Monday, May 19, 2008

The Sad State of Online Trial Coverage

Are you as disappointed as I am with CNN's takeover of the former CourtTV (now TruTV) trial coverage? Back in the old days, if you were signed up with CourtTV Extra, you could watch a trail live streaming on your computer without the commercial interruptions or the talking head commentary. What was really nice is that all the trail footage was archived online so if you missed something, you could go back and rewatch an old trial in it's entirety to your hearts content. That was quite useful when I was covering the Spector trial, and I needed to check a particular fact or get a direct testimony quote.

It's been almost five months since CourtTV morphed into "TruTV," half the staff was fired, CNN added a "Crime" section to it's online lineup and the morning trial coverage shows were called as a group "In Session." The layout of the CNN.Crime page is, in my opinion, poorly organized and for the longest time it was difficult to even find the link to online streaming if/when they were covering a trial. Until recently, it was buried several pages deep in links.

Time marches on and all those archived trials that made CourtTV a household name are still unavailable. For the Bobby Cutts murder trial, it was a local Ohio station that offered via online live streaming a camera in the courtroom, and not TruTV/CNN. Same thing for Mark Jensen, although CNN did offer a live feed through their Crime section website, it often was not as stable as the one offered by WISN in Wisconsin. I asked my trial watching buds what they thought of CNN's online trial coverage and lack of archival footage. Here's what they had to say:

ritanita says, With such a big organization, they should be able to maintain the "extra" site. I'm sure it's out there somewhere. Their coverage is glommed in with their general news coverage and they will suddenly cut the feed to go to other news. They stop the live streaming for every little break in court and are slow to bring the feed back up. ...there was coverage of a fire and rescue with the raw footage on the "beheading" murder trial feed!

Their crime page is, as you say, a poor piece of work with most stories posted from other sources. They need to stop the awful reruns from 3 to 5 and put on quality trial coverage.
I think it was the Gagnon trial where live streaming stopped the moment the defendant got on the stand! There are so many of us who are serious trial followers.

We devote hours and hours to following a trial. We are devoted and sincere in our interest in observing the Judicial System at work. We want to see as much as humanly possible.
How many television stations can say that they had viewers who watched devotedly from 9 AM to 5 PM every day and longer when there was true gavel-to-gavel coverage? CTV could!

With the evisceration of programming that took place prior to the conversion to TTV, many viewers expressed their displeasure by clicking off.
With the advent of live-streaming coverage, the trial devotee could count on not missing any part of the trial. I sincerely wonder if TPTB at CNN understand the devotion of the true trial-watcher. For us it is not news, it is a process and we want to see it all. We need those video archives. We need a site which covers crime in a methodical way. We want to know the process, not just the bare facts. Perhaps we need to let CNN know this.

Kitty Malone says, All I can say is: C ommunist N ews N etwork SUX!

Bballgrl says, With the loss of "Court TV", there is a huge gap in the coverage available to True Crime followers. True Crime is a very popular genre in the United States and abroad. It seems as if somebody should jump into the gap and grab hold of this genre, at least in the 10am - 5pm time range. The least that should be offered, is coverage of high profile court cases. We have need of a station with good QUALITY live coverage of trials.

SeniorMoments says, I agree that we are getting even less trial coverage because they cut out to cover "breaking news stories" which are covered on other news networks - even their own - than on TruTV. It seems that they aren't sure of just who they are and what they want to be. I wonder if they are just going to continue and drop off anchors and reporters as their contracts expire until there is no longer any live trial coverage at all.

And as disappointed as I am with the state of online trial coverage, there may be hope. Donchais tells me that a search of CNN for "Phil Spector" did turn up some video footage links. However, when she clicked on them, they went nowhere. Could it be possible that CNN is working on making that enormous video library accessible to the general public again?

One can only hope. T&T is asking you to give us your thoughts on how happy/unhappy you are with TruTv/CNN's channel lineup and online trial coverage.


Anakerie said...

Hi Sprocket, my opinion of the TruTV coverage of trials is such that I don't even turn it on in the mornings anymore. Too much of the talking heads talking and too little of the trials. The only trial I've really been following was the one that my brother attended and wrote about on my blog. And that wasn't a lot of "watching" for me, since there wasn't a live feed or anything to that courtroom, just my brother's notes. (Which were AWESOME! LOL)

By the way, the sentencing hearing for Mario was this past Friday. The judge gave him a lovely 50 to life for murdering Kacie. :-)

Sprocket said...

Hi Anakerie!

That's wonderful news about the sentence. I agree. Your brother did a magnificent job of covering that trial. He captured quite a bit of testimony detail. He's fortunate that the trial was so short.

Anonymous said...

I live outside the US & CNN cut access completely to the live streaming. Given the cases they have been covering, it really doesn't seem to matter. Currently a divorce???

Can only assume Court TV/Extra was not profitable to them - but it is so missed.

The link to the message board has disappeared, so it seems that may not last much longer either. Threads continue to be randomly deleted without explanation - so can't watch and can't discuss. Developing new interests seems to be the solution.


Anonymous said...

Hey Ms. Betsy what's the email addy or phone number to complain about their inadequate sucky trial coverage?


katfish said...

Hello Fellow Trial Watchers,
I too have been "turned off" by the line-up on Tru TV these days...I quit going to the CNN crime website all together. I would gladly return if they would fix it! While I still tune in some for the limited trial coverage on Tru TV, nothing they have been covering has sparked my interest enough to try and find a live feed. Eeekk! Just had a thought....hope ktla can provide a live feed for Spector, round II !!!!???? Your comments about Alan Jackson and Pat Dixon in the Muira case report has me "hungry for more"........only with justice at the end!

Sprocket said...

John @ 8:33pm: I have no idea. I would think you would want to complain to as high up a suit as possible. So, search google and wikipedia for any names or corporate structure.

It would be a first for KTLA if they were the one's who provided a live feed. Remember, everyone who did have a live feed bought the rights from "Court TV" at the time to carry it. The dateline producer who I talked to about that gave me her impression that the profit on that wasn't very much. Then again, my memory could be faulty.

Miura: There were several conversations going on at once around me in the courtroom yesterday. One of them was AJ & Rod Lindblom, and it was: The Miura Case. I distinctly remember AJ saying something to the effect that it was "brand new territory," (but I"m not sure if that's an exact quote) regarding the issues involved with Miura, getting him here to the US and getting him to trial.

katfish said...

Thanks Sprocket- I remembered that "court tv" provided the feed to ktla after I sent the comment. Hopefully "Tru TV" will cover the Spector trial II(If they are still doing trial coverage by then.) Perhaps then there would be a chance that someone could pick up the internet coverage. Wishful thinking!!!! I think that the people in the marketing department of Tru TV have really "blown it" in targeting their market. I haven't been privy to their marketing research data, but if you judge by the advertisers that they solicit, it seems they think we all have one foot in the grave and the other on a hoveround! I'm sorry to be off topic here, but when I hear that "profit" may be the reason they are screwing with the line-up it burns me. If they spent the money to advertise their "In Session" coverage as they do "Speeders" and the like maybe they would increase their audience enough to be able to sell some relevant advertising and make a PROFIT! They practically have a monopoly on "court coverage" and a world-wide audience and yet they can't make money.?????? Thankfully, we have you and your Trials and Tribulations internet friends!!

katfish said...

I just read an update on the Phil Spector retrial over at Juror Thirteen.One of the headings for the update reads "NEW SPOT FOR LIVE TRIAL FEED COMING" ! Juror Thirteen posted an inaugural "The Legal Edge" newsletter written by Michel Bryant (licensed California attorney and former trial correspondent and news anchor for Court TV). The Legal Edge Network nears launch! THELEGALEDGE.COM
Sometimes change is good! ;-)

Sprocket said...

Hi there katfish!

We still don't know "who" made the initial negotiation with the LA County public liaison's office. Was it CNN, or this new outfit. I recommend everyone get on Michael Bryant's email notification, just to be on top of their news.

Either way, I just hope I can watch it on my iBook, if I can't attend the trial on specific days.

katfish said...

I hope you can get it on your iBook too! We all benefit from that! ;-)

Anonymous said...

Dear, dear Sprocket,

I’ve been reading your blog for a loooong time. I’ve watched CourtTV since the Connecticut v. Ligon case in 1991. And the total coverage of the Simpson trial which they showed LIVE late into the night (on the East Coast). CourtTV was flawless in all their coverage. Then I STOPPED watching a few years ago out of sheer frustration. TruTV has 3-4 minute commercials every 8 minutes, Talking Heads who haven’t seen any of the trial and subsequently make uninformed comments about the ongoing trial, moderators who plainly talk too much (and too biased) all while the trial is going on live, and wrong information. TruTV has a banner before commercial breaks saying “Back in 30 seconds.” No, they run commercials for 3-4 minutes (I timed them just out of curiosity while following a live stream of the trial from my computer). When a trial recesses for lunch, the moderators will say 5 minutes into the lunch break: Court will be back in session in a “few minutes.” (Banfield and Ford, to be exact.) Not to mention the 3:00 cutoff. Even at night, their forensic files and other programs do not start exactly on the hour; they start at 2-3 minutes after the hour and end after the hour (making it annoying to TIVO). All for the sake of their endless commercials. Surely they must be making SOME profit???

With all the above TruTV tactics, they dishonestly entice viewers into not changing the channel, but don’t deliver what they promise… And as a silly aside, enough of the ad for Justine Davis Valley-Girl-Accent forensic scientist, and how much she loves her job! GAK!

In my opinion, even the CourtTV forums have changed (now called “InSession.”) Gone are most of the “old-timers” and there are many more flamers/trollers.

Well, at least I’m thankful that they have live streams on line.

Anonymous said...

How do you get to the online trials that you CAN view???? I see people leave comments about trials and i have posted many many comments asking someone to tell me...i can't figure it out...CNN won't email me back....PLEASE TELL ME WHAT TO CLICK ON...I AM ALREADY REGISTERED.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Sprocket said...


Throught CNN's live video stream. They are not always covering a trial online 24/7. It just depends on if they feel there is enough interest in that particular trial.

Go to CNN's web site, and click on the heading VIDEO. When that comes up, another link slightly to the left of the page will say

LIVE ON Live Schedule. Click that. That will open another window with several live streaming videos. If there is a trial on, that's where it will be.

Other small television networks will cover a LOCAL trial occasionally online, via "their" web site. It's hit and miss trying to find these local trials.