Order in the court

Something I, as I’m sure many of you have discovered, about this lil thing we call journalism, are the not so perky jobs we sometimes get put on. Now as a rookie in the profession, I’m always somewhat ecstatic if I don’t get put on coffee duty and get to cover the jobs that others are ‘too qualified’ or too uninterested in doing. One of the news sections that fall under this category is the wonderful world of court reporting.

Now, I can imagine that court reporting doesn’t sound so bad, and that being present at the buildings that uphold the oh-so-delicate fabric of society may even be somewhat exciting…but if we’re being serious about it, no journalist wants to be stuck in a building all day listening to some old guy in a wig pass judgements. We chose this profession because we like to be in the know and on the move, getting the breaking story before anyone else does, and how can we do that if we are practically chained to a bench and sworn to silence because of honorable judge-whats-his name?

Court reporting will forever be one of the old styles of reporting we can never get away from, but in the hope of not giving in to my own cynicism, I will say there are always opportunities to turn even the most snoozable jobs into interesting ones.

A guest lecturer by the name of David Macgregor explained this. He is possibly the South African version of a Chuck Norris court reporter with many an achievement under his belt. Macgregor agreed that yes, it can be boring, but this also leaves opportunity for us to make the story interesting. The court can be something like a game show floor, where there is something waiting behind door number one, two and three, and it is simply up to you to make your pick. Court reporting gives you the opportunity to really be on the job and interact with individuals about things that citizens are dealing with everyday. You are given the opportunity to break the ice and find the right angle for a story that could turn into a national headline.

There is no set way of actually doing this type of reporting, but one thing to bear in mind is that you are still essentially the voice of the people and they are waiting on you to hear what happens within the justice system. Mr Macgregor mentioned that you need to act like you belong there – not behind the stand awaiting a sentencing, but in the court telling the story with as much gravitas and veritas you can think of before deadline. The nature of this profession is one that means we will always be competing with other people, but this also means that there is always a story to be told. This being said, we must strive to put our own creative stamp on an otherwise boring section of news.

Again this idea of interaction comes to mind, as without contacts, we all know you won’t get very far in this reporting business. The more you happen to go to these places and ask around about whats hot on the court roll, the more you’ll be able to build up a network of contacts that might just give you the scoop when you need it most. Even if court reporting isn’t where you want to be, it’s nice to know that it’s a place you can always go to to do a little bit of freelance and polish up those hard news writing skills.

Just remember to read up on the language, processes and procedures of the court, and you’re well on your way to making something out of nothing. Who knows? Perhaps the next time you’re sitting at a trial, someone might just be out of order,and you just might be onto something huge.

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