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Media & Technologyby Brew Editors6:22 pmNov 18, 20090

Sun reporters defend their Dixon coverage from charges it wasn’t. . . Tweeted enough?!



   Baltimore Sun reporters are firing back at the local blog, Inside Charm City, after the site’s founder Jeff Quinton criticized them for “falling down on the job.” The Sun’s failure, according to Quinton? Not liveblogging from inside the courtroom, as several of the TV reporters have been doing.

     “This is absolutely unfair,” Julie Bykowicz replied, in an email to Quinton and Baltimore Brew. (We had mentioned Quinton’s complaint in a previous Brew post.)

     “More than one person I’ve discussed this with has mentioned that the Sun is really dropping the ball on trial coverage. I would tend to agree,” Quinton had written.

       Bykowicz took time out from her coverage of the trial of Baltimore’s mayor Sheila Dixon on theft charges to make this reply:

        Why this is unfair and misleading: 
        The Sun has provided gavel-to-gavel coverage for our print and online readers. Numerous Sun reporters and columnists – myself, Annie Linskey, Jean Marbella and Laura Vozzella – have been leaving the courtroom frequently to call in and sometimes even quickly write updates for the baltimoresun.com. We have been averaging three or more complete updates per day, filled with information not only about what is happening, but why.

     As for tweeting, responsible reporters are simply not going to violate media protocol in this case. Am I stepping out of the courtroom to occasionally tweet when something significant happens? Yes. Am I tweeting each time jurors take a bathroom break? No. Is The Sun’s Twitter feed also tweeting updates when we post new material on the web site? Yes.

      There is no internal conflict or conflict between The Sun and other media outlets about any of this. None of us have time for that sort of nonsense because we’re all working hard to inform our readers and viewers in responsible ways.

      And please continue reading baltimoresun.com and our print site for complete coverage. Here is a convenient link:

       Our take? Live blogging is helpful – if for nothing else than to tell other reporters when to get down to the courthouse because something’s happening! But after a point, how much twittering do you really need? Was there something that was missing from the live blogging done by WBAL-TV and WBAL-AM and the Daily Record? I don’t think so. I’d just as soon have the Sun save its resources for complete sentences, reporting and analysis.

       Still, the subject is something the courts in Maryland are going to have to take up and the rules may need to be updated. Judge Sweeney may not have been enforcing the rule during the Dixon trial (as we’ve previously pointed out, the defendant and a juror both appeared to be texting during the trial), but the rule does exist.

       Clearly, judges elsewhere are beginning to allow the practice, as just these couple of quickly-pulled-up articles suggest:     

      This one is about an Iowa judge who allowed a reporter to liveblog a federal criminal trial. There was some complaint from the defense lawyer that the reporters tweets could influence any jurors who broke the rules and peeked at press coverage, but that seems true of any media coverage, isn’t it?

      Here’s another , that reviews lots of cases where live-blogged trial coverage is being allowed.

     This wasn’t the first time Quinton has irked folks over at 501 N. Calvert Street. In April, the paper’s lawyers sent him a cease-and-desist letter claiming that he was republishing “substantial portions” of their content.

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