Friday, May 15, 2009

court reporting, unfettered perspective

Just got back from covering a case at the Maricopa County Superior Court.

It's great to hang out in the courthouse as a reporter. The whole building has a sense of importance about it -- everything pomp and circumstance. I also find the proceedings fascinating. All the ritual, grandeur, and importance associated with law and justice in our society entices my longing for a meaningful career and even a well-earned sense of self-importance.

However, as a court reporter, you get your own sense of importance. A ghost in the midst of those affected, I can observe everything while withholding my own judgments -- there is enough judgment already. I feel a voyeuristic euphoria, jotting notes as the lives of those around me alter or come crashing down. This is the battlefield where academic pursuits of justice and ethics meet the concrete reality of human lives -- and myself, the ethereal observer floating above it all.

Or is that too poetic? It would be great to cover courts as a beat reporter. Yet, the environment also appears too formal, too planned, too...disingenuous. The high drama of the court contrasts with its lack of potential for description or inspiration. And in the courtroom, everyone has an agenda. It's hard to distinguish remorseful tears from calculated appeals for lenience -- one action, two very opposite interpretations.

Awash in interpretation, journalistic values become the confident armor of the reporter. The safety of facts lifts me above doubt, and the disaffection of my mission removes me from the emotional game. No matter the verdict, story in hand, I win.

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