No live tweeting or blogging from Jerry Sandusky preliminary hearing

A Pennsylvania judge has set out the rules for covering Jerry Sandusky’s preliminary hearing next week. Half of the 200 or so seats in the courtroom will be reserved for media, plus another 100 in a satellite courtroom with closed-circuit video. (The court is working with state press associations to credential reporters in advance for the two rooms.) Several news outlets have reserved seats: two for the Associated Press and one seat each for the Daily Collegian, Centre Daily Times, Harrisburg Patriot-News, WJAC-TV, WTAJ-TV, and WQWK radio. The judge has decided that the general media seating will be allocated 45 percent for print, 45 percent for broadcast and 10 percent for online. The order doesn’t specifically address live tweeting and blogging, but the rules make such coverage impossible:

  • Reporters can use laptops “but solely for the purpose of note taking.”
  • No photography, or video or audio recording, in the courthouse.
  • Once inside the courtroom or satellite courtroom, phones must be turned off, “not merely set to vibrate mode,” and out of sight at all times. No one can use a phone to access the Internet or transmit or record anything from inside the courtroom or the courthouse in general (aside from a special “media room”).
  • With the exception of recesses, if a reporter leaves during the morning session, he won’t be allowed back in until the afternoon session. The same goes for the afternoon session.
  • Reporters can’t transmit stories, pictures or video from anywhere in the courthouse except the “media room.”
  • News outlets can credential two people to allow them to switch out during the hearing, but unless they have reserved seats, they only get one spot in the courtroom.
  • No interviews will be allowed on the courthouse steps; a separate area will be set up for interviews.

The Patriot-News’ Sara Ganim writes that although media have protected the identity of accusers, “there is no law to keep members of the public who are allowed in the courtroom from revealing the identity of the witnesses.” One of the accuser’s lawyers said there would be safeguards to prevent them from being photographed going to and from the courthouse.

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  • Anonymous

    Why is there such an irrational fear of highly accurate means of taking notes? I’ve heard of one instance where even notebooks and pencils were banned from a courtroom.