As the day arrived, and the time for the Supreme Court to rule on President Barack Obama’s signature legislation on health care law, news networks and websites went into a frenzy.
A ball-by-ball commentary followed sometimes even when there was nothing to report. But to not say anything was not an option — talking heads had to keep up the noise.
I was following it on CNN and Fox News on TV and SCOTUSblog on the web. Once the court went into session, the reporting became breathless.
But the justices first cleared some other cases, keeping up the suspense. And then Chief Justice John Roberts began reading the ruling — an opinion, technically.
Within seconds both CNN and Fox News were reporting the court had struck down the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, a possibility widely accepted around the country.
Republicans — legislators, activists and ideologically sympathetic reporters — burst into applause, accompanied by much jumping and hugging.
But something didn’t seem right. SCOTUSblog, a much respected resource on everything about the Supreme Court, which was blogging live went quiet.
“We are here, diving deep,” it resurfaced every now and then to remind readers, almost a million of them logged in and waiting. Why was it taking time?
The news networks had already declared victory for anti-Obamacare activists. TV pundits were off with their comments, quickly jumping to what it meant for Obama.
And then SCOTUSblog added to the storm with one line: Individual mandate, the central and the most contentious piece of the health care law, had been upheld by the court.
Now the networks figured they had in their hurry to be the first to give the world the news had made the most basic of journalistic mistakes.
And now began the torturous process of reeling back the coverage, which was just inelegant as the original sin, trying to pass off blame to colleagues while still on air.
Instead of reporting the story, they now wasted crucial time explaining why and how they slipped up — it took then a while to realize the futility of it.
By now, however, they had become a part of the story. Snide comments and reporters started popping up on news channels and news sites, which had been slow but correct.
“Guess who didn’t get it wrong,” said an MSNBC news anchor, clearly enjoying the discomfort in the newsrooms of the network’s two main rivals.
It’s not an experience anyone will get over fast.