TG: They pay for all of the costs of our blog.
EE: Does all of the $ go exclusively to the blog?
EE: Are there other things with you? You provide exclusive business analysis.
TG: It's the same thing. There are Supreme Court cases involving business issues -- e.g., ABC v. Aereo. Last Term we had an arrangement where we carried content and vice-versa on gene patenting.
EE: Are there symposia involved?
TG: Our symposia are independent of BLAW.
EE: When does that agreement expire?
EE: History of the blog -- you said that the blog was created as a failed marketing tool. Others have disagreed with that characterization. In a recent CSPAN interview with Brian Lamb, you said that with Amy Howe no longer practicing, this was a transition to show independence?
TG: Yes. Transition started with hiring Lyle. There has been an evolution in how we have approached the consequences of the blog for me personally.
TG: First, we adopted rules to not discuss the firm's cases when, e.g., we filed a cert. petition. Then we wouldn't have anyone related to the firm cover the case, now it is that we don't have anyone from the firm or hte blog cover the case.
TG: What is the strongest possible firewall that I could conceivably create other than resigning? That most recent rule was it.
EE: Before you put those rules into place, did you feel like you had a weaker firewall?
TG: I thought it could be perceived as a weaker firewall. Just look at Lyle's earlier coverage of my arguments. I know I never told anyone to cover our cases in a particular way.
TG: If someone will tell me what a stronger firewall would be, I'd be glad to adopt it.
Lyle: If I make an editorial judgment that I want to cover a case in which the firm is involved, I have the option to go to Tom. The firm was involved in the cellphone privacy cases this Term, but the firm dropped out of that case so that I had the opportunity to cover it. What that illustrates for me is that (1) the firewall works; and (2) gets reinforced when I make an editorial judgment to breach the firewall. Tom and the firm will respond.
TG: To be clear, this was a case in which Kevin was a lawyer for the party. We had no contact with the lawyer thereafter.
EE; Are you in talks to renew the sponsorship?
Colby Itkowitz of the Post: Tom you have said publicly that you plan to possibly sell the blog. Is that still the plan?
TG: Less so now. I had envisioned a sale of the equity to someone else but would stay on in some role, but my preference now is to not sell and to continue on with a sponsor. It's expensive.
TG: Before the BLAW sponsorship, I was paying $250K per year out of pocket, but that's more expensive now.
Laura Lytle: There was a tweet yesterday.
CI: Have any ideas come up re, e.g., bringing on an advisory board of journalists to take the firm even further out of the editorial side?
TG: I don't regard the editorial independence as a hassle. I believe it. I am extremely humble about the role of the blog and its ability to take up anyone else's time.
TG: My immediate reaction is that maybe it isn't a question of having an advisory board to talk to when an issue came up and they could help me work through a problem. It comes up super-rarely, but that doesn't mean it's a good idea
CI: How do you deal with it now?
TG: The last time an issue came up would have been in exchanges with you all. Those would have been decisions among all of us.
TG: I originally thought about a policy in which we would farm out all coverage related to any case in which the firm is involved and use it. I got a lot of input from Lyle about whether it would improve or decrease the blog's independence.
TG: Right now, when these structural issues arise, it's a discussion among all of us, plus other people such as Nina Totenberg. I worked for her during law school and knew the press corps before I started the blog. There is no more formal structure, although no one has suggested it.
CI: You are the only journlaist?
Lyle: Amy Howe is a reporter on the staff as well and has no connection with the practice of law for anyone. Amy is my reporterial colleague, as though not as old as I am.
Lyle saying nice things. (Thanks.) Can't raise any legitimate questions about her performance as a journalist.
CI: Does Goldstein & Russell have an advantage in not having you cover its cases?
Lyle: Can I be candid? Tom doesn't get the premiere cases, so it is not often an issue. I get the cream off the top of our coverage -- when the Court grants, I get to choose.
Lyle: If it should turn out that Tom would get a blockbuster that I wanted, then the issue would arise.
Lyle: I have to tell you that I don't know how many times I have engaged Tom in direct ethical negotiations about the blog. In some ways, I am the journalistic ethical consultant about the blog.
Lyle: If something happens that appears to impinge on the blog's independence or the appearance thereof, I will go to Tom. When there are ethical issues, it is as important to me as it is to the Standing Committee that the blog retain the very pristine appearance of being a news organization.
Lyle: If i thought it wasn't, I would leave. And I have a record of walking out of conversations when I felt compromised as a journalist.
Lyle: I have a fierce sense of professional independence. I appreciate the committee's efforts, but there is no question you could ask that I have not already thought about. From my perspective, this is a standalone news org that is doing exactly what i hoped it would do when I joined it. No more and no less.
Lyle: As you may know, the online world is a very different kind of world. But aside from the unique online characteristics, it is indistinguishable from all of the papers I worked for, going back to the Nebraska City Paper.
TG: I was struck by items in the folder. (Pictures of our office doors.)
Lyle: I have a fabulous home office and a nice cubicle at the Court. I don't regard myself as having any affiliation with the firm. They and I are living in different worlds.
Siobhan Hughes on editorial independence: How can the blog be independent when the law firm partner wrote the policy?