Live Tweeting Experiment of the Khadr Hearing

Although tweeting from a courtroom remains controversial, tweeting the content of a live webcast should be rather conventional, but is still a useful enterprise.

I was in the middle of a take-home midterm when I realized that the Omar Khadr hearing at the Supreme Court of Canada was on CPAC. After a few searches on Twitter, I realized that although people had posted that it was occurring, nobody in the legal community was covering the contents live (or almost live – a Senate broadcast delayed it).

I gave it a go, although the proceedings were well under way. I tried using a hash tag, but did not do so consistenly. Wherever possible, I also linked to court judgments that were referred to during submissions. I eventually had to get back to my exam, and had Lawrence Gridin take over for me.

My evaluation of the experience? The feedback by others was positive, ranging from legal professionals, a few politicos and activists, bloggers, writers and journalists, and even alternative media. Several law students privately noted they were able to follow along in class. And at least one associate in an undisclosed major law firm lamented the inability to pull out the headphones or turn up the volume, finding the Twitter feed a sufficient replacement.

The mainstream media did cover the event, with the CBC’s Kady O’Malley liveblogging using Cover It Live. I do think those with legal backgrounds can definitely enhance mainstream coverage given our familiarity with the case law, where to find it, and often knowledge of many of the legal principles being discussed.

I think if I had to do it over again, I would use hash tags more, if nothing more than to recall the coverage after the event. Recording high-profile cases before a transcript or a judgment is issued is of interest to the bar, media, and the general public.

Backup bloggers should be set up in advance for stamina reasons, and bilingualists are an enormous asset. And if multiple bloggers were doing this simultaneously, there is potentially for more detailed coverage and perhaps even richer commentary.

Ultimately though, it was enormously challenging to get all of the content in 140 characters. I may have to try out Cover It Live, but Twitter did work well to attract attention to the issue, and disseminate information quickly to a large audience.

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