Monday, April 24, 2017

Casey Grove Shares His Experiences Covering Courts With Other Journalists Saturday

I think these are my last notes from the Alaska Press Club Conference.  I didn't submit anything to the contest this year.  I was too busy with my granddaughter at the time of the deadline.  So I didn't go to the awards dinner.  I was ready to snooze.  This was the last panel I went to.

Casey Grove, a reporter for Alaska Public Media, talked on "Survival skills for reporting on

He had a set of points he wanted to get through.  I don't think he got to them all because people had lots of questions.  

1.  You’re dealing with human beings - real people - turns people’s drama into abstract ideas that don’t really tell you what’s going on in people’s lives, easy to get jaded and think of them as characters, not real people.  Seeing them on the worst day of their lives and you are sharing their stories to the world.

2.  Be aware of what’s going on around you. Know what’s happening in the community.  Know the context of the story, boil it down to key issues.  In breaking news world, you’ll have a working knowledge of what the trial is all about.  

3.  Types of Court.  State and Federal.  Also civil courts and criminal courts.  State Superior Court is the sweet spot for most reporters - serious crimes.  Different systems to negotiate.  Can look at transcripts of Grand Jury later.
Charging doc police lay out all the things. 
Go to court house more often than covering from afar.  

4.  Court Documents.  File charges - Charging document.  Grand Jury indictment can’t be there as a reporter.  Prosecutor lays out the case and GJ say, ok.  Arraignment - initial appearance on charges.
Charges are just the police version of the story, reporter needs to check on things.

5.  Know the lingo and have a working knowledge of the law.   difference between homicide and murder, 1st and 2nd degree.  Gunshops have a little booklet.  
State laws, data bases.    Talk to the lawyers.  Reporters don’t want to look dumb.  Attorneys love to talk about this stuff.  

6.  Talk to lawyers off the record - Cox Directory of attorneys, phone numbers of every judge and lawyer.  Super helpful.  about $40. On background.  means you can paraphrase.  But definitions vary.    Story of police having a body but not telling the family.

7.  Check Court Calendar - search data base  and calendar.,  court calendar.  Search by judge.  Brings up documents by judge that day.  Jury trial, change of pleading, sentencing.  Fewer jury trials.  Doesn’t even say what the charges are.  Take case number and search it.  Easy way to get indication - case numbers
3AN (3rd district)   case from 2016 probably not a murder case.  Murders take longer.  More lawyers for big cases.  Sentencing also compelling.  Victims impact statements - 
alaskacourtsystem charges filed last seven days - online  New charges filed.
If there’s a long list of charges, you know it’s big. 

8.  Talk to the lawyers about procedures - Go to the opening statements where they will lay out the case.  Meat of the trial.  Closing arguments.

Other points:

Application for court approval of media coverage, if just a reporter, you don’t need one.  Need it to have equipment to record audio or video take pictures.    Clerk’s office.  Court Website.  When you speak to the clerk, be sure to address them properly:“Madam Clerk”  or “Master Clerk”.  

Be on time, know where to park.  eat something beforehand. Don’t become the center of attention.  

My first real public blogging - I'd blogged a while, but not on public events - was reporting the three Alaska public corruption trials back in 2007.  So much of what he said about learning on the fly I could relate to well.  I really wasn't intending to blog when I went to the court room the first day, but by the end of the day it seemed like something I should do.  But I only had experience with the Federal court.  I did go to the Alaska Supreme Court while I was blogging the Redistricting Board, and I didn't know then that I was supposed to get permission beforehand to use my camera.  But they were pretty flexible.  I was a good talk and everyone seemed to be engaged.  

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