How one man’s rumor became everyone’s news story


Let’s get this out of the way right from the get-go: There is no legitimate indication that Minnesota DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar is on a short list of possible Supreme Court nominees to replace Justice John Paul Stevens if he retires. None.

So why are so many political reporters making a story out of it, suggesting that she is? Because so many political reporters are making a story out of it, suggesting that she is.

The “Klobuchar to the Supreme Court” story is a perfect example of creating a story where none exists, merely by repeating what reporters and bloggers are writing. In the new media world, it’s also an example of the role blogs play in amplifying a non-story to story status.

How did this start? It is almost entirely the work of Tom Goldstein, who writes the SCOTUSblog, and was the first to mention that Amy Klobuchar was not on the conjecture lists of other bloggers and writers: 

The most serious remaining candidate to General Kagan might actually be someone who has not really been discussed in the published so-called “short lists”: Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.

Goldstein, basically, made it up by noting that nobody had mentioned Klobuchar and Supreme Court in the same sentence. But someone actually had — Goldstein. He did it for the first time in May 2009, when he was speculating about replacements for Justice David Souter.

Goldstein provided no attribution to indicate his suggestion had been informed by anybody else in a position to know. What he wrote in February 2010 was not anything new, and not anything sourced, but it was enough to set the “did you hear?” machine in motion. MinnPost’s Eric Black was first to repeat Goldman’s “list.”

In mid-March, an AOL blogger created a list of replacements, citing only “speculation” on Klobuchar (and others), but not mentioning that the speculation came from one blogger.

On Friday April 2, Huffington Post repeated that Klobuchar’s name “has been mentioned,” also without indicating that it was only Goldstein and other bloggers mentioning it.

Two days later, Face the Nation’s Bob Schieffer faciliated the rumor crossing into the “mainstream media”, when he repeated it on his Sunday show, only to be shot down by his guest.

But it was too late. By Monday, MPR (Klobuchar for Supreme Court?), City Pages (“Amy Klobuchar for U.S. Supreme Court? “), Minnesota Independent (“Klobuchar for Supreme Court?“), and the Star Tribune (“SCOTUS speculation touches on Klobuchar“) all had stories that referenced Goldstein’s remark, but none noted that his original remark noted that Klobuchar wasn’t on anybody’s list.

On Monday, Slate Magazine repeated Goldstein’s rumor, then indicated that Klobuchar was not on a list of possible nominees circulated by Bloomberg.

By then, Klobuchar was saying she’s not interested in the job.

As if there’s any real indication she’s in a position to be asked.