Tag Archives: TMZ

How Lucrative is This? TMZ Will Never Tell

So just now this shows up in the news?

Knife found BURIED on OJ Simpson estate sparks top secret investigation

Oh, “according to TMZ.”

So this knife has been around for years, but …

“According to TMZ the knife was actually handed in years ago but the officer it was given to was not on duty at the time – he was on the street in Brentwood doing security for a movie shoot.

“Despite taking the weapon off the construction worker the officer kept it for years without telling anyone.”

The officer kept it for years without telling anyone? Until the case is back in the news thanks to the drama in progress on FX, when this police officer decided he might get big bucks from TMZ, which, yes, does pay and sometimes pays big for tips that generate sensational headlines.

Sensationalized stories still make for great ratings, just like they did 21 years ago during the real “People of the State of California vs. Orenthal James Simpson.

Deja Vu Times Two as TMZ Revisits OJS Jury Visit

TMZ’s inclusion of jury visit video in a 1995 OJ Simpson criminal trial drama promo the other day was a double deja vu for me. In the midst of my gym workout, I saw images of the long entourage of the bus carrying jurors and cars with judge, various and sundry court staff and support, lawyers and their support staff, and van flicker across the screen of a TV monitor hanging from the ceiling. Oh, I thought, there I go!

I was riding in the van with members of the media, given that they were part of my job duties with the court. Watching that footage truly was a deja vu moment for me.

So was watching TMZ’s Harvey Levin talking about the jury visit and the trial. He was a reporter with Los Angeles the CBS affiliate during the OJ Simpson trial era and, as such, he and I had a good deal of interaction.

It was kind of fun to watch, and, I’m sure, won’t be my last deja vu moment with that case and the folks associated with it.



Journalists “Need to Know”

One of the biggest complaints judges have about people with the media who cover the courts is they don’t know the rules, or as one judge once told me, “They don’t know what they’re doing.”

It’s also one of the biggest problems for the media. The reason not knowing the rules is a problem FOR the media is because it limits their access.

That wasn’t always necessarily the case — and still isn’t in very rare instances.

Back in the day when reporters had “beats” they had the time and opportunity to not only learn the rules but to get to know judges and court staff and vice-versa.

So they not only learned the process, they knew who to ask if they had questions about it.

These days reporters generally no longer specialize. They and other with the news media, such as TV producers and camera crews, are frequently sent to cover proceedings at courthouses they’ve never been in before. They don’t know where courtrooms, clerks’ offices or those things are located. They don’t know the function of the people who work there. They don’t know where files and documents are located or if, just by glancing at a file, any of the documents in it are sealed.

That causes consternation and disruption, not just for judges, but for staff.

It also causes frustration for the media who are facing deadlines and need access and information fast.

One reporter who has become a rarity in today’s media, AP Special Correspondent Linda Deutsch, provides an insight on this situation.

Judges, Deutsch says, are process oriented. They focus on making sure everything is done correctly and according to Hoyle, all neat and orderly.

People in the news business, Deutsch explains, are results oriented. They focus on getting the story and how that’s done can sometimes be messy.

Deutsch, who is a 45-year-veteran of covering the courts for The Associated Press, used to impart her wisdom and pearls of  advice at education and training courses for judges and journalists at the National Center for the Courts and Media where she and I served as faculty. The demise of that function of the center a few years ago left few institutional avenues for improving judge-journalist mutual understanding and instructive interaction.

Other resources for journalists do exist. One is the Digital Media Law Project at http://www.dmlp.org/legal-guide/guides-and-resources.

Others are offered through courts systems, such as the Kansas courts information office and University of Kansas faculty “Law School for Journalists” program.

Court information officers have an association, the Conference of Court Public Information Officers (CCPIO), that has developed a number of resources such as a report on new media’s impact on the judiciary (updated last year), which can be found at http://www.ccpio.org.

A list of members and their contact information is included on that site.  http://ccpio.org/about/members/ Unfortunately, the largest court in the country, the Los Angeles Superior Court, has no representative in that organization, and doesn’t even list one on its own website. I’m not sure if anyone has been named/selected to replace the last person to hold that position left more than two years ago after being accused of leaking information to the online celebrity scandal sheet, TMZ.  http://articles.latimes.com/2010/nov/19/local/la-me-allan-parachini-20101119  An acting information officer, Mary Hearn, has been holding down the fort ever since.

In the absence of other assistance, the Digital Media Law Project lists an impressive array of resources that are worth checking out, and can be done quickly from anywhere and at any time — even on the way to cover something at a court a reporter or camera crew has never been in before.

A Face(book) Out of the Past

Facebook is great!

Among those I’ve connected with on it is a former Los Angeles TV staffer who, like me, has become a Midwesterner. He won a huge spot in my heart during the 1995 Simpson trial with his humor, affibility and grace. Although it didn’t make it into Anatomy, this guy filed and ‘appeal’ to prizes Judge Lance Ito awarded the graffitied comments members of the media wrote on the L.A. Times ad posted in the Criminal Courts Building ‘listening room’ of the KCBS interview Ito did months before opening statements in the trial. Identifying himself in his appeal as Alex Epstein, aka Jackal, aka Vermin, Epstein asked Ito to reconsider his decision. It’s a funny ‘appeal’ and Ito responded with an equal good humor.

Ito denied Epstein’s appeal, but since he found the appeal “mildly amusing,” he wrote, the Court “on its own motion, issues an alternative writ granting Epstein the title of Epstein the Mild winner of an Honorable Mention.” Ito’s writ was to be served to Epstein along with “one bottle of Clos Du Bois Chardonnay,  which the Court finds to be potable.”

This is but one more example of Ito’s sense of humor and personality and of him as a human being.

I don’t think I would violate Alex’s privacy by posting his Facebook reply to my invitation to friend me. So here it is:

Hi Jerrianne –

How nice to hear from you! Your “invitation” brought back a flood of memories – not the least of which was the appeal. How nutty was that?  Harvey Levin, of TMZ fame, helped me draft it (he was/is a lawyer after all) – and that you agreed to give it to Judge Ito was a minor miracle.  Thanks for your sense of humor. What stresses there must have been on you – you never let it show, and you were such a wonderful, human face to that crazy bureaucracy you worked for.

I’ll never forget however wacky our requests were, you would seriously consider them, usually take a deep breath, and say you would try to get an answer for us!

I will look for your book, because I would be interested in your perspective.

I took my personal videocamera to work (at Criminal Courts during OJ) one day – and after all these years, looked at it – it kind of captured a bit of the atmosphere — but — do you remember when the USC Marching Band came by to play (outside) when the OJ Lawyers made their morning entrance one day?

What ever happened to Diane Arbus’ photos?

Unbelieveably small world. Who would have thought I would wind up in the midwest – raising kids and trying to stay employed in the media world out here. I miss LA, because I have these rose colored memories about so many wonderful, primary experiences (and thank God I was not injured in any of the lunatic stories I covered) – thankful for the good schools and the bubble of normalcy that passes for the northern suburbs of chicago.

What brought you to the midwest? A job took me out here!

Again, thanks for getting in touch – I look forward to connecting one of these days – maybe at a cubs brewers game!

All the best,