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Expanded News Media

I'm a journalist who heard about an arrest last night, and the initial appearance is scheduled for this morning. I want to cover it with video or still photography. Do I need to contact the regional expanded news media coverage coordinator?

No. Under the amended Iowa Court Rules Chapter 25 (25.2(4)), a request for Expanded News Media Coverage (ENMC) of initial appearances in criminal proceedings is made directly to the presiding judicial officer orally or in writing. The defendant has the right to object to ENMC, and the judicial officer may rule on the basis of the oral objection. ENMC is permitted unless the judicial officer concludes that such coverage would materially interfere with the rights of the parties to a fair trial (25.2(2)). However, if you want to cover subsequent judicial proceedings in this case, you must apply for ENMC through the regional coordinator.

I see that the new rules require that news media representatives participating in ENMC must wear ID in the courtroom. Will the court provide that?

The rules just say that all authorized news media representatives "must wear identification, which is clearly visible to the judicial officer and members of the jury and which states the person's name and media affiliation." Contact the regional ENMC coordinator to find out how this process is handled in the jurisdiction. Most members of the news media will wear the IDs provided by their news organizations. It is the member of the news media's responsibility to wear a badge that is clearly visible to the judge and jury that identifies the member of the news media as a person who has been authorized to use electronic devices in the courtroom.

The new rules allow a maximum of five electronic devices in the courtroom to record video and audio and to capture still photographs (25.4(3)). But the courtrooms in my district are too small to accommodate more than one TV camera. What should we do?

The judicial officer still has the discretion to approve ENMC in a way that allows transparency while avoiding disruption of court proceedings. The judicial officer can work with the regional coordinator to determine the appropriate number of devices and where they will be placed in the courtroom. Members of the news media may be required to collaborate to pool coverage. If a news organization is incapable of contributing to the pool, the regional coordinator is allowed to restrict the organization's participation or allow it to share coverage.

The amended ENMC rules allow members of the news media to use electronic devices like cell phones and tablets to text, blog, or Tweet real-time coverage of judicial proceedings, so long as they aren't distracting (25.4(4)(d)). Is there any limit on the number of such devices allowed in the courtroom?

No. However, a request to use such devices in the courtroom is now required to be filed with the court and all parties at least seven days in advance of the proceeding (25.3(2)). Journalists must file an ENMC request in advance of that deadline with the appropriate regional coordinator, who fills out the official notice and request form and distributes it. Journalists must contact the regional coordinator as soon as they know they want to cover a judicial proceeding, to ensure timely filing of a request. In addition, the judicial officer presiding over the proceeding can limit the number of electronic devices in the courtroom to avoid disruption.

I write a blog that provides news and commentary on events in my community. Can I apply for ENMC to blog from a trial in my local courthouse?

Yes. Amendments to Chapter 25 allow "any person who regularly gathers, prepares, photographs, records, writes, edits, reports, or publishes news or information about matters of public interest in any medium" to apply for ENMC. However, you must apply through the regional coordinator, like any other member of the news media, and "agree to comply with all court rules." Familiarize yourself with the ENMC rules, including the prohibition on coverage of jurors and conferences between attorneys and their clients, and the importance of being discreet and non-distracting in your work.

My news organization wants to live stream a trial. Can we do that under the new rules?

Yes. The new ENMC rules accommodate live streaming as part of rules governing audio, video, and still photography coverage of judicial proceedings.

Do the ENMC rules allow electronic coverage of jury selection and of the jury?

Rule 25.2(6) allows expanded news media coverage of the return of the jury's verdict. In all other circumstances, expanded news media coverage of jurors is prohibited except to the extent "it is unavoidable in the coverage of other trial participants or courtroom proceedings." This means that while reporting on jury selection is permitted, electronic coverage — including Tweeting, blogging and other live electronic coverage — is prohibited.

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