Bloggers Could Get New Access To Mass. Courtrooms

The John Adams Courthouse on Beacon Hill (Emmanuel Huybrechts/Flickr)

The John Adams Courthouse on Beacon Hill (Emmanuel Huybrechts/Flickr)

Massachusetts courtrooms would open up to “citizen journalists and bloggers” under new rules proposed by a subcommittee of the Supreme Judicial Court.

“The proposed rule changes are designed to accommodate the changing nature of both journalists and the way news is reported while still maintaining order and decorum in the Massachusetts Courts,” reads an overview of the changes.

The proposed changes to Rule 1:19 include:

  • Allow laptops and other Internet-connected devices inside courtrooms
  • Redefine “news media” to include citizen journalists and bloggers
  • Add another video camera position for non-mainstream media

…all subject to a judge’s discretion, of course. The rules protect jurors and prospective jurors from photography or recording.

The committee is made up of members of the state and federal judiciary and journalists in print, radio, television and the Web. One member is WBUR’s John Davidow, the executive editor of wbur.org, who recently launched a Knight Foundation-funded project called Order in the Court 2.0. The aim of the project is to experiment with new media in Quincy district court.

Project director Joe Spurr and producer Val Wang have been hired to help build a model for other courtrooms that want to open up to new media.

“We’re attempting to create an ideal environment for the way a modern courthouse should behave,” Joe tells me.

“For instance we’re aiming to set up a video stream – high upstream, high-quality camera, and will have a site that’s usable where citizens can interact. It could be a hub for any citizen journalist.”

The proposed rules are open for public comment until Jan. 28, 2011. You can send comments to Christine Burak at christine.burak@sjc.state.ma.us.

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