Actions, Factions, and Interactions: Newsworthy Influences on Supreme Court Coverage*
Article first published online: 21 MAR 2012
© 2012 by the Southwestern Social Science Association
Social Science Quarterly
Volume 93, Issue 2, pages 434–463, June 2012
How to Cite
Johnson, T. and Socker, E. (2012), Actions, Factions, and Interactions: Newsworthy Influences on Supreme Court Coverage*. Social Science Quarterly, 93: 434–463. doi: 10.1111/j.1540-6237.2012.00842.x
- Issue published online: 7 MAY 2012
- Article first published online: 21 MAR 2012
We test whether Supreme Court media coverage (in terms of both overall volume and specific frames) is driven by Court actions, by factional battles on the Court, by the Court's interaction with other governmental actors, or by all three.
We link elements of the Spaeth Supreme Court Database and real-world Supreme Court and political events to Associated Press media coverage of the judicial branch over a nearly three-decade span. Content analysis of the media coverage is performed and empirical relationships between decisions, events, and coverage are analyzed using error correction modeling.
We find that overall coverage of the Court is driven by the ideological nature of decisions rendered and by judicial retirements. Legal coverage of the Court is driven by issues of constitutionality. Political coverage of the Court is driven by majority size and judicial retirements.
The findings speak to the newsworthiness of Court action, factional battles on the Court, and moments where the Court interacts with outsiders. Elements of all three shapes the types of stories journalists tell and the ways in which said stories are told.