WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Covering the Courts with the Tools of the Trade

Mar 2, 2016

Radio and television coverage of courtrooms will continue in Illinois.  Illinois Public Radio's Brian Mackey reported that the state Supreme Court is satisfied with a four-year test of electronic media coverage of the state's trial courts.

Mackey wrote that cameras and microphones are allowed in 15 of the state’s 24 jurisdictions, and Chief Justice Rita Garman said she expects it will eventually grow statewide.

Shop Talk panelist Rich Egger is surprised it took this long to declare the test a success, given that every other state already allows cameras and microphones in trial courts. He’s glad 21st Century journalists will be allowed to use 20th Century technology in their courts coverage.    

Egger also said he hopes journalists don’t report only on sensational cases but use the technology to follow trials of importance to the communities they cover.

Panelist Jasmine Crighton called it an issue of transparency and applauded the high court’s decision.  She remembers watching the O.J. Simpson trial in the mid-1990s and said that was the beginning of her interest in journalism.

Crighton said naysayers often point to that trial as a reason why cameras and microphones should not be allowed in courtrooms.  Critics contend the trial turned into a circus.  But Egger said there were no cameras or microphones for the Chicago 8 trial of anti-war protestors and that too became a circus.

Panelist Jonathan Ahl said that 15 years ago he opposed the use of cameras and microphones in courtrooms.  He felt reporters had not earned the privilege.  But he’s now happy reporters can use the tools of their trade when covering trials.

Ahl hoped reporters are responsible when using the technology to cover the courts.  And the Illinois News Broadcasters Association has said it will work to provide training (full disclosure:  Egger, Crighton, and Ahl are each members of the INBA).