Tuesday, July 21, 2009

New Web Video Series Explores Courtroom Drama

The Wichita Eagle (Kansas.com) launched a Web video series today that documents "the human drama in the daily court cases that have an impact on people’s lives."

It's called "Common Law."

We will begin by focusing on a judge, a [public defender] and two sheriffs’ deputies who have agreed to share in our experiment. We hope you’ll learn about how each of them go about doing their jobs, and the people and cases they face every day.
The first episode concerns a 41-year-old grandmother who "made a bad choice about how to deal with adversity in these economic times." She stole more than $6,000 from her employer to help pay her brother's mortgage.

The concept is promising, but frankly we're hoping for more in-depth characterizations and storytelling. In this initial two-minute venture, we get to see short excerpts of the public defender making her case (both in court and to an off-camera interviewer), and the judge ordering probation, and... well, that's about it.

We don't really learn much about the case or anyone involved with it. We don't see or hear from the prosecution or the employer; we never hear from the accused or her brother. There's scant information and not much light shed on the legal process or its participants.

It's understandable why courtrooms are natural magnets for journalists, with their built-in conflicts and characters. But this miniaturized "slice of life" approach is devoid of drama and depth, and can't hold a candle to all those legal-themed reality TV shows starring judges.

As we said, "Common Law" holds promise. Ideally, future episodes will provide more balance, background, and insight.

1 comment:

Ron Sylvester said...

Ken: Thanks for the advice. I took some of your prof tips. I'm trying to keep the clips down to 2 minutes but trying to develop a little more depth. By following different people in their jobs, a judge, prosecutor, public defender and guards, we're hoping for a more balanced perspective and some inside looks at some of the cases. We're getting some good reaction locally and elsewhere See how we're doing now after more than 20 episodes. I'd love to get some more feedback from you.