
ROSALEE A. CLAWSON and ERIC N. WALTENBURG are associate professors in the Department of Political Science at Purdue University