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Rehnquist Dies: Multi-tasking


In a Friday chat, Terry Neal, the website’s chief political correspondent, was asked how the Post would be able to cover both the Roberts nomination hearings this week and the Hurricane Katrina aftermath:

Question: So is this New Orleans disaster gonna trump the coverage of Roberts confirmation hearing? Or can The Post walk and chew gum at the same time?

Terry Neal: Haha…I think so.

Now, though, the media will be dealing with an even bigger story. Hence a more apt question: Can the D.C. media walk, chew gum, and juggle flaming torches–all while listening to Hilary Duff on its iPod at the same time?

(ABOVE: The first network to break the news, CNN’s Carol Lin reports the death of the death of Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist last night at 11:05 p.m.)

‘Pimples of History’

The hottest lottery in town yesterday was the National Archives’ unveiling of thousands of pages of John G. Roberts memos, briefings, and briefs. Dana Milbank relates the color of the event, from Anne Kornblut‘s nearly futile attempt to get a box to New York Sun reporter Josh Gerstein disappointment. “The body was decent, but the finish left something to be desired,” he cracked.

Kurtz: Journalism Can Be Hard

supremecourt.jpgIn a multimedia package, Howard Kurtz this weekend examined how certain beats in journalism (say, for instance, the Supreme Court) can be hard to explain to the idiots who newspapers call “readers” and television news networks call “viewers.”

In his newspaper column today, Kurtz talks to legal experts (the same ones, mind you, who told us Michael Jackson was guilty and that Edith Clement was the President’s nominee) about how Court life is “hard work,” as some would say.

“The Supreme Court deals overwhelmingly with abstractions, and ideas and abstractions are not easy to convey on television,” CNN’s Jeff Toobin tells him. By way of excusing the media’s poor coverage, Toobin says, “The culture of the Supreme Court is so full of restraint and inaccessibility.”

[This is the point where Jon Stewart would make a face of shock and diasppointment and then shake his fists, shouting something about "growing" and "cojones" and "doing your job."]

Then yesterday on his CNN show, “Reliable Sources,” Kurtz talked with USA Today’s Joan Biskupic about how our “instant culture” responds to the plodding minutae that is Court life. She discussed how the life has changed in the age of television as it tries to respond to the nomination of Judge John Roberts: “Everybody expects to have the answer right away. How many people have had the time to read all of his opinions, to read what he’s testified to, and to go back through a lot of public files out at the Reagan Library that are available to sort of assess this man? It’s almost as if with TV and the blog now, both of which I completely support, there is an expectation that we’ll know right away what is he all about.”

Looking ahead to September, when the media might have both the Rove investigation and Supreme Court nomination hearings to cover, Kurtz observes, “Let’s see if the media can walk and chew gum at the same time.”

We’re gonna with “no” on that one, Howie.

An Anonymice Spin Cycle?

Howard Kurtz picks up yesterday’s question thrown out by NPR’s Don Gonyea‘s report on the Edith Clement rumors.

“Did the Bush team put out misinformation on that crazy Tuesday to steer reporters away from John Roberts? We can’t answer the question definitively because the journalists involved have a Matt Cooper problem — they promised their sources anonymity, regardless of motive. But I can tell you that some of them are ticked and feeling misled,” Kurtz writes.

Leftist bloggers are hopping mad over this, which they see as just the latest in the Rovian manipulations of the Washington press corps. Atrios writes, “I really missed the memo when we were told that journalists who promised confidentiality to their sources were obligated to maintain that confidentiality even after learning that they’d been lied to. This isn’t about keeping promises, it’s about maintaining access and shame on all of them for pretending otherwise.”

Like Atrios, we’ll make the same deal we’ve made in the past: Anyone who wishes to out an anonymice source, email us confidentially or use the tip box.

Who was the Edith Clement source?

John Roberts, We Hardly Knew Ye

johndroberts.jpgLots of people are having fun with the with the commonness of the name John Roberts, which, in addition to the President’s latest Supreme Court nominee and CBS’ White House correspondent/stand-in anchor (left), is the moniker for a whole bunch of people, reports today’s Washington Post.

The CBS version of the name, meanwhile, wrote a little commentary on the shared name:

“It was a bit of an ‘Alice In Wonderland’ moment last night, watching President Bush in the State Dining Room lauding the accomplishments and character of one ‘John Roberts.’ After my four and a half years covering the Bush White House, I couldn’t imagine the name ‘John Roberts’ and the phrase ‘widely admired for his intellect, his sound judgment and his personal decency’ being used in the same time zone, let alone the same sentence.”

CBS’ Roberts expects that he’ll get some extra special treatment on the phone when he calls the White House–at least until they realize it’s not the judge calling.

Did The White House Mislead?

Frankly, it’s not the anchor chair of the CBS Evening News, but John Roberts should be pretty happy with his nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Brian at our cousin TVNewser has some details on the coverage.

And, for the record, the CBS version of Roberts made one reference to the fact that he shared a name with the nominee. During the West Coast evening news, just 30 minutes before the President’s speech, CBS’ Roberts announced the name and said, “no relation to this correspondent.”

While we imagine that the story will quickly turn to the bloodbath about to ensue, NPR’s Don Gonyea offers some tantalizing clues about how the nomination happened–including the fact that the day-long rumors about Edith Clement were fueled by a “confidential but persuasive” source.

Who was the source and what was his or her motive? Did the press corps get intentionally misdirected by a White House smokescreen? Did the press promise confidentiality to someone who lied to them?

Given all of the attention to leaks and sourcing in recent weeks, some enterprising reporter should follow this story up today.