The Jian Ghomeshi trial on charges of sexual assault and choking has concluded and we won't know the verdict until March 24 when Justice William B. Horkins rules in front of what no doubt will be a throng of journalists and others ready to tweet, report and broadcast every small detail.
Not only has the trial garnered much attention, so too has the media coverage of it. A university class I spoke to Thursday wondered why columnists are expressing such strong opinions on a criminal court case.
This doesn't happen in a jury trial because the media coverage can be seen as potentially influencing the jurors, but there is no such concern when the case is being heard by a judge only as in this trial. The practice over the past few years has been that the media has offered opinions or analysis on judge-only trials.
Still it feels to some that the needle is moving in terms of court coverage, in part because of social media, live tweeting and instant reporting on every twist and turn. On top of this, there has been so much coverage on many media and platforms.
In fact, the live tweeting and breaking news coverage isn't new either, but the combination of the subject matter and the fame (in Canadian media circles anyway) of the accused and the major coverage by most media has brought the question into the spotlight.
I asked King's College journalism professor Dean Jobb, author of Media Law for Canadian Journalists, about some of these concerns. He said that with Charter rulings on such issues of publication bans and access to court documents, the courts have become more open.
As long as there isn't a jury, "the court system can withstand some pretty robust scrutiny," he added.
"Judges are trained triers of fact. The fact that they are not influenced by outside criticism or analysis does leave media freer to comment almost in this blow-by-blow fashion. And of course social media does lend itself to that."
Some readers wondered about whether the breaking news/Twitter coverage with short news bites was overly dramatic for a criminal trial. In my view, live tweeting adds to the public knowledge of a trial and is generally done responsibly. But it's up to the readers and followers who want to be well-informed to not make a snap judgment based on a few tweets or one column but to inform themselves through more complete coverage and by reading different opinions.
There is a risk, noted Professor Jobb, that people will slide in and make a snap judgment and that is a concern with the way our news cycle works.
"But maybe that was the case in the past too if they just read a headline. On any subject including the U.S. primaries it's good to do your homework," he said.
Another question raised at the university class was why has there been so much non-courtroom coverage.
The Globe's coverage has included lawyers and law professors with one saying Twitter doesn't do the trial justice
Another wondered if the police did their job properly.
Two other authors said trials "whack" and harm complainants
I think that coverage was warranted and necessary because this trial was more than one man accused of sexual assault. It became a detailed look at sexual assault in general and how the court system deals with these allegations.
I've also had two specific complaints from readers about the news coverage as opposed to the columns.
One complained about the daily wrap-up digital story which on one day early in the trial referred to the "cast of characters". The reader asked is it "just me or does it sound insensitive to describe a woman who was allegedly violently sexually assaulted as a 'character' among a cast of other characters?"
I passed this to the digital editors who agreed and changed the reference to the "key people involved."
Another reader said The Globe should "give its head a shake" about the preponderance of coverage on Ghomeshi versus the small coverage of the murder of Tim Bosma.
"Why? A 2-page spread on an assault trial vs a tiny column on a vicious murder of an ordinary Canadian? … Why is the Globe going overboard?"
While this is a fair comment, there continues to be massive interest in the Ghomeshi case in part as I have said before because it is as much about the larger issue of sexual assault as it is this one particular trial.