Press credentials seem to hinge on the government’s whims

From The New York Times

 Scotusblog has covered the Supreme Court in depth and with distinction since 2002. It wins journalism awards at a steady clip. Its main reporter, Lyle Denniston, is an old-school journalist of fearsome integrity and independence.

But Scotusblog has never gotten a press credential from the Supreme Court. Its Senate credentials wererecently revoked.

Neither institution has explained what is going on, though everybody knows what concerns them: Thomas C. Goldstein, the blog’s publisher, also argues before the Supreme Court.

Whether Mr. Goldstein has a conflict of interest is a good question for a journalism seminar. Notwithstandingthoughtful policies to make the blog’s reporting independent of Mr. Goldstein’s law practice, his dual roles run afoul of some journalistic norms. So does his forthright acknowledgment that he would withhold information from readers if he thought publishing it would violate his ethical duties to the court.

But should these issues matter in deciding whether the blog is entitled to credentials? Should the government distinguish among entities that report on its activities based on shifting notions of journalistic best practices?

In other contexts, the Supreme Court has been wary of allocating the protections of the First Amendment and access to government resources based on official judgments about who is “the press.”

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