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There are three things I miss about the 80’s.  1) The music  2) Judicial Nominees getting a floor vote and 3) News outlets that weren’t so pressed to provide minute by minute updates and took the time to research and verify stories before going to press.

Anyone else remember listening to REO Speedwagon on vinyl, or maybe with one of those newfangled Walkman thingies?  In 1981 REO Speedwagon released “You Take it on the Run” which started off with this line: “Heard it from a friend who heard it from a friend who heard it from another you’ve been messing around…”

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What does this have to do with the law, legal appointments or news outlets?  Earlier this week a rumor spread like wildfire through the blawgosphere that Chief Justice John Roberts was about to retire.  Numerous outlets ran with the story, first reported by Radar Online.

I’d like to engage you in a small intellecutal exercise.  Name three things that would compel John Roberts to allow President Obama name his successor.  I’ll wait.

Still stuck?  Ok, name one thing.  No?  Me either.

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Everyone that reported on the story is now frantically posting retractions.  We’re happy to say we abstained from the initial feeding frenzy (although my poor liberal heart just about burst with excitement until I thought about it for half a second).

The source of the rumor appears to have been a law school exercise in trusting informants gone horribly, and ironically, wrong.  Abovethelaw.com has tracked it down to a 1L class at Georgetown Law where a professor giving a lecture on informants and probable cause started the class by telling his students he had reliable sources that he couldn’t reveal that told him Roberts would be stepping down, and admonished the class not to tell anyone.  Within 10 minutes, RadarOnline had the story and ran with it.  30 minutes after making the announcement, the professor retracted it, saying it was a lesson in how an otherwise reliable source could give bad info.  Did the professor not realize that his students all had cell phones with text capabilities and laptops tapped into the university network?  And how gullible were these students, RadarOnline, and every other blog that ran with the story?



There’s a larger lesson here.  We, the information craving public, are equally to blame for stories like this one.  Our incessant demand for minute by minute updates has created a media that must publish non stop to satisfy our ravenous desires.



 

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