Balancing Independence and Support
What is the nature of the relationship between the Supreme Court and public opinion? Obviously, it is a complicated one. The Supreme Court makes decisions on some of the most complex and salient issues of the day. They also resolve more routine policy questions. To some degree they are able to do so with less intense media and public scrutiny than Congress or the executive branch. But, as the results from these studies show, the institution is by no means removed from the public eye. The media, especially the local media, pay a great deal of attention to the Court–much more than previously recognized. Looking at national coverage of Court cases overlooks the simple fact that not all cases are equally newsworthy to all citizens in all media markets. If the results from this book point to anything, it is that the local media were much more likely to provide consumers with information on homegrown cases than were the national media or the media from other parts of the nation.
As detailed in Chapter 3, the local media provided both quantity and quality of coverage. Even The New York Times, this nation's paper of record, did not do a better job than the local media. The local newspapers devoted more space than did other newspapers. But, more than that, the local papers often started covering the cases at a much earlier stage, beginning with the initial dispute in the lower courts and sustaining the coverage as the cases moved through the courts. They included the Supreme Court's decision to grant certiorari, the presentation of oral arguments, and finally, the coverage of the Court's decision. The local media also reported extensively once the decision was announced–providing information on