Saturday, September 12, 2009

Supreme Court Buff(oon)

On Wednesday, Nightly News correspondent Pete Williams reported that the Supreme Court convened for an early session this week to hear arguments in a campaign finance case. We heard an audio portion of Justice Scalia's comments in which he said, "I don't know any small business in this country that isn't incorporated." But the printed transcript that Nightly News put up on the screen used the phrase "in the country" instead of "in this country". Apparently, the Nightly News producers think it's perfectly acceptable to change the words of a Supreme Court Justice. They're probably thinking, "It's only one word. No big deal." Well, it's a huge deal. The words of Supreme Court Justices govern the lives of every American. What they say matters. One word can make a big difference. Entire books have been written about the meaning of a single comma in the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. So I think that properly transcribing the words of a U.S. Supreme Court Justice is pretty important.

Brian Williams began his July 13 Daily Nightly blog by crowing, "I'm a Supreme Court buff...." If the managing editor of a network newscast is a Supreme Court buff, you'd think that he would be alarmed if his producers improperly transcribe the words of a Justice. Maybe Brian needs to be downgraded from buff to quasi-buff. He just doesn't seem very concerned with this situation. Or the situation. Whatever.

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