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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Judges wary of the 'unshaven blogger'

The Minnesota Supreme Court is currently considering whether to allow cameras in the courtroom, and some trial judges are concerned. Are they worried about Jimmy Olsen coming in and snapping a picture for the Daily Planet? Hardly. A Mike Wallace wannabe kicking in the courtroom door with TV lights blazing? Not even close. No, it's the pernicious blogger who has struck fear deep into the hearts of some of the state's judiciary.

One of the judges' concerns I have heard raised about cameras in the courtroom is the specter of the "unshaven blogger" coming in with cell phone camera at the ready. Apparently the judges are worried about being made to look sinister or downright ridiculous by a slip of the tongue or out-of-context snippet of dialogue winding up as a video posted on a blog or YouTube.

It is an interesting twist to an old conflict between the Fourth Estate and the third branch of government. It used to be the argument was that cameras in the courtroom were too intrusive. Now, with technology giving absolutely anybody the ability to take pictures and video unnoticed at the drop of a hat, the problem might be that they are not intrusive enough

Meanwhile, Court Communications Director John Kostouros last night at the New Media Ethics Forum in St. Paul that judges and court personnel are still trying to figure how to deal with online media access issues.

It's a whole new world.

Please note this is a corrected version. See comments for details.


Anonymous said...

If the public is ever to know the truth, it is through bloggers. Judges are ethically prohibited from criticizing other judges. Lawyers fear to do so. The MSM does have the guts or integrity to do so. Only the lowly blogger is willing to tell the emperor that he has no cloths. Power to the people!

Mark Cohen, editor said...

Blogs -- like media outlets -- are only as good as the people putting out the content and the content that they choose to put out. Some blogs are truly excellent; others are terrible. A good blog can indeed help provide badly needed transparency to government. But a bad blog provides only obfuscation.

Peter said...

OK. You know that this will get play in the blogosphere. Did this John Kostouros know how comments about pajamas, etc., get the MOB riled up?

JohnKostouros said...

I'm afraid you mixed me up with someone else on the "unshaven blogger" quote. I was talking about how court information people like me are trying to figure out how to deal with blogs as a public information source. Should we post when we see something inaccurate or misleading about the courts? Should bloggers be treated the same as news or broadcast reporters for things like reserved seats in a crowded courtroom? It's issue like these that concern us, not whether a blogger will criticize a judge.

Anonymous said...

I have seen some conduct that reveals some serious mental illness in some Judges. They should be scared about it, but the public shouldn't. It's good for democracy.

Mark Cohen, editor said...

John: I clarified the post to reflect the "unshaven" part came from elsewhere. John's comment at the forum (where he was an audience member, not a panelist, who chose to provide a comment) had to do with whether bloggers and other online media should be treated as journalists. John pointed out that so far his office has responded to inquiries from online sources the same as traditional sources, which, I think, is to their credit.

So there is no need for the unshaven bloggers to picket the Court Information Office yet. In any case, bloggers would picket virtually, so it would cause little disruption.

Mark Cohen, editor said...

Anonymous 12:00: There is nothing wrong with the public watching a court proceeding and reporting back on what they see. In fact, that's why these proceedings are public, not private.

Peter: Thanks for checking in! See comment to John for clarification.