Full-Court Press: An Examination of Media Coverage of State Supreme Courts*

By Yanus, Alixandra B. | Justice System Journal, May 1, 2009 | Go to article overview

Full-Court Press: An Examination of Media Coverage of State Supreme Courts*


Yanus, Alixandra B., Justice System Journal


This analysis explores how case facts and the characteristics of media and the judiciary affect news coverage of the courts. It examines newspaper coverage of the decisions of twenty state supreme courts during calendar year 1998 and matches relevant stories to the cases contained in the Brace and Hall State Supreme Court Data Project (2002). The results are consistent with the hypotheses that case facts, media characteristics, and judicial characteristics all affect the probability that a case will receive news coverage.

Legendary United States Supreme Court reporter Linda Greenhouse observed:

Press coverage of the courts is a subject at least as worthy of public concern and scholarly attention as press coverage of politics, perhaps even more so. . . . Qjudges, for the most part, speak only through their opinions, which are difficult for the ordinary citizen to obtain and understand. Especially in an era when the political system has ceded to the courts many of society's most difficult questions, it is sobering to acknowledge the extent to which the courts and the country depend on the press for the public understanding that is necessary for the health, and ultimately, the legitimacy of any institution in a democratic society (1996:1538).

Despite the admonitions of Greenhouse and other observers, scholars have paid only occasional attention to the link between the media and the judiciary, especially outside the U.S. Supreme Court. Furthermore, the scholars who have considered this question have not taken account of all of the factors that may affect decisions about what issues most merit news coverage.

This study fills that void in existing research by considering the interplay between case facts, media characteristics, and judicial characteristics in American state supreme courts. The analysis is aided by the State Supreme Court Data Project, a database of state supreme court decisions from 1995-98 assembled by Brace and Hall (2002) . The results are consistent with the hypotheses that case facts, media characteristics, and judicial characteristics all affect the probability that a case will receive news coverage.

THEORY

As Greenhouse (1996) notes, the press plays an important role in shaping what citizens know about their government. Nowhere is this role more visible or more important than with regard to the judiciary, which conducts most of its work in relative obscurity. Few citizens are able to observe the daily activities of judges and justices, and media coverage of the courts is far more limited than in the legislative or executive branches. Thus, a greater knowledge of the cases that are most likely to receive coverage allows researchers to better understand what citizens know about their judiciary.

A number of researchers have studied print and television news coverage of the United States Supreme Court (e.g. Ericson, 1977; Katsh, 1983; Larson, 1985; O'Callaghan and Dukes, 1992; Slotnick and Segal, 1998; Vermeer, 2002; HaiderMarkel, Allen, and Johansen, 2006). Taken as a whole, these studies demonstrate that only a small fraction of Supreme Court decisions receive coverage. The issue area of the case, attention from organized interests, and local importance appear to play especially significant roles in differentiating between the Supreme Court cases that receive coverage and those that do not.

Little is known, however, about what information citizens receive about the business of other courts (but see Hale, 1999, 2006). Studying these inferior courts is particularly important. Only a fraction of cases reach the U.S. Supreme Court; this body decides fewer than 100 cases each year. Therefore, most of the nation's judicial business is conducted in state and other federal courts.

Studying lower courts also enables a more in-depth analysis of how the quality and quantity of information citizens receive about the judiciary is affected by the varying institutional structures of the media and the judiciary. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Full-Court Press: An Examination of Media Coverage of State Supreme Courts*
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.