Editor column: Utah's newsrooms work together with new court camera rules
Salt Lake City is a competitive news market, what with two daily newspapers, four television newsrooms and the six news websites produced by the papers and TV stations, not to mention news radio and the alternative press.
The beneficiary is you, the news consumer. Competition is good as reporters are pushed by editors to break news, to be first with important details without sacrificing accuracy and to become experts in their coverage areas so they can write and report with authority.
There are times, however, when Utah news agencies are best to cool their competitive instincts and play together. Sometimes we need to share.
That became apparent again last week when a historic change came to Utah's state court system. For the first time ever, video cameras are now allowed in courtrooms, along with radio recorders, cellphones, laptops and tablets.
It is a welcome step in citizen accessibility to our judicial process. But it also brings logistical headaches and a need for cooperation among court personnel and the news media, and more importantly among the different newsrooms throughout the state.
Now, stations will have video from court to air on their newscasts, and all news organizations will have it for their websites. At The Tribune, we're eager to present video from court on sltrib.com. It will be an important addition to our coverage and give our audience an enhanced view of what happens in court.
But it also makes us reliant on our competitors namely Salt Lake City's TV newsrooms.
The new rule calls for "pool" coverage. In other words, a single video photographer will be allowed in the courtroom to document the proceedings. That journalist's newsroom then will be responsible for distributing the footage to any other news organization that wants it.
This collaboration goes against the grain for most of us in this business. We get video footage, a photograph, an interview, access to a document it's ours and we don't want to share. We are in the information business, and information is valuable.
But in this case, it's the right thing to do. It is the only efficient way to gain access, and then to distribute important information to as many Utahns as possible. Collaboration is key. Besides, the court, in its wisdom, says we must.
We've done this for years with still photographs. The Tribune, and other newspapers throughout Utah Provo's Daily Herald, Ogden's Standard-Examiner, the Deseret News, St. George's Spectrum and Logan's Herald Journal have provided images from court to the other newspapers and the television stations. With the new rule, that will continue.
But now there will be video footage, and, with a few exceptions, the television stations will be the ones taking turns providing pool coverage.
This brave new world brings with it technological hurdles. The stations KUTV, KSL, KSTU and KTVX work with broadcast-quality videotape, which is useless in an online/print newsroom. So the television stations will deliver to us, in a reasonable amount of time, a compressed video file we can use on our websites.
Tribune Director of Photography Jeremy Harmon knows a thing or two about pool coverage of events. In recent years, he, more than any other journalist in Utah, has distributed pool photography for court cases. Last week he gathered all the players from television and print in a room and figured out a process where we all will get the video we need for online and broadcast.
The players all acknowledge there will be bumps along the way. Unanticipated situations will come up. And all agreed to talk some more and figure it out when they do.
The courts have opened up and provided the public a new access point to how the system works. Now it is up to the state's journalists to work together so as many Utahns as possible get a good look inside the courtroom. So far, it seems like we are off on the right foot.
Terry Orme is a managing editor at The Tribune. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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