Thursday, May 15, 2008

Twittering in Wichita

We've talked in this blog before about the prospect of using Twitter for news. Now the Wichita Eagle is showing a dramatic example. You can follow their twitterstream of a high-profile local trial and see it happen, pretty much in real time.

UPDATE: The Journal of the American Bar Association has an extensive article about reporter Ron Sylvester's Twittering (Tweeting?) online. One of his posts was "One juror forgot to turn off his cell phone. Ring tone: "Carry On My Wayward Son," by Kansas."

Here's a taste:

Trial junkies following the high-profile prosecution of a Wichita man accused in the contract killing of a pregnant 14-year-old girl can get continual, brief updates at from a reporter covering the trial.

Reporter Ron Sylvester is covering the trial of defendant Theodore Burnett for the Wichita Eagle, but he’s also submitting updates to Twitter, described as “a service for friends, family, and co-workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?”

In Sylvester’s case, those reading his Twitter posts are his newspaper readers. His first Twitter message today read simply: “The capital murder trial of Ted Burnett began this morning.” Later, Sylvester described the opening arguments of prosecutor Marc Bennett, who contends Burnett took a mere $500 to kill Chelsea Brooks for Brooks’ older boyfriend, who feared he would be prosecuted for statutory rape.

The Twitter entries are short, no more than 140 characters, but they are frequent. In just the first hour of the trial, Sylvester wrote 20 posts.

Burnett is charged with aggravated kidnapping and capital murder, according to a Wichita Eagle summary of the case. That page also houses the latest Twitter updates as Sylvester posts from the courthouse. The victim's boyfriend, Elgin Robinson, is scheduled to stand trial in September.

Sylvester uses a T-Mobile Dash phone and a Bluetooth foldable keyboard to send his updates to Twitter through text messaging. He always asks for permission before bringing his equipment into a courtroom, and judges are amenable.

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