Twitter plays key role in media's coverage of PSU court hearings

Published: Dec 15 2011 07:00:00 PM EST   Updated On: Dec 16 2011 06:29:11 PM EST
READING, Pa. -

If you were anxious to get up-to-the minute details from the courtroom in the Penn State sex abuse hearing on Friday, you could just go to Twitter.

Bo Koltnow and other reporters were tweeting about what was going on at the hearing.

It's relatively new for Pennsylvania judges to allow that kind of technology in the courtroom, but it isn't the first time Twitter was allowed in a Pennsylvania courtroom.

In fact, it was the second time this week so many people from the media were sending out messages.

The popular social networking site played a key role in the court hearings of Jerry Sandusky on Tuesday and Tim Curley and Gary Schultz on Friday.

Thousands of tweets were sent out by the 100-plus reporters covering the court hearings from the moment Curley and Schultz arrived all the way until a judge decided to send both men to trial.

"The news media need access to get testimony from the courtroom out, and it just makes it easier for them to do that," said Jeffrey Schmehl, president judge of Berks County. 

Schmehl said reporters have not used Twitter in Berks courtrooms, but he could see it happening in the future.

"I definitely would be open to it, but I want to know who the reporters are and have them follow certain guidelines," said Schmehl, who added that reporters can take laptop computers into the courtroom for big murder trials, but Twitter is different.

"We know those stories are not going to be in until tomorrow morning, or at 5:30, so it's a little different because Tweeting is live," said Schmehl. "It's simultaneously."

Schmehl said the Penn State case is not the first time reporters were tweeting.

"A year or two ago Judge Lewis in Dauphin County set the precedent with the state corruption trials," said Schmehl. "He allowed certain designated news media to tweet from his courtroom."

Schmehl saidit's not a given each judge will allow it. Twitter in the courtroom will still be decided on a case-by-case basis.

"You have to balance getting the news out and still protecting the parties so both of them have a fair trial because that's the judge's job essentially," said Schmehl.

Schmehl said if he would allow Twitter, he would want each reporter to be credentialed. He said jurors would also be instructed not to look on Twitter just like they are told not to read, listen or watch local news.