A Fifty Percent Chance of News

“It Could Rain This Morning.” “The Red Sox Could Win Tonight.” “Bush Could Name Nominee As Early As Today.”

Helpful headlines? Not really. Real headlines? Nope, but for the last one which runs on Deb Reichman’s Associated Press piece this morning — a story which, not surprisingly, is about as useful for readers as billed. (CNN.com slapped this equally lame header on Reichman’s piece: “Sources: Court Choice Could Come Tuesday.”)

Just another news organization pumping out another SupremeStakes story full of “coulds” and “mays” and unnamed sources, offering next to nothing to readers but enabling that news organization, should Bush actually make a court appointment today — and hey, he could — to look back on its earlier story with pride and say to itself, “We told you so.” (And if Bush doesn’t announce his selection today — recycle! The story would make just as much sense tomorrow, the next day or next week).

What prompted this? Seems Reichman picked up on a “sign” in the form of Sen. Arlen Specter, head of the Judiciary Committee (and the man who will oversee the confirmation process), visiting the White House yesterday. Highlights from Reichman’s story include a quote from the chairman of the “conservative Third Branch Conference,” who confirms for Reichman and readers that Bush’s nomination “could come any time this week.” And this, from the president himself: “When a reporter said, ‘We understand you are now close to a decision,’ Bush replied, ‘Well, thank you for telling me where I am in the process.’”

And there’s nothing like the expectation of imminent news to bring out the finest in cable news. CNN offered these solid on-screen headlines this morning: “Nominee Near?” and “President to Name Supreme Court Nominee?” while correspondent John King, addressing colleague Daryn Kagen, shared with viewers this startling insight about the nominee’s identity, “Daryn, it’s not going to be you and it’s not going to be me.”


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Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.