Sunday, February 26, 2012

T&T's Fan Mail, AKA "Letters to Sprocket"


It wasn't long after I started Trials & Tribulations covering the first Phil Spector trial, that I started to receive fan E-mail. Most of the fan mail I received was encouraging, because I was writing about things that the main stream media didn't talk about. Every once in a blue moon, I'd get a letter where the reader wasn't completely happy with my trial coverage. It's been several years since I've received a letter like that, so it was a bit of a surprise when I got home from court on Friday, February 24th, 2012, and read the following E-mail: (I have respectfully not published the writer's name and I am sharing my response.)

While I enjoy most of your trial reports, some of your material is of absolutely no relevance to the trial. Paging through 3-6 paragraphs describing the wardrobe of various individuals (some totally tangential to the trial itself) is irritating for anyone wanting to know "what happened in the courtroom". Spending more time providing timely daily reports "of the trial" is of infinitely more value than a description of the color, fabric and fit of the outfit worn by the attorneys or individuals in the gallery. Please, give us the facts of the trial, as quickly as possible. Thank you

Dear T&T reader,
Thank you so much for taking the time to write and letting me know your opinions about my trial coverage. I feel the need to introduce myself because you might be under a misconception about this blog. I am Betsy A. Ross, a semi-retired housewife and I started T&T about five years ago. My blog started out as a diary or journal if you will, about my experiences attending a criminal trial in person. I wanted to let others know what it was like, for me, to go to court and sit in the gallery and watch the legal process unfold up close and personal.

There's a large community of people on the web who watch trials on TV or online, who would love to attend a trial themselves but are unable to do so. My trial coverage is aimed at those readers. I try to give the T&T reader a sense that they are sitting beside me in court, experiencing what I'm experiencing, seeing what I'm seeing and hearing what I'm overhearing. And, if you take the time to read the comments left on the stories I publish, most readers appreciate my unique style of reporting. I write about what people wear, what I see people do and hear them say because a trial is a real-life drama on a stage where everyone has a part; not just the parties in the well of the court, but those in the gallery as well who may be related to the defendant or victim.

In January 2011, with my large body of work as just a regular citizen, the LA County Superior Court acknowledged my trial reporting efforts and now recognizes me as being a member of the media. I am honored to be included with some of the best names in criminal court reporting. Over the years, T&T has added other contributors who report on issues they're concerned about, cases they either attended or watched online, as well as guest writers who also cover criminal cases.

You should know that not a single contributor or guest writer gets paid a cent for their work. All the time and effort T&T's writers put into a story is donated and we don't have an editor or fact checker. No one writing for T&T is affiliated with any mainstream news organization and the only advertizing you will ever see on the blog is for my own modest, seasonal sewing business.

I don't expect to please every reader 100% of the time. I know that my style of diary-like reporting is not for everybody. However, I do believe that I provide the most comprehensive, detailed coverage of a case that you will find anywhere on the Internet or in print. Hopefully, with this information, you might have a different perspective on what T&T is all about. Thank you again for writing.

Betsy A. Ross, Owner,
Trials & Tribulations Blog

The commenter has written me a very lovely response to my reply, indicating they will continue to read T&T's coverage and that they think, "... the quality of your trial reporting is equal to that of professional paid reporters." Thank you very much!


Anonymous said...

Telling of the goings-on of the characters, the behaviors, the clothing, and their fabrics add FABRIC to the story....anyone who ever read a true-crime paperback or the diaries of D. Dunne knows and appreciates this! Telling only of the court transcripts reduces it to merely dullsville.

Keep up the good work.
-Wes J.

Deep Sounding said...

This post really made me smile today, and I needed it.

My blog covers a very specific criminal case and how it has affected my life. Not just the trial, but the long genesis of the events, the case, the trial, the aftermath, etc...

I started my blog to talk about my perspective about how things were going awry, and how reluctant everyone was to prosecute the defendant.

I don't have any legal expertise (clearly) and I've never been involved in a court case before, other than as an alternate juror in a petty shoplifting case.

Once the trial started, trial watchers and lawyers came out of the woodwork to criticize my lack of understanding of the inner workings of the court system.

But then a major contributor started describing the people in the courtroom, what they were wearing, how they were behaving, etc...

I started to get more angry comments, but about the irrelevance of the "fashion reporting."

The courtroom was packed with supporters of the victims, and quickly, the defense rounded up people to pack in behind the defendant, sitting on the "left" side of the courtroom. They were clearly there to show the jury that people loved the defendant too. (We found out after the trial that the defense attorney's family were a large part of the fill-in crowd.)

Becoming outraged about this development, I also began reporting on the questionable dress and antics taking place on the "defendant's side" of the court room, so it went from an occasional description in passing to a significant component of the description experience.

BAM! Immediately I got a flood of hate mail from people CLEARLY not present in the courtroom about how ridiculous I was to present the situation as if it were a wedding with a defendant side and a prosecution side, and that the fashion reporting (I started a semi-daily fashion report called "The Bacchanal Box") was detracting from my "legal blog" and that I was showing how dis-credible the information was by providing my opinion, and that I should stick to the "original purpose of my blog - to report the court case objectively" (Wait... what???)

Frankly it was shocking to me that I was being taken seriously enough to have elicited such a silly criticism. It was also surprising to me to find how quickly people who really had no "horse in the race" felt like they owned the blog, and deserved to have things reported the way they desired.


You SHOULD be "honored to be included with a some of the best names in criminal court reporting."

And I'm convinced that it's the subjective, personal perspective that really provides that kind of value.

Blog on!

Kathy said...

I, for one, feel your documenting what someone is wearing, where the defendant looks when witnesses are testifying, who you see in the elevator, what you have for lunch, when you arrive to court, when you don't arrive for court, what Mr. Sprocket is doing, what vehicles are not running, what outside projects you are working on, etc., all add the face of humanity to, what is often, dry drama in the courtroom.

In addition to adding items of personal interest, you have taken the time to educate your readers on many legal terms and matters of law.

Don't change a thing. You have many people in "your court" and love what you do, how you do it, and are thankful for the time and effort you take in this labor of love.

My message to the reader who is complaining is this:

Get off your butt, spend your own time and money, get yourself to the courtroom, take your chances of getting in, and listen to the proceedings yourself. And whatever you do, don't tell us what youhear. We don't want to hear your version. We want Sprocket.

Sorry if I got carried away, but I'm riled and my dander is up.

Anonymous said...

Personally I ENJOY the fashion reports of those court going "city slickers"! Living @ the beach here its all about crocs & hoodies. Keep on keeping us up on those "fashionistas"! Ilene :)

Francaise said...

Dear Sprocket,

You are doing such a good job that I personnally appreciate that much. Some people are just disrespectful in life. Look, it make you feel good when you are nice and talk nice to other people. I said before and I am going to say it again: you should be making money out of this but I respect your choice that is your passion. Your style is personnal and unique and I never see anything like this before. I feel like you are a freind that I talk to everytime.

Keep up the good. We who appreciate you, know your real value.


Anonymous said...

Sprocket I have been reading your blog for at least 4 or 5 years since someone referenced your blog on the old courttv message boards. Last year I flew to another state to support a family member whose child had been murdered. It was so very different from watching it on tv. I would call my family and tell them about the things they did not see or hear. They asked questions about who was sitting behind the defendant and I told them NO FAMILY as those 3 benches they saw were "reserved for lawyers". And here they all thought they were family members of the accused. I told them that all the young women lawyers wore black fitted suits, no stockings and white blouses and all had long straight blonde hair. Or that one of the assistant state attorneys nearly fell back in his chair. And so on. They were fascinated because they could not see any of this on camera (the case was televised on trutv). They asked about Beth Karas (so very nice and personable). So I AM interested in what they are wearing, who is talking to whom, what media may be present, traffic, etc. You transport us totally into that courtroom and I love it. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for taking the time out of your busy life to do this.

Anonymous said...

A trial is a human experience. You are doing a great job and appreciate the personal sacrifices you make to give us all a glimpse of what is going on in the trial. If it wasn't for your blog, we would not know much other than the few media reports. Again, we owe you.

Forget about " the facts nothing but the facts" approach. The gentleman should order a transcript of the trial at five dollars a page.

Again thank you, thank you, thank you.

Avery21 said...

Sprocket, don't change a thing!

Audra said...

Avery21 took the words right out of my mouth! "Don't change a thing!". But I will say it again, DON'T CHANGE A THING!

Crickit said...


Your style of writing brings the reader in and exposes them to all that goes on in your experiences in and out of the courtroom.
Keep up the awesome work! You have so many fans, I hope that this view from this person has not put a damper on your day.

Thanks for all the time you put into your posts.

Anonymous said...

Dear Sprocket, I for one love, love, love your blog. You are like a drug, I am totally addicted to your sense of writing style. I check your blog several times a day waiting for your fingers to touch the key board. I had the chance to be in the court room the day John Reutten took the stand and then I went home and read your blog for the day, you were spot on with your reporting. I and many other readers from around the world look forward to reading your daily blog. Take care of yourself and don't stop, your reporting is better than the news, you take us there with human emotions of both families. I am now hooked and rehab is out of the question.


Anonymous said...


Three years ago, when I told you about the Christian-Newsom murder case, you first asked me to write an article for T&T, and then encouraged me to attend a trial myself and write about it. Upon being inside a courtroom during a trial for the first time in my life, I realized your method of coverage was the way to go about it.

Because of a corrupt judge, all four trials will have to be done again. Starting in June, I plan to attend as much of the proceedings as I can. I hope to do a better job of writing than before due to what I have learned by reading your coverage of the Lazarus trial and others.

David In TN

Shannon said...

Your Seattle fan -- aka me, is seething mad about that person's letter! We are all so fortunate to have such detailed information about this trial, and you are correct, nobody on the web is covering it.

My aunt always says, " what other people think about you is none of your business." like a duck, the thoughtless comments roll like water off your back!

Keep up the great work. I guess every party has a pooper. I love the detail! Anyone can order a transcript of a trial after the fact, but you add so many little morsels that we would otherwise miss completely.

I feel like you are a girlfriend telling me every little detail, and I do feel as though I am right there in court.

You are awesome!

Sprocket said...

I'm going to close comments on this now, because I think a few readers might have missed the point.

I was not upset about this letter. I was just surprised.

In reality, this letter was quite helpful to me because it made me realize that not everyone has followed me from my Spector trial coverage days, not everyone will "get" the type of reporting I do and it would probably be helpful to new readers if I put up and "About" page, to help them understand and navigate the blog. I'll do that soon, basing it on my response to this reader.

The reader actually wrote me a very nice letter in reply. They apologized (even though it wasn't necessary at all) and said they would still be reading T&T. That's a positive outcome.

We can all learn from this, so my motto is, be kind.

Shannon said...

I hope I wasn't unkind, and I did see where there was a positive outcome.

I do think an "about me" page would be helpful to rookie bloggers.

Have a great week in court!