What court journalists shouldn’t put on Twitter

Posted on April 12, 2012


“I don’t know that I would have the discipline to be a good journalist, but I was always attracted to it because it seemed like a channel to the truth.”  — Robert Redford

Today is my 7 month anniversary at The Marion Star. In that time, I’ve gotten used to writing articles every day and doing records like police beat, I’ve also had to learn to use Twitter and Facebook in my every day activities, and I’m starting to learn the ins and outs of photos and video.

That’s something I still love about my job. I write every day, but it’s not the same thing every day. It is always changing. I’m always learning something. It doesn’t allow me to become to comfortable or get bored.

Now, back to Twitter. Yesterday, a story was released by the Associated Press out of Topeka, Kansas. A courtroom journalist took a picture with their phone and put the picture on Twitter. Cameras were allowed in the courtroom, so no problem, right? Wrong. The picture made jurors visible and resulted in a mistrial for a murder case.

I know that these days with the internet, bloggers, 24 hour TV news, etc that there is pressure for newspaper reporters to get the story as soon as possible and post it online. However, I think that journalists need to be able to keep their wits about them as well. If journalists are going to be taking pictures in courtrooms, then they need to make themselves aware of the same rules the trained photographers already know.

I’ve never had to take pictures in a courtroom. I’m sure eventually, the subject will come up. This is a lesson that all journalists can learn from. We all need to take a breath and make sure that what we’re putting up is truthful, legal and ethical.