Wednesday, August 03, 2011


Alternative media press pool for Aloun trial in second week

by Larry Geller

When the long Hawaiian Homelands trial was underway I spent as many days as I could in the courtroom. Unless one is on salary to specifically do that, it is hard to keep up a continual presence. For alternative media, it’s next to impossible. The Aloun  labor trafficking trial is expected to run till Labor Day, and presents the same difficulty.

Starting in February, 2012, the even larger and potentially more complex Global Horizons human trafficking trial will begin, also  in Honolulu. The eyes of the world will be on us for sure, since that is purported to be the largest human trafficking trial in US history, involving up to 600 allegedly trafficked workers.

Many of the witnesses may have key testimony. Some will be dramatic, others compelling. Those stories should become public.

How to do it? With a pool of reporters, it can be done.

Starting a week before the trial, I contacted several other non-mainstream media folks and we did put together a pool, which has been in operation since the start of the Aloun trial last week.

I take my turn for Disappeared News. Malia Zimmeman and Jim Dooley are covering the trial for Hawaii Reporter. Ikaika Hussey will be on board from the Hawaii Independent, and Beth-Ann Kozlovich and Neal Milner are in for Hawaii Public Radio. We are doing our note-taking the traditional way, with pen and paper. So far, it’s working well.

Civil Beat declined to participate and instead is live-blogging the trial. Their breakthrough is court agreement that they may bring a laptop into the gallery and connect to the Internet. As a condition of approval, other media must be able to use their reports.

I intended to petition the court to allow audio recording, but that would have certainly been denied by our Luddite district court, and it might have jeopardized the Civil Beat application. The live-blogging approach seemed doable, or at least not doomed from the get-go.

It’s not unknown for audio recording or even video to be allowed in court. Our state court allows it. You may have seen live coverage by Akaku on Maui or Oahu TV video of the Superferry proceedings at the Supreme Court. The federal court (not our Hawaii court, though) is not universally averse to technology. Check out the great web page of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. They even offer video and audio themselves! At one time I requested and received an order allowing photography (before the hearing) and audio recording of the oral arguments for a case of interest, and it was granted. I posted the audio in this article.

Civil Beat has dragged the court all the way into the 20th century. There’s only a little way to go to close the media gap. Perhaps, if the court gains confidence with the Civil Beat live blogging, they’ll allow a little more next time. (The Star-Advertiser tried to equal CB but blew it, their request is premature. This judge is still computer-shy.)

Meanwhile, check out any of the participating websites (or radio station!) for any article they care to run based on pool notes.

Think of it – we can do what even KITV, KHON or other really big media outlets cannot do without great expense—cover pretty much all of a trial if we choose to do that.

Technology is one thing, but it’s not the key to good reporting. 90% is being there, they say.

The other 10%, as I learned last Wednesday, may be in carrying an extra pen. Mine ran out towards the end of the day, and I had to be content to sit and listen and remember. Ugh.


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