The Net Shortens the News Cycle

July 15, 2009

From Politico’s Arena comes a valuable comment from Christine Pelosi on 2 counts:

  1. A topical analysis of  Judge Sotomayor hearings on her nomination to SCOTUS
  2. A reference to a very interesting study on how the Net shortens the news cycle today

Here it is complete with the link to the Study:

Christine Pelosi, Attorney, author and Democratic activist:

From Judge Sotomayor’s hearings, we have learned that United States Senators are on the 24-hour news cycle and Supreme Court Justices are not.

It is perhaps a historic coincidence that America’s first Internet President, Barack Obama, sent up a Supreme Court nominee for confirmation hearings the same week that Cornell University published a landmark study - “Meme-tracking and the Dynamics of the News Cycle” – that demonstrated how the web shortens the news cycle. The Cornell researchers tracked the accelerated web-based circulation of ideas – scouring 90 million articles and blog posts during the 2008 campaign for the “genetic signatures” for ideas, memes, and story lines.

They found what most Americans already intuit: the Internet shortens the time in which a meme circulates from main stream media to blogs (2.5 hours) and into the popular culture, thus words have more weight as perceived evidence of a person’s character and philosophy. The study helps explain why the role of United States Senators in this Supreme Court Justice hearing is to elevate their chosen memes (“most experienced nominee in 100 years” “wise Latina” “prosecutor” “judicial activist” “moderate” to name a few) through repetition and questioning in order to quickly frame Judge Sotomayor’s character and philosophy, capture the conversation, and build momentum to justify their vote.

Meanwhile, by contrast, the role of Supreme Court Justices is to navigate a long-term jurisprudence cycle not a short-term news cycle. Court rulings rely heavily on precedence, must endure over time, and ideally are not swayed by the passions of the moment. As Judge Sotomayor said, “we don’t rule for the home crowd.”

But before she can be elevated to a lifetime appointment to work in the long-term jurisprudence cycle, Sotomayor must endure the last unblinking look of the 24-hour news cycle. Unlike nominees of the pre-Internet era, the judge’s public utterances were captured on tape and can be taken in or out of context with the stroke of a keyboard. Sotomayor must assess the weight of her words on and off the bench to show us her personal character and judicial philosophy without prejudging cases or adding new weight to badly chosen words. In the questioning to date, Democrats emphasize her words on the bench and Republicans emphasize her work off the bench.

She has demonstrated patience, intellect, and the ability to withstand withering patrimony with aplomb. To her credit, Judge Sotomayor is attempting a candid discussion on jurisprudence that will endure over a lifetime and avoiding a gaffe that will circulate in a news cycle.