Quote of the Day - The image of the reporter as a nicotine-stained Quixote, slugging back Scotch while skewering city hall with an expose ripped out of a typewriter on the crack of deadline, persists despite munificent evidence to the contrary.
Legal news, radio and TV reporters get it wrong at least 50% of the time, according to an article written today by West Virginia reporter Juliet A. Terry, who recently attended a workshop in that state for judges and journalists and wrote about the cathartic experience. That startling figure represents West Virginia judges' opinions. Perhaps even more surprising, the judges who see reporter's errors rarely, if ever, call to correct them. Although I haven't polled California judges, I suspect most would agree with their counterparts in West Virginia.
Where does that leave you, dear reader? Probably more in the dark than you realize, if you're reading mainstream news reports of legal events. What can you do about it?
Keep doing what you're doing right now. Read legal blogs.
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. In fact, I just got off the phone with CNN Boston, who needed some background information. Happy to provide it.
I'd rather have legal new as close to 100% accurate as possible. I disagree with Reporter Terry's conclusion in her article that the chasm between journalists and judges should remain in place, with just an occasional footbridge across the gap. The problem with the current 50% accuracy rate is that you can't tell which 50% is right.