Soundbites: A Bogus Argument Against Cameras

I seldom “comment” on media offerings I see on the Internet, but made an exception with “The Brian Lehrer Show’s “Why Are There Cameras in the Courtroom Anyhow?” The lead in goes:

Nancy S. Marder, Professor of Law and Director of the Jury Center at IIT Chicago Kent College of Law, discusses the live broadcast of the Zimmerman trial, the lack of cameras in the Supreme Court, and whether televised proceedings are good for the justice system.

After listening to Lehrer’s interview of courtroom camera-opponent Marder — it was short — I posted this comment:

Why are there cameras in courtrooms anyway? For the same reason there are cameras in other branches of government proceedings. They are public — or are supposed to be public. Why should a member of the public be able to sit in the courtroom and watch, but not be able to sit in their living rooms or at their computers and watch? My quibble is with the way some camera operators and/or editors try to hype or heighten drama with creative zooming and/or editing. All courtrooms should be equipped with wall-mounted cameras — some are so small they are hardly noticed — that the news media can access for their reporting purposes. That is what I recommend in “Anatomy of a Trial” and my talks to judicial, legal and media groups. As for Scalia, his arguments are specious. Who is he to say what people would find boring. A diversity of people watch trials. Just think what a teaching tool footage of the SCOTUS would be for law and journalism students, for tax lawyers, etc. And the print media do and have always done what Scalia criticizes the visual media of doing — lift short excerpts and quotes for their reports. When has Scalia ever seen the entire transcript of a proceeding printed in a news story? News stories — some just a few inches long — are always recaps of what happens in court.

Chapter 7 “Getting the Picture” of Anatomy of a Trial includes my static-camera-in-every-courtroom recommendation and the benefits of courtroom camera coverage.

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