Reporters may need permission to use laptop, phone in Tennessee courts

Friday, April 10, 2015, Vol. 39, No. 15

NASHVILLE (AP) - Reporters may soon have to get permission from a judge any time they want to bring a cellphone, laptop or other digital device inside a courtroom.

Those are among the new requirements under proposed changes to a Tennessee Supreme Court rule that regulates media coverage in the courtroom.

The rule currently regulates when media can use still or video cameras to cover court proceedings. But in a nod to a rapidly changing digital landscape, where reporters can live Tweet murder trials and use their cellphones to photograph, video, and stream courtroom proceedings, The Tennessee Supreme Court is revamping its regulation known as Rule 30.

Speaking at a meeting of the Society of Professional Journalists on Friday, Deborah Tate and Michele Wojciechowski of the Administrative Office of the Courts said the proposed changes would help judges maintain decorum in the courtroom. Both also encouraged media organizations to make wri tten comments to the Tennessee Supreme Court to raise any concerns.

Under the current rule, media organizations have to write to a judge at least two business days in advance of a hearing or trial to get permission to use a camera in the courtroom. The new rule, AOC officials said, would require media organizations to write and ask for permission to have a digital device in the courtroom, even in cases where the reporter was not Tweeting or streaming video and simply wanted to use a laptop to take notes or have a silent phone on hand.

A hearing would have to be held if any of the lawyers in a case objected to a reporter using an electronic device or if the judge felt that it would have an adverse impact on proceedings.

The deadline for comments on the proposed changes is May 12.