Expanded electronic coverage makes sense

March 28, 2014 | 10:45 pm

By The Gazette Editorial Board

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Live electronic reporting can give Iowans an easily accessible, real-time window into the workings of the state’s courts. So we applaud new recommendations that would allow liveblogging and tweeting from Iowa courtrooms.

A committee appointed by the Iowa Supreme Court to consider changes in 33-year-old rules for media coverage of courts made its recommendation earlier this week. The committee also is proposing that the definition of news media be expanded beyond traditional mediums to include bloggers and others who regularly report on the courts online. The definition of “electronic devices” would also be broadened. The Iowa Supreme Court will have the final say on any changes.

Revamping coverage rules to make room for huge changes in the way news is gathered and consumed by Iowans makes sense. Some courts in Iowa already have allowed the use of Twitter and liveblogging during trials, but the proposed changes would set a needed, consistent statewide standard. Reporters and bloggers still would need to seek permission from judicial officers and follow all court rules while reporting.

These rule changes are part of a welcome trend. The state’s judicial branch has embarked on a serious effort in recent years to make the state’s courts, from top to bottom, more transparent and accessible to Iowans. The Supreme Court, for example, has taken its show on the road to hear oral arguments in cities across the state, while also allowing live electronic reporting. Interviews with judicial nominees by the state’s Judicial Nominating Commission have been live-streamed online.

The days of regarding courts as secretive or shielded have yielded to the idea that Iowans should better understand how the courts work and arrive at their judgments. Iowa’s courts, to the state’s credit, have been ahead of the curve in allowing media access. These rule changes would help keep the state out front.

We expect that the Supreme Court will agree and expand electronic coverage.

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