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SPJ member pioneers use of Twitter in federal court


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3/6/2009


INDIANAPOLIS – As courts adapt to new technology, Ron Sylvester, an active SPJ member and committee volunteer, is blazing a trail for legal reporting by using Twitter from inside a federal courtroom.

The Wichita Eagle reporter has been using Twitter, the Web-based instant messaging service for computers and cell phones, to send immediate updates to followers about a federal racketeering gang trial in Kansas. U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten is allowing Sylvester to send real-time updates – called “tweets” – from inside the courtroom.

Associated Press reporter Roxana Hegeman wrote about Sylvester’s “tweeting” and its newcomer status in federal court:

“It's not the first time online streaming has been allowed in courtrooms, but the practice is still rare in the federal system, especially in criminal cases. … Sylvester has been using Twitter for a year to cover hearings and trials in state courts, but the racketeering trial of six Crips gang defendants that he's covering online this week is his first in federal court.”

Sylvester is vice chair of the SPJ digital media committee, which helps journalists adapt to evolving media technology. He was formerly SPJ Region 7 director, a volunteer board position with oversight of Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa and Missouri.

The AP story referenced above is here. Those with a free Twitter account can follow his updates at http://twitter.com/rsylvester.

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