Hi everyone, we'll be getting the chat started in about 15 mins. Hang on to your judicial robes!
Hi Jane, thanks for joining us today! I think we'll have to pretend what you look like since we can't get your avatar up but I suspect we'll have some fun all the same!
No worries, Jane! Your insight will be just as great without a photo. The other panelists will be joining us is just a few minutes.
Hello everyone and thanks Scribble for inviting me to participate today. Ready to chat when you are.
Hello everyone and welcome to the latest edition of Scribble Chats. Today we're going to be pulling off the white wig and looking at covering the courts in real-time
Very excited by our panel of experts today:
Jane, Charles and Lauren-- welcome!
Good morning. (Still morning in New Orleans.) Thanks for inviting me to participate today.
Thanks very much, Miles. Happy to be here.
I'd like to start off with a question for Lauren and Charles: can you both briefly describe your experience covering courts in real-time?
Sure - we have had one big live coverage experience with the trial of "Cannibal Cop" Gilberto Valle, which was a very high-profile case in New York. Apologies for the grisly lunchtime topic, but Valle - an officer with the NYPD - was accused of plotting to kill and eat more than 100 women. We had a reporter in the courtroom blogging and I moderated from the newsroom.
That's a great example of court coverage, Lauren-- I often use it
You've both covered very different types of cases-- hard news versus investigative-- but have used real-time coverage for them. What do you feel your coverage gains by adding in this real-time component?
(Jane, I have a question for you coming up in a minute-- hang tight!)
In big, complex cases like these, it helps our readers — in the same way it helps me as a reporter — to see how the process works rather than just read a summary with the best quotes.
So, by liveblogging the case, you're creating a usable archive?
I think this coverage added a whole new dimension for our readers. This case was very sensational, the complaint was full of excerpts of Valle's online chats relating to his alleged plot to target women. The blog brought our readers into the courtroom - a place they normally would not be able to access. For criminal justice junkies - it was a great play-by-play look into the way a trial unravels in real time.
Exactly. Obviously that exists in the court record as well, but this is more accessible and, we hope, more readable.
And for you Lauren, the benefit was transporting the reader into the courtroom
Miles - yes that happened too. The blog was also useful to our editors in the newsroom. Usually the reporters are in the courtroom and they file feeds or notes and call into the news room during recesses. Our readers were able to follow along in real time and our editors were able to get a sense of what the story was going to be at the end of the day by following along.
Jane, I'd like to ask you a question: as a legal expert, how do you see a journalist's role evolving now that they can coordinate with an editor and give these updates directly from inside the courtroom?
So a liveblog shouldn't just be a transcript of what happened, but should be going a step beyond and providing context.
Would love to add to Jane's comment about the color and the as-it-happens reporting ...bear with me while I type ...
I had advised our reporter to imagine that he was commentating on the case sort of like a sportscaster. To remember to give us color and details and to describe sound and emotion rather than to just recount the procedural stuff. And he did such a great job - we got descriptions of facial expressions and sounds in the courtroom. It was very sensory. And the truth is, we have probably all watched so many New York City based courts & cops TV shows at this point that my brain was filling in the gaps - but I felt that I could visualize the proceedings in a whole new way with this insider's reporting along with the evidence he sent along for us to include.
That's a great point. When I first started doing live court coverage, I was tempted to do a line by line transcription. But our goal here, at least in part, is to make this engaging, and not only in real-time. A lot of our readers don't see these things until after they're finished. Ideally, we want them to be as easy to read as a regular story. And we want to have links back to earlier coverage and court documents to provide that context.
The thing I didn't expect, that was great, was that during the slow moments and the recesses, our reporter Robert Gearty, who has covered New York courts for years, started to fill in history and background on his own. He would say things like, "And when a recess occurs at this stage, it usually means the judge is considering ... XYZ." He was able to add context about the workings in a way that I hadn't realized would be fascinating. But it was.
This leads really well into a question from a reader that I think you could all address:
Yes, I think what Charles is saying is right on - it's about making these complicated stories more accessible to our readers.
Thanks for your question Iris, I am going to tackle the engagement part of this question first....