The conservative onslaught against Sonia Sotomayor should begin any minute now, and will presumably focus on the things conservatives always focus on: abortion, gay rights, affirmative action. They'll call her a "judicial activist," which they will suggest is the worst thing a judge can possibly be - even though the phrase basically has no meaning, and to the extent it does, the most "activist" member of the high court is probably Clarence Thomas.
And the media will likely proceed as though the topics the conservatives are focusing on are the most important things to address in their coverage of Sotomayor's nomination. And, certainly, abortion, gay rights, affirmative action, and executive power are important subjects; the media should examine Sotomayor's record and philosophy in these areas.
But the Supreme Court deals with a lot of other issues, too - issues that tend to get comparatively little media attention during nomination fights. Economic and regulatory issues, for example, are extremely important at any time, but particularly in the midst of one of the worst economic environments in American history. The media should assess Sotomayor's record and philosophy as they pertain to a wide range of important issues, not merely the ones the conservatives think they can boost their direct-mail fundraising by yelling about.