The trial runs are over, the WiFi has been set up, and Quincy District Court is set to begin live broadcast from inside the courtroom on Monday.
The project has been in the works since June 2010, after John Davidow, the executive editor of wbur.org, obtained a $250,000 grant from the James S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which challenged courts to utilize social media and technology.
The grant has enabled the court to set up a digital world inside of the courtroom, and will give viewers, citizen journalists, and bloggers a chance to sit in on cases from the comfort of their own home.
Quincy District Court has six courtrooms, but proceedings from only the First Session with be live-streamed.
According to Val Wang, the producer of OpenCourt, “mostly it is for court transparency, but also to have the WiFi network. There are more and more citizen journalists who have their eyes on the courts. And as funding goes down for newspapers, it’s a way, alternatively, to get people info and keep the courthouses open.”
Judges will have the ability to turn the camera on and off, depending on case sensitivity. Despite the minor censoring, most of the feed will be available live from the program’s website, www.opencourt.us, which will launch Monday morning.
“We hope that there will be stronger democracy and more involvement in government as well as more accountability [because of the program]” Wang said.
It’s social media on a new level, an experiment to see how things go. Although the funding will last the program through 2011, Wang hopes to continue the effort in the future.
Although cameras have been allowed in the courts since the 1980s, the live coverage will be a first.
It’s a concept Wang said fostered a lot of questions.
“There are some trepidation for people to be on camera who are just going about their work day, and all of a sudden there will be a camera following what their doing. There is some trepidation about that, and how it might affect the daily court process,” Wang said.
Another concern was whether or not the camera presence would slow down courtroom proceedings.
“[It’s about] integrating the technology into the workflow of the court,” Wang said.
Despite some concerns, overall the project has received a lot of support.
According to Wang, both the state’s judiciary and Mark Coven, the presiding judge at Quincy District Court, has spoke highly of the project.
Now, it all comes down to the flick of a switch.
“It’s been a lot of talking and planning and working behind the scenes,” Wang said. “Now I finally feel like we’re coming out into the public, and it’s really exciting.”