After Careful Thought about the Trial Coverage

November 8, 2010

Today, as I sat in the trial of Jim Long v North Dakota, I had what a lot of people call an "A-ha!" moment.

Judge Ronald Goodman has sequestered witnesses in this case, and has been very careful to question each observer in the courtroom as to whether he or she will be a witness.   As I watched today, I realized that my very detailed coverage of the case is likely being closely read by - guess who?  Witnesses in the case.  And the reason, I'm guessing, that Goodman sequestered witnesses in the case is so they do not play off of each others' testimony. 

That realization left me with something of an ethical dilemma.  It goes back to my post about my personal ground rules for covering this trial:  one of my life goals is to raise the level of journalism in this country, and fairly covering trials, informing the public while not interfering with the system of justice, is key.

So I decided that I will continue to sit in the trial every day and take the same detailed notes I have taken all along.

But I am not going to post them - until the case goes to the jury.  At that point, there can be no damage done to either party as a result of my coverage, and the public's right to know will be preserved.  I have further taken down all testimony I have posted thus far, (although opening statements and a few comments remain,) and I will repost at that time.

For those who are eagerly hanging on every word, I'm sorry for the delay.  It has nothing to do with any one witness' testimony, and there has been no pressure put upon me. 

But if I'm going to rail about improved standards of journalism in this country, it has to start with me. 

In the meantime, there's a must read piece at called "The Importance of the WSI Whistleblower Trial."   

NorthDecoder has been crossposting the daily trial coverage; I'm hoping he, too, takes down the coverage I've provided so far, but that's up to him.

Sorry to keep you on the edge of your seats, but trust me, it's worth waiting for!

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