After 30 years covering the U.S. Supreme Court for The New York Times, Pulitzer Prize-winner Linda Greenhouse will return to Yale Law School to become its journalist-in-residence and a senior fellow starting next January, the Law School announced Wednesday.
Greenhouse, who accepted a buyout from the Times last month, will return to the law school from which she earned a Master of Studies in Law degree in 1978 to conduct her own research and give lectures and seminars, although she will not teach a formal course until the fall of 2009. She will also participate in the Law School’s Supreme Court Clinic and will help pioneer its new Law and Media Program.
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That project, launched last year with a $2.5 million grant from the Knight Foundation, offers courses, writing workshops, speakers, conferences, events and career counseling for law students who are aspiring journalists and professional journalists interested in learning more about media law.
Greenhouse is a marquis catch for the program, for which Law School officials said they have big plans. The Law and Media program is part of Dean Harold Hongju Koh’s broader vision of bolstering the Law School’s relations within the legal world and across other professions.
“Linda Greenhouse is by acclamation a leading legal journalist,” Koh said. “To have the most respected legal journalist is a huge asset.”
In a phone interview with the News, Greenhouse said her decision to leave The Times a month ago was “economically a no-brainer” based on the package offered to someone of her age and seniority.
As a veteran of Supreme Court reporting, Greenhouse brought authority and perspective to her coverage, which colleagues, observers and legal academics said even seemed to influence the court itself, a phenomenon some referred to as the “Greenhouse Effect.”
She joined the Times after graduating from Harvard in 1968, covering state and local government. After the Times sponsored her Yale degree, she took to the Supreme Court beat and earned a Pulitzer in 1998. She has also won the Goldsmith Career Award for Excellence in Journalism from the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics, and Public Policy at Harvard and the John Chancellor Award for Excellence in Journalism from the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania.
Greenhouse was occasionally criticized for letting her personal political views show while she was a reporter. In 1989 she participated in an abortion rights rally, but later acknowledged that was a mistake.
When Koh read about her departure on a blog, he said he e-mailed her immediately to ask if it was true. When she told him it was, he called to make her an offer.
He was not the only one, Greenhouse said. But she chose Yale because of her “special feelings” for her alma mater and hometown university — she grew up in Hamden — and because Koh’s proposal was appealing professionally, she said.
“I couldn’t possibly have said no,” she said.
The exact details of that proposal are still evolving, and Greenhouse said she plans to use her first semester here to “get my feet wet in the Law School environment” while working on her own legal research and developing a course to start teaching in the fall.
Though the idea of a Yale residency is less than a month old, Greenhouse said she has been increasingly drawn to legal scholarship.
“I found myself working on it on nights and weekends, which objectively is a pretty silly thing to for a daily paper,” she said. “So the chance to do that in a supportive environment where I could do it for a living was a perfect opportunity.”
With the Law and Media program still so early in its development, Greenhouse’s presence will help establish it as a vanguard in legal scholarship focusing on the media — an area of law that sorely needs attention in a time of significant flux because of new technology, said the project’s co-director, law professor Robert Post.
Besides enriching Yale’s resources for future journalists and media lawyers, Greenhouse will be a boon to the Law School’s Supreme Court Clinic and any students interested in modern constitutional jurisprudence, Koh said.
“She can share her expertise on the Supreme Court and how American constitutional law is evolving,” he said. “She has a keen sense of what opinions mean and what they signal about the direction of the court.”
Robert Barnes, who covers the Supreme Court for The Washington Post, said Greenhouse’s departure marks an end of an era for the Times, but he said she would be a “great resource” at Yale for studying the Supreme Court or how law and journalism interact.
“She’s been such a great student of the court who’ll be able to teach others,” he said. “She knows because she’s covered it — she was there.”
Greenhouse, 61, won the Law School Alumni Association’s Award of Merit last year. She has covered the court since before any of the current justices, except John Paul Stevens, took the bench.