Tuesday, November 30, 2010

In Massachusetts, a significant tweak on 'journalist'

Was reading this story in Boston.com about how the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, responding to the reality of modern technology and journalism, has proposed expanding cameras in the courtroom to include a third one for Web journalists (in addition to one for TV and one for newspapers).

Now, one could also question who isn't a "Web journalist" these days, but we'll leave that for another day because I think the more significant thing is the revised definition of journalist the court is proposing:

“[T]he news media would be defined as those who are regularly engaged in the reporting and publishing of news or information about matters of public interest.’’

Others may disagree, but that seems to me to be a significant departure from other definitions that tend to be media- and business-centric. (For example, see RTDNA's 50-state guide to cameras in the courtroom.)

"Regularly engaged" is a broad term that can be defined in many ways, as is "matters of public interest." True, such imprecision also can cause legal heartburn as the system works out those definitions. But what it also means is that they are flexible and give more running room in the future.

It will be interesting to see how many others cite the Mass. SJC rules going forward to try to open up not only the courts but other bodies.


I've said before that the courts tend to be a decade behind technology. I think one of the big stories for the 20-teens is going to be some dramatic shifting in legal policy in view of the new digital realities.

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