Thursday, February 4, 2010

Why I was the only reporter allowed to tweet from the courtroom during the Roeder trial

From the World Series to murder trials, the bigger the event, the tougher it is to cover. I’ve done both a seven-game World Series and murder cases drawing national attention.

You always have to find space to operate between all the reporters, and in both events, everyone is seeing the same thing and it’s tough to come up with a fresh angle. As the reporter pool grows, there are more restrictions.

In the recent trial of Scott Roeder, the judge decided not to allow laptops in the courtroom. That meant no live tweeting from the courtroom, only a media room two floors away. Well, for most reporters that was the case.

Cell phones were allowed as long as they made noise, and from the time I started covering cases on Twitter, all I’ve used is a phone. I call it the laptop in my pocket.

My phone and Bluetooth keyboard always draws curiosity from the other reporters, which reminded me that I should probably explain it again, because the set-up comes in handy, when you want to travel light.

The current edition combines a Blackberry Curve with a Freedom Universal Keyboard2. The keyboard saves your thumbs and is small enough to go unnoticed. It’s allowed me to tweet from federal courtrooms, and in trials where judges think a row of clacking laptops would distract jurors. But I can see this setup being used in other events. It still leaves room to take notes.

The keyboard connects via Bluetooth, and is much more reliable than the old infrared devices I used to pair with a Palm phone. You can find a Bluetooth keyboard for just about every kind of phone, except for an I-Phone and Android. I really wanted a Droid, but I needed one that worked with a keyboard. I went with the Blackberry, because I liked the feel of the Freedom Keyboard and it was made for the Blackberry. Plus, Blackberry has a lot of apps available similar to the I-Phone and Droid.

It proved quite the soldier during the Roeder trial. I tweeted with the keyboard for eight hours in court each day, including checking the Internet throughout he days for replies from Twitter followers. At least one day after the trial, I then went to the gym and worked out for an hour while playing Pandora. I still had battery left when I plugged in to recharge it at bedtime.

Can your I-Phone do that?

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