In the last few weeks Order in the Court 2.0 has made enormous strides in moving forward with our project. Most importantly we’ve brought on board two very talented individuals who are responsible for the day-to-day operation of this project. Below is the note that I put out to the staff of WBUR, which is the home-base of this Knight News Challenge initiative.

New Staff

Joe Spurr and Val Wang are joining WBUR to work on our new online initiative, Order in the Court 2.0. Order in the Court 2.0 is a Knight News Challenge funded initiative that will explore the impact of digital technology on our nation’s courts using Quincy District Court as a pilot courtroom.

Joe is the project’s director and will be responsible for the design and development of the Order in the Court 2.0 website. He will also lead the development of the project’s live-streaming capacity and work with the state court’s chief technology office to build a system that serves the public, but also guarantees the rights of individuals who go before the court.

Joe joins us from KPBS where he was the station’s lead web developer for the recently redesigned KPBS.org website. Prior to that he was the site’s content producer where he pioneered the adoption of using Twitter and Google Maps in breaking news situations during the 2007 California wildfires. Joe is a Boston native, a graduate of Northeastern University and a former freelance reporter at the Boston Globe.

Val Wang is Order in the Court 2.0’s producer and will oversee the production of the daily stream of written and video content originating out of Quincy District Court. She will also lead the project’s social media outreach and be responsible for engaging the public with this initiative. Many of you may have already met Val while she has been here freelance producing for Here and Now and On Point. Val is an experienced multimedia producer who has worked for Reuters Television and NBC News. Most recently she was the multimedia producer for the UNICEF website where she won a prestigious Webby award for her work. Val has a master’s degree in non-fiction writing from Johns Hopkins University and earned her undergraduate degree at Williams College.

Joe and Val will spend the next couple of months working at the station as the project takes shape. Starting early next year the project will be based out of Quincy District Court.

Their Roles

I also asked Joe and Val to describe a bit of how they see their respective roles in making this a successful project.

Here’s Joe’s:

As director of Order in the Court 2.0, much of my energy at the outset will focus on technology, so the stage can be set when we’ve got enough agreed-upon policy in place to make some baby steps in public. For now this means collaborating to wire-up the courtroom in Quincy to support a quality video stream, and helping design a site and set up its back-end in a way that best serves our anticipated primary content. With so many moving pieces ahead of us, we’re whiteboarding a lot and keeping in touch as best we can with court officials and lawyers who have a vested interest in our success.

Once we’re up and running, I imagine I’ll be spending more time helping produce content, and hopefully vetting ideas to expand upon the site’s basic public service as a window into the local justice system. My greater hope is that we pave the way a bit and create a blueprint of sorts for how to modernize a courtroom for public good: technology-wise and policy-wise. In tandem with that, to help us understand what’s happening beyond the day-to-day, I think there’s enormous potential value in mindfully archiving court proceedings and creating usable web applications to illuminate that data.

It’s a fascinating time and I’m thrilled to be a part of an honest effort to help democracy evolve.

And here’s Val’s:

As the producer of Order in the Court 2.0, I’ll be in Quincy District Court every day experimenting with how the latest technologies can be used to cover cases — I’ll be blogging and micro-blogging about cases, and video-streaming court proceedings, for starters. I’m excited to get a front row seat to the workings of the U.S. judicial system and to use these technologies to recreate the experience for the public. I like thinking about our project like a laboratory and will remain open and curious about what works and doesn’t work about our coverage as we begin to craft guidelines that other courts can use in the future. This open-endedness is key to Order in the Court 2.0 and my hope is that the project will come alive with conversations among judges, lawyers on both sides, defendants, citizen journalists, local residents, and anyone interested in the workings of the U.S. legal system in the 21st century.

Right now we’re spending a lot of our time on project management, establishing goals for the project and setting up a BaseCamp to coordinate our efforts.

We’d love to get feedback from all of you. What would you like to see come out of this project and how could we help you better understand what is going in the courts in your community?