Courthouse to be Laboratory for Social Media

Just south of Boston, in the city where John Adams, John Quincy Adams and John Hancock were born, a somewhat run-down courthouse is about to become a cutting-edge laboratory for social media in the courts.

As I reported here in June, a project called Order in the Court 2.0 was one of 12 projects to be selected from among thousands of applicants to receive a grant from the Knight News Challenge, a contest designed to promote innovation in journalism. Knight awarded Order in the Court $250,000 to turn a courtroom in Quincy District Court into a test kitchen to for using new media to cover legal proceedings.

Here is how the project was originally described:

To foster greater access to the judicial process, this project will create a laboratory in a Boston courtroom to help establish best practices for digital coverage that can be replicated and adopted throughout the nation. While the legislative and executive branches have incorporated new technologies and social media, the courts still operate under the video and audio recording standards established in the 1970s and 80s. The courtroom will have a designated area for live blogging via a wifi network and the ability to live-stream court proceedings to the public. Working in conjunction with the Massachusetts court system, the project will publish the daily docket on the web and build a knowledge wiki for the public with common legal terms.

Spearheading the project is John Davidow, executive editor for new media at NPR-affilliate WBUR in Boston. The idea for the project grew out of a Massachusetts committee on which John and I are both members, the Judiciary-Media Committee of the Supreme Judicial Court.

At a meeting of that committee this week, John reported that the project has now received the grant funds and is on track to launch as soon as possible. He recently hired two people to serve as staff for the project and has been meeting with court officials to work out details.

John is posting updates on the project at the Idea Lab blog. At some point, the project will have its own website.

In addition to the Judiciary-Media Committee, other organizations lending support to the project are WBUR, the Conference of Court Public Information Officers, Boston University College of Communication and the Citizen Media Law Project.