HOME
          
LATEST STORY
A conversation with David Rose, little magazine veteran and publisher of Lapham’s Quarterly
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.
SHARE THIS STORY
   
Show comments  
Show tags
 
Join the 15,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
A conversation with David Rose, little magazine veteran and publisher of Lapham’s Quarterly
“I hear the argument, Oh, these poor little magazines with their tiny readerships, if only people appreciated them more. It’s partly true. But the bigger side of that is, well, if only you knew how to read a budget. If only you actually knew anything about publishing.”
The New Inquiry: Not another New York literary magazine
For New Inquiry publisher Rachel Rosenfelt, building cultural significance was easy — building a sustainable business is the hard part.
iOS 8: How 5 news orgs have updated their apps for Apple’s new operating system
ABC, the AP, Breaking News, The Guardian, and The New York Times have all updated apps (or introduced new ones) to take advantage of new features on iOS 8.
What to read next
727
tweets
When it comes to chasing clicks, journalists say one thing but feel pressure to do another
Newsroom ethnographer Angèle Christin studied digital publications in France and the U.S. in order to compare how performance metrics influence culture.
714Wearables could make the “glance” a new subatomic unit of news
“The audience wants to go faster. This can’t be solved with responsive design; it demands an original approach, certainly at the start.”
582Ken Doctor: Guardian Space & Guardian Membership, playing the physical/digital continuum
The Guardian is making its biggest bet on memberships and events by renovating a 30,000 square foot space to host live activities in the heart of London.
These stories are our most popular on Twitter over the past 30 days.
See all our most recent pieces ➚
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 ➚
Windy Citizen
The New Republic
New England Center for Investigative Reporting
Connecticut Mirror
MSNBC
Salon
San Diego News Network
The Tyee
Newsweek
Animal Político
Corporation for Public Broadcasting
AOL