Court Journalists Using Social Media To Get Readers, Sources

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Journalists usually learn more about a story than they can possibly get published or on the air. For some who cover courts, social media is the solution. Speaking yesterday at the Society of Professional Journalists-Radio Television Digital News Association convention in New Orleans, Rebecca Baker of the Journal News in New York’s Lower Hudson Valley said her co-authored blog, Completely Legal, helps her expand her coverage and connect with sources. “It benefits readers with more information that they can't get in the paper,” said Baker. “It helps me develop stronger and better sources, and it enables me to give everyone a better sense of what it's like to cover courts.”

The Wichita Eagle's Ron Sylvester is a big proponent of new media technologies and was an early adopter of Twitter to cover trials. He's pushing the multimedia envelope with dozens of short videos on his blog, What the Judge Ate for Breakfast. “Common Law is a video series that shows what goes on in the courtroom every day,” Sylvester said. “It's a way of engaging sources and the audience.” Social media has allowed Rummana Hussian of the Chicago Sun-Times to connect to surprising new audiences, something she discovered when tweeting from a trial involving the Mumbai bombing. “In one day, I got more than 300 followers from Mumbai and Pakistan,” she said. John Ensslin of the Bergen, N.J., Record says reporters should not worry about the number of Twitter followers, Facebook friends, or blog hits. “The reason you do this is not to become the Huffington Post,” said Ensslin. “The reason is there will be a small community paying close attention to your work – they're called sources.”

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