Cliffhanger at the Supreme Court

One story.  Three mediums.

This was an important week for Supreme Court watchers and really, the nation.  The Court heard oral arguments in the newest challenge to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010.  This law is more commonly known as the “Affordable Care Act” or “Obamacare”.

Although King v. Burwell has been on the docket since the Supreme Court granted certiorari on November 14, 2014, oral arguments are essentially a live event and as such, it is almost impossible to predict how the hearing would unfold.

The New York Times coverage of the argument was comprehensive, as is expected of the Times.  Adam Liptak, Supreme Court reporter for the Times, gave a logical breakdown of how the arguments played out.  The article also contained several pieces of multimedia designed to support the story and provide some background.

By comparison SCOTUSblog‘s live coverage was simply exciting and provided lots of details.  This was an important feature because Supreme Court hearings are not televised nor are they recorded.  Details, rich details in reporting are essential and Scotusblog did not disappoint.  Oral arguments were covered by several bloggers, including Amy Howe, Eric Citron, Tejinder Singh, Lyle Denniston and Mark Walsh.  With the exception of Walsh’s piece, “A view from the Courtroom: Today’s oral argument”, most of the coverage was substantive and geared towards Supreme Court watchers.  This team coverage had an intellectual edge-of-your-seat quality.

The CBS Evening News, though impressive, did the best they could considering the length of their piece (1:56) and the time of day it was broadcast (7:00PM EST).  It was definitely informative, but lacked color.

The only common thread through these sites were the basics.  Each, at a bare minimum, provided some idea of what the case was about and what was at stake (because something is always at stake in SCOTUS hearings).

Aside from a few nominal tweets from Adam Liptak and SCOTUSblog, there was limited social media use and interaction.

Hands down, the New York Times did the best job covering the story.  They used multimedia to put much of it into context.  I particularly liked the graphic that laid out would be most affected by a decision in favor of the plaintiffs.  They also included an interactive page outlining the seminal questions involved in King v. Burwell.


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