FYI, LOL, or OMG? – Technology’s impact on the courts and media

Video trials, bloggers’ slant on the news, licensing of journalists and when is a public document too public are just some of the topics hashed over this week in Reno by judges, court officials, lawyers and the media.

My next column will highlight the discussion about bloggers and their credibility. I came away from the sessions with a clearer appreciation of the work done by bloggers with a real expertise in an area and those who might best be classified as the nut cases. There are plenty of both, as the barriers for getting your opinion into the public discourse that is the Internet are extremely low. All one needs is a free account on a blogging site (Blogger is the one I have used) and you’re ready to spew.

The site has a detailed index of more than 700 blogs in the law and courts area, and many are great examples of blogging done not only right, but in some cases better than the professionals assigned to cover these areas. How many journalists can say they specialize in the area of Cruise Ship Law? Well, there’s an attorney out there blogging about it.

Judge Susan Criss of the 212th District Court of Galveston County, Texas, has been blogging about what happens behind the scenes of her court almost since she was elected to her position. Her blog, As the Island Floats, includes stories about living on Galveston Island and working in the courts. Criss said she, and many others in the Texas political world, begin their day by reading the Burnt Orange Report blog.

Michael Sommermeyer, Court Information Officer for the Clark County Eighth Judicial District Court and the Las Vegas Township Justice Court, maintains the LVCourtsBlog. He posts information about court dockets, rulings and trial outcomes and much, much more.

I know that other topics have loyal bloggers sharing news, information and commentary with the rest of the blogosphere. Pick a subject, do a Google search for blogs in that topic, and you’re off. I believe the majority of Internet users are smart enough to understand that information in blogs must be looked at initially with a huge grain of salt.

Bloggers generally work alone, are not under the supervision of editors and probably have an intense passion for the topic. Some blogs, like the ones on this and other newspaper Web sites, fall under the editing and vetting process the rest of the content here does. The association with the brand, and the understanding that the blogger is a staffer of the publication, lends a chunk of real credibility that many bloggers don’t enjoy. They must earn their wings of credibility.

Thankfully, some bloggers go out of their way to do this.

Technology journalist Mitch Ratcliffe summed it up nicely: "Bad journalists try to make themselves famous. Good journalists try to tell a story."


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