With little need for anonymous sources and few opportunities to interview the main subjects of their stories, Supreme Court reporters differ from much of the Beltway press corps. “So much of [the job] is reading,” said Barnes, who just completed his first term covering the Court, adding he now knows why Biskupic calls the job “reporting by highlighter.” Panelists explained that reporters must submit detailed interview requests through the public affairs office to officially interview the Justices. With the exception of Justice Souter, all Justices generally are willing to speak to the media â€“ though not always on the record, panelists said. The limited access to the Justices is “part of the reason people stay on the beat a long time,â€ Barnes said. â€œIt takes a long time to get to know these people.”
This is something I’ve wondered about while staring at a mass of opinions, concurrences and dissents and trying to understand the real import of a Supreme Court ruling. It’s often completely unclear, and trying to get through that mess and also add some personality to the dry names must be especially challenging.