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Are Legal News Reporters Wrong Half the Time?

Apparently, Supreme Court justices aren't the only ones who complain about legal reporters' accuracy. A survey of West Virginia judges reveals they believe legal reporters have an accuracy rate of only around 50 percent. That figure comes from Craig Williams post, linking to this account by West Virgina reporter Juliet Terry of her participation in a West Virginia conference for judges and journalists. Terry writes that all participants agreed that a free press is an integral component of preserving an independent judiciary. At the same time, she adds:

Reporters seldom take the time to cover the courts adequately even though media outlets of years ago fought to gain access to judicial forums. While we, the reporters, accepted that to be true, the judges needed to understand it's not always our fault. News organizations -- print, television and radio -- are spread so thinly at times that when the choice is between covering a court case or a parade, the parade often wins because it will sell more papers or provide better video for the evening broadcast. And it's not as though new reporters arrive on the job automatically versed in legal-speak -- covering the courts can be confusing and intimidating.

Craig Williams has the solution, though, for both legal reporters and members of the public who rely on their account: Read legal blogs and ask the bloggers:

Reporter Terry admits that most reporters don't have law degrees, they don't have the opportunity to talk with the judges, who are not permitted to comment on pending cases, and they're spread too thin between assignments. Where does that leave legal reporters?  Probably more in the dark than they realize, since they're not trained and can't rely on the judges.  What can a reporter do about it? Call or email legal bloggers.  There are an entire cadre of us covering cases and legal events in just about every area of the law imaginable across the 50 states and across the world.  Most, if not all of us are pleased to talk with reporters. 

So, legal bloggers -- rev up those postings to optimize your search engine listings. You want to make sure all of those reporters can find you.

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on October 30, 2006 at 06:47 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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