The Press: Shouting “Fire!” in an Empty Theater

MP900402060Forgive me for being missing in action the past week.  I had a rare criminal case come up at the last minute and spent the entire day in court, yesterday.  I was going to return with my summary of the Solo Summit, but due to the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Affordable Care Act this morning, I decided to lead with this post, which I’d already been working on.

First of all, fear not; this isn’t about politics.  I originally became interested in posting on this issue after the Da Silva Moore case.  For the first time, I saw our area of practice descend into the sensationalism that annoys me with news reporting in general.  Specifically, it had to do with the accusations that were flying regarding Judge Peck’s supposed conflicts-of-interest in the case.

The same thing happened this morning.  CNN reported that the individual mandate was struck down.  At that very moment, CNBC was reporting that it was upheld.  Now, anyone who has followed Supreme Court decisions knows that one cannot read a sentence or two and think they know what the ruling is without reviewing the rest of the text.

But CNN, more interested in reporting a story, rather than reporting the story, rushed out with the wrong information.  Nothing new.  But, I saw the same issues with the Peck case.  First of all, as attorneys, we hear ad nauseam that the law is a marathon, not a sprint.  Reporting on every brief filed as if, taken on its own it’s somehow relevant, is a mistake, in my opinion.

I only touched on the case briefly – after most of the dust had settled – and predicted (not exactly hard to do) that there would be appeals that would likely change the outcome.  It pretty much ended up being a tempest in a teapot.

What’s my point?  As attorneys, we should forget about being first and concentrate on being accurate.  There will always be deadlines, but I don’t want to see eDiscovery practice descend into an, ‘I’m going to post inflammatory, but incomplete information with the goal of luring your eyeballs to my blog/magazine/newspaper’ approach, especially when most of the writers were fully well aware that the rulings would likely not stand.

I don’t care if my blog remains a boutique – I’m interested in dispensing useful information, not provoking people to fight with each other.  That attitude serves no one.