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Tweets from the courtroom

09/21/2010
By:

Ryan Morgan

General Assignment Reporter

Should reporters be tweeting live from inside a courtroom? This question has been raised throughout Connecticut over the past week as reporters continue to cover Steven Hayes’s trial in New Haven Superior Court. Frankly, I find it to be a misuse of the social media.

News organizations across the state have turned to what many are now calling “Twitter Journalism”: to give followers constant updates, at only 140 characters, of the live trial proceedings. I don’t believe these organizations should be tweeting from the courtroom because of the sensationalism it invokes in our society.

Steven Hayes has been charged with the murder of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her two daughters in a 2007
Cheshire home invasion. Throughout the trial, Dr. William Petit has sat through various testimonies, and sobbed last Wednesday as jurors were shown the gruesome photos from the scene. Local reporters didn’t miss a beat describing the photos in details, even the condition the daughters bodies were found in. Should the horrific scene be sensationalized in the media? Is this the disrespect the innocent victims are now given?

Dr. Petit, now 53 years old, has been put through hell in the last three years. First he lost his entire family, and now he is forced to relive those horrific moments in the courtroom. I’d hate to see the tweets of reporters set off a new hysteria in the state that could lead to a mistrial. Do we really want Doctor Petit to be put through all of this again in addition to the trial of Joshua Komisarjevksy, also charged with the murders?

Besides the fact that the sound of typing on a cell phone key board can be extraordinarily distracting, many reporters don’t even appear to be looking at their phone as they are tweeting. Tweets are being sent, apparently under the table, with misspellings or wrong words that make no sense. Reporters are trying to get the story out so quick through Twitter that they aren’t doing quality reporting. They should wait until court breaks to update their personal followers on Twitter.

I have always been interested in the news. Personally, I love getting breaking news tweets directly to my phone. Through Twitter, I’m instantly connected to society and that is a great thing. However, when major news organizations are clogging up my home page with tweet after tweet about the case with an occasional tweet about anything else, it becomes extremely hard to focus on anything at all. While I could easily unfollow the organization, how would I then know what is going on in the state? Personally, I have trouble sleeping at night thinking about the tweets, so imagine what this may do to those jurors or people scheduled to testify who are to be secluded.

More reporters should follow in the steps of WFSB and create a separate account for live tweeting, if the Connecticut courts are going to continue to allow tweeting from the courtroom. Sharing the horrific details with the public minute by minute will only lead to problems in the court system and cause Dr. Petit more pain he should have never had to endure.

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