were you when the Supreme Court ruled on grandparent rights, student
fees, and the Playboy channel? Jan
Crawford Greenburg was right there
how this former
Multimedia: Jan Crawford Greenburg discusses the Supreme Court's ruling on the American Disabilities Act.
Considering a career in Law...
you were a teen what did you want to be?
Law was vaguely appealing to me (I always did like to argue, my parents would say), so I thought I should probably get some writing experience for law school. And that's how I stumbled onto the profession I love. I nervously walked into the student newspaper office and asked if I could be a staff writer. From then on, I was hooked. I could ask people questions for a living, find out all kinds of information before anyone else, do something different every day and meet fascinating people with great stories to tell, and get paid for it. I could barely believe it, and I still feel that way today.
I got a job as an intern at the Chicago Tribune after I graduated from Alabama, and I was lucky enough to land a full-time position three months later. After working several years, and seeing the legal system up close as a reporter, I decided to take a leave of absence for law school. Ultimately, though, I decided my heart was in journalism, so I returned to the Chicago Tribune when I graduated. After covering local legal affairs, the paper sent me to Washington in 1994 to cover the Supreme Court and national legal issues. So, although I don't represent clients, I get to use my law degree every day, in a profession I love. There's nothing I'd rather do.
does a law reporter do?
There are many more controversial ones, like whether public school students can pray over loudspeakers before football games. In covering those cases, reporters don't simply wait for the court's opinions to be handed down. They also report the things that lead up to a decision, such as the hour-long argument before the nine justices when lawyers from both sides get to make their case.
Overall, the job of a Supreme Court journalist is much different than that of a reporter covering Congress or the White House. To report on the other two branches of government, for example, journalists try to get stories in advance by getting sources to leak them information. They also talk to aides, staffers or, sometimes, the leaders themselves for more details or explanation. But at the Supreme Court, the justices only explain themselves through their decisions. They don't like publicity, and they don't talk to reporters for stories. What's more, they don't allow cameras in the courtroom, so radio and television reporters have to describe what they see happen, instead of showing video clips of the action.
is it like to report on the highest court in the U.S. ?
The stakes often are incredibly high, because the court's ultimate decision could have a sweeping impact on American life. Reporting all of that can be exciting and stimulating and, I must say, a lot of fun. You're seeing it all first-hand, watching history being made, and, then, explaining what happened and why it's important.
That's pretty challenging, too, because the arguments and opinions are crammed full of complex legal terms, and it's my job to explain them and their importance to readers and viewers in language that non-lawyers can understand.
This site is funded in part by the Knight Family Foundation.
Copyright © MacNeil-Lehrer Productions All Rights Reserved