As part of the Citizen Media Law Project’s legal guide series on documenting public proceedings and events, today we published a guide to Live-Blogging and Tweeting from Court.  Over the past year, we’ve published guides addressing how to stay out of legal trouble while documenting activities at polling places and covering the Presidential Inauguration, as well as a series of videos on newsgathering and privacy. Today’s installment in the series looks at the impact of new media on
one of our most tradition-bound institutions: the courts.

The question of who is a journalist – and by extension, what is
journalism — has come into sharp relief in the context of media
coverage of public events, including access to and reporting at
court proceedings, election events, conferences, sporting events, and
breaking news.  A critical issue for coverage of these public events
is, of course, access to the events in the first place.  But once you
are in, what tools can you use to supplement your reporting?

As we’ve noted on our blog many times,
the popularity of Twitter and live-blogging has introduced a new
dimension into a journalist’s coverage of court proceedings.  The use
of
these real-time communications technologies has been met with a mixture
of both acceptance and criticism from judges and lawyers.  While some
judges allow electronic devices in their courtrooms, many others
don’t.  In fact, some local rules prohibit the use of
electronic devices anywhere within the courthouse!

To help folks navigate these issues, we’ve written a guide chock full
of practical advice on how to
avoid legal trouble if you intend to provide live coverage from inside
a courthouse.  To supplement the guide, CMLP staff also conducted interviews with
journalists and bloggers with experience live-blogging or tweeting from
court and wrote up summaries detailing their successes and failures.  

You can find the new section on Live-Blogging and Tweeting from Court in our legal guide, along with general background on gaining access to courts and court records.