We know nothing. Nothing!

It’s so tempting to predict what the United States Supreme Court is going to rule on the Affordable Care Act. Today is Tuesday, June 26, and most knowledgeable sources guess that the Supreme Court will rule by Thursday because it closes its session on Friday. And in the World Headquarters of the Reno News & Review, we’re journalists, you know. We can’t help ourselves but to use the knowledge we have garnered from past but similar incidents to predict the future. Hell, we’ve done it more times than we can count.

For example, it’s tempting to think that the Court’s divided ruling on Arizona’s crazy immigration law gives us some semblance of foresight. Maybe, since the Court was willing to keep part of the law while declaring the rest unconstitutional, it suggests that the Court will keep part of Obamacare. Wouldn’t be prudent for us to declare it, though. Some of the most predicted outcomes—the individual mandate to own insurance will be found unconstitutional, for example—seem to have possible nuanced treatments at the hand of the Court. After all, it’s the most pro-business (insurance companies) section of the whole law.

This desire to prognosticate is a failing of journalism. It’s easy to understand. Fortunately, it is also easy to spot.

Take this health-care thing. Only a handful of people in this country know today which way it is going to go: The justices and their clerks. They probably made their decision within weeks of the law’s day in court, but then the opinions, both affirming and dissenting, had to be written. The U.S. Supreme Court historically has been extraordinarily good at keeping its decisions quiet until rendered. We said probably here because in some cases of great moment, such as Roe v. Wade, the court decided not to decide and had the case re-argued the next year. So that’s another option.

According to Kaiser Health News, most of the lower-court rulings upheld the health care program. There’s another straw in the wind.

Anyway, everybody’s talking about it. Politicians, from the president on down, are discussing it. You’ve probably talked about it with your neighbor or your spouse or your parent. In fact, you’ve probably taken note of the fact that you may be negatively impacted by the decision no matter what it is—for example, you or your parent may have a pre-existing condition that insurance companies may not have to cover if that part of the law is stricken down.

But it’s the fact that everyone is talking about it that makes news organizations want to be part of the dialog. It makes us appear relevant to the conversation. So readers end up with politicians making their unfounded and conflicted assertions on the front pages of newspapers across the country. For example, Nevada’s lead counsel in its lawsuit against the law, Mark Hutchinson, a GOP candidate for state Senate, got to trumpet his conflicted expectations of the court’s decision on the front page of today’s Reno Gazette-Journal. But he doesn’t know jack shit about what the Supreme Court will do. Honestly. And even if by some circumstance his opinion is correct—and it very well may be—it’s only because he had a lucky guess.

Whenever newspapers predict the future, they’re succumbing to the desire to want to be part of the discussion, to take a lead role in the dialog. The problem is, they’re often wrong, which results in a misinformed public. And when “it’s in the newspaper so it must be true” gets trumped by “it happened so it’s true,” readers get angry and begin to doubt the credibility of newspapers.