Nieman Foundation at Harvard
HOME
          
LATEST STORY
The Wall Street Journal website — paywalled from the very beginning — turns 20 years old today
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.
The Wall Street Journal website — paywalled from the very beginning — turns 20 years old today
“From the very beginning it was very clear we needed to cover all the same concerns and sensibilities of the print Journal even though we were online and even though we were a young staff.”
Newsonomics: In the platform wars, how well are you armed?
“Think about platforms as fishing places where you can find large, engaged audiences and build a relationship with them by providing content. Then offer these users some other services off-platform.”
Wired’s making the long and slow switch to HTTPS and it wants to help other news sites do the same
With its HTTPS implementation, Wired’s starting with its security vertical and for users who pay for the ad-free version of the site.
What to read next
0
tweets
In the room where it happens: The host of NPR’s new show Embedded talks about news in podcast form
Kelly McEvers: “A lot of the great storytelling podcasts happen in the studio. I hope ours opens the door to people thinking more about what you can do in the field, when things don’t go as planned and are unexpected.”
0What a group of USC students learned shooting lots of VR video (hint: duct tape is involved)
The students traveled to Houston over spring break to shoot footage to accompany a ProPublica/Texas Tribune project on what a hurricane could do to the city.
0Audible, long known only for audiobooks, is branching out into podcasts — and news
The podcast/audio world has been waiting for Audible to make its big move into the space. It’s here, including original content from major publishers like The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Jeff Bezos’ Washington Post.
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 ➚
PubliCola
The Bay Citizen
Quartz
Chicago Tribune
Newsday
ABC News
Kaiser Health News
SeeClickFix
Topix
Voice Media Group
Sacramento Press
Wikipedia