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Newspapers cover murder trial via Twitter

August 13, 2008

Corporate communications pro, Shel Holtz, picked up news of something I thought we’d start seeing. Twittering of trials from the courtroom.

Three years ago a nationally publicized manhunt followed the discovery of three bodies in a North Idaho home. The search ended when a 8 year old girl was found at a Coeur D’Alene restaurant in the company of a convicted sex offender named Joseph Edward Duncan III. Shasta’s brother, Dylan, was found dead soon after at a remote campsite in Montana.

As Shel points out, while news of Duncan’s trial, which is just underway, isn’t grabbing national attention, the proceedings are of intense interest to those who live in Idaho and Eastern Washington, including Spokane. And riding the wave of new media tools, reporters from the Spokesman Review in Spokane and the Idaho Statesman are covering the trial via Twitter.

Sure, there will be full length stories in the next morning’s papers written by the same reporters. But there’s nothing like real time coverage.

Shel draws a big distinction between the manner in which the newspapers are using Twitter.

The Idaho daily is tweeting whenever there is new content on the newspaper’s website, with a typical tweet looking like this:

These are jumbled up with all the other Statesman coverage, nearly all of which feature links to the full newspaper reports.

The Spokesman Review, on the other hand, is tweeting directly from the courtroom with no other coverage to interrupt the flow. Refreshing the view on the Review’s Twitter page almost always reveals new information. Today’s coverage so far (it’s still mid-morning in Idaho) looks like this:


Access to the Spokesman Review’s Twitter feed is highlighted on a page on the newspaper’s website that provides an overview of the case, including a timeline, background, and an archive of coverage, multimedia, information on how to help the surviving victim, and PDFs of official legal documents. In addition to Twitter, the paper has also launched a blog, “featuring longer updates,” according to the paper.

Also interesting to note that the Spokesman Review’s Twitter feeds are acting as an AP feed to other newspapers and TV stations covering the trial. Twitter’s page showing who is following the Spokesman Review’s Twitter feeds includes The Oregonian, the Nashua Telegraph, NBC affiliate KHQ, Spokane’s KREM TV, and Iowa’s Quad Cities Times.

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