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The Supreme Court 'running of the interns' comes to the finish line

If knowledge is power in Washington, then some of the most powerful people, for a moment every year, were once the sweaty young interns who knew before the rest of the world whether same-sex marriage was legal or the fate of health care as they literally raced to deliver paper copies of Supreme Court decisions to TV correspondents waiting in the summer heat.

Their only weakness was the risk of face-planting on national television in front of all their bosses and colleagues.

The so-called “running of the interns” was the fastest way for the world to find out about a Supreme Court ruling in the paper era. And the faster they ran, the faster the news got out.

But now that the high court is finally entering the internet era, decisions are posted online immediately. So the interns have stopped running and the high-stakes annual nerd race is going the way of the once-ubiquitous pay phones inside the nearby Capitol, where reporters would race to dictate news to their home offices before competitors.

“Do I lament the fact that Supreme Court decisions are more widely available and transparent? Of course not,” said Pete Williams, who retired in 2022 after decades covering the court for NBC News. “Undeniably though, it drains a little bit of the drama, when you are standing outside the court and America is hanging on your every word. Those days are kind of gone.”

During the pandemic, the court stopped meeting in person and decisions were posted exclusively online as the justices spoke on a conference call. Today, the paper hard copies are back in the building, but there’s no real need for the intern track-and-field program since decisions are posted online immediately (though a few still run to provide copies for the correspondents

Read more on nbcnews.com