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Missouri Courtrooms See Changes to Media Access

"The technology was changing so fast we needed to find a way to update the rule to make it a little more flexible."

July 02, 2018 - 6:27 pm
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COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) - Media outlets are now allowed to use cameras and tweet from Missouri courtrooms following recent changes by the state's Supreme Court. 

As of Monday, judges can permit more than one photographer in the courtroom in some cases, depending on court approval, the Columbia Daily Tribune reported. Tweeting from the courtroom is now also allowed with prior approval from a judge. 

The rule changes also permit "electronic devices solely for textual note taking and writing'' if they can operate quietly and aren't a distraction. 

Compact camera technology spurred the new photography rules, which hadn't been modified since 1995, said Jean Maneke, who serves as counsel to the Missouri Press Association and president of the Missouri Press-Bar Commission. 

The original rule was written when cameras were large and bulky, so not many were able to fit inside the courtroom at once, Maneke said. While some media companies began to invest in newer and smaller cameras, others continued to use older equipment and created transmission problems during media pools. Reporters share content in media pools when few are allowed access because a location or event cannot accommodate all media members. 

"The technology was changing so fast we needed to find a way to update the rule to make it a little more flexible,'' Maneke said. 

Mary Epping, the 13th Judicial Circuit Court administrator, said she doesn't expect the rule change to have much impact in local courts, where cameras were already allowed. But Epping cautioned she's concerned that photographers could become distracting during proceedings. 

Epping doesn't believe tweeting will become a disturbance but said journalists may make errors by not reviewing tweets or misunderstanding legal nuances. 

Judges may terminate coverage if media personnel violate court rules or jeopardize participants' rights to a fair trial.