Nieman Foundation at Harvard
“Why not be all the way in?” How publishers are using Facebook Instant Articles
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
March 14, 2012, 2:13 p.m.

Top Mass. court: OpenCourt can keep its cameras rolling

With the ruling, the Knight News Challenge winner and judicial transparency project will be allowed to post video of public court proceedings online.

Just in time for Sunshine Week, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has ruled in favor of courtroom transparency project OpenCourt and its ability to record and stream online video of public court proceedings.

The decision means that OpenCourt can continue to do what it set out to do since its inception, despite the state’s attempts to stop it. Judges cited OpenCourt’s First Amendment rights to publish audio and video of court proceedings “by ‘streaming live’ over the Internet, publicly archiving on the Web site or otherwise.”

“This is obviously a good day for OpenCourt,” the project’s executive director, John Davidow, told me. (Full disclosure: Davidow was my news director when I worked at WBUR, the public radio station where OpenCourt is based.) “We felt that it was really an important right for us to fight for in the courts, because as the technology changes going forward, it doesn’t mean that the editorial processes or the rights of the First Amendment change.”

OpenCourt was launched with a Knight News Challenge grant in 2010, originally under the name Order in the Court 2.0. The project first turned on its cameras in a Boston-area courtroom in May 2011, but by July, the local district attorney’s office had filed a pair of motions aimed at shutting off the OpenCourt livestream and preventing it from publishing courtroom video to online archives.

According to OpenCourt’s timeline of the case, a judge denied the motion to take down the livestream — but she didn’t rule right away on the motion related to archival video. The state then renewed its motions against OpenCourt after a district attorney blurted out the name of an alleged victim, a minor, in a kidnapping case. At that time, the judge ruled to prevent OpenCourt from publishing the video of the blurt.

In response, WBUR’s lawyers sent a letter to the judge saying that his order violated OpenCourt’s First Amendment rights. OpenCourt said it would have redacted the name of the minor, following standard practice among news organizations.

Davidow says that the ruling means that decisions about what to cover will remain in the hands of the public, not the government. But he also says there’s more work to be done to modernize courts coverage, including propagating best practices and better educating the public.

“When there are less and less reporters out there to be the bridge to what’s going on in the nation’s courts, there needs to be a way for the public to be informed about how justice is administered in this country,” Davidow said.

Here’s the court’s ruling:

POSTED     March 14, 2012, 2:13 p.m.
Show comments  
Show tags
Join the 15,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
“Why not be all the way in?” How publishers are using Facebook Instant Articles
“If we end up making more money as a publisher, that’s fantastic. I don’t think that’s going to be an afterthought or byproduct; I think there is a way to win from the business perspective.”
How did the GE-branded podcast The Message hit No. 1 on iTunes? In part, by sounding nothing like an ad
“I don’t consider it advertising. It’s a podcast show that just happens to be produced by a brand instead of a network.”
America’s Test Kitchen, “the Consumer Reports of cooking,” wants to grow to new platforms
“We’d like to move to other platforms, particularly as we see the changes in how people consume television.”
What to read next
How one blog helped spark The New York Times’ digital evolution
“I certainly had editors tell me that I shouldn’t be wasting my time on Bird Week. But that was the best part of City Room…We were like unsupervised children.”
572News outlets left and right (and up, down, and center) are embracing virtual reality technology
Among those experimenting is The Wall Street Journal, which plans to open source its 360-degree mobile video and VR technology and hopes to turn VR into more of a mainstay of its storytelling.
502Podcasting in 2015 feels a lot like blogging circa 2004: exciting, evolving, and trouble for incumbents
The same trends we saw a decade ago — professionalization on one hand, platformization on the other — sure seem to be playing out again.
These stories are our most popular on Twitter over the past 30 days.
See all our most recent pieces ➚
Fuego is our heat-seeking Twitter bot, tracking the links the future-of-journalism crowd is talking about most on Twitter.
Here are a few of the top links Fuego’s currently watching.   Get the full Fuego ➚
Encyclo is our encyclopedia of the future of news, chronicling the key players in journalism’s evolution.
Here are a few of the entries you’ll find in Encyclo.   Get the full Encyclo ➚
Drudge Report
Dallas Morning News
Plaza Pública
The Boston Globe
Kaiser Health News
The New Republic
Foreign Policy