Pulitzer winner discusses media coverage of the Supreme Court

Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Linda Greenhouse shared her perspective and experiences reporting on the U.S. Supreme Court with a packed house in Funger Hall Thursday night.


Greenhouse, who received a 1998 Pulitzer for her U.S. Supreme Court coverage for The New York Times, discussed the court’s reclusive nature and the coverage it receives.

The court differs from the executive and legislative branches of government because it does not have a symbiotic relationship with the press, she said.

“The court is not hostile to the press as much as it is oblivious to the needs of the press,” said Greenhouse, who has covered the Supreme Court for The Times since 1978.

The lecture, which was open to the public, began the University Honors Program’s semiannual symposium. The symposium entitled, “Is the Supreme Court Working and How Can We Tell?” continued with discussions Friday and Saturday.

Greenhouse said people judge the Supreme Court’s effectiveness based on whether they agree with the decisions it makes. She described outcome-neutral ways to analyze the court’s decisions, which include tests of the court’s consistency, candor and coherence in decisions.

“An educated person ought to be able to make sense of the reasoning involved in the decisions,” she said of the court’s coherence.

Greenhouse said the court passed her coherence test during its last term, particularly in its decisions involving sexual harassment policy.

“For the first time, people know procedures for how sexual harassment law suits will work,” she said.

David Alan Grier, honors program director, said the two-day symposium is meant to bring experts from various fields to discuss current issues with students. Grier said after the program chose to present a legal topic, inviting Greenhouse was an obvious choice. He said The Times and Greenhouse’s writing exert great influence on other areas of the media.

“(The Times’ coverage) shapes the way the world looks at the Supreme Court,” Grier said. “Because of that it is important to know how (Greenhouse) works and thinks.”

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