because CNN hired high school kids to cover the event

The audience was historic. Accused of endangering the security of the United States by keeping confidential documents after his removal from the White House, Donald Trump was summoned to appear on Tuesday 13 June in Miami federal court. All the press obviously mobilized, but in the race for information on the judicial and political future of the former president – who will seek a new mandate in 2024 – a major obstacle has arisen: no communication has been possible between the courtroom and the outside, the judge having prohibited the public and journalists from accessing it with the slightest electronic device, including cameras, computers and telephones.

How did CNN reveal in front of all its competitors that the 45And Had the President of the United States pleaded not guilty to the thirty-seven charges brought against him? the ploy, which the channel presented on Wednesdayis as incredible as it is anachronistic, in a country where (almost) nothing escapes the cameras or the request for transparency of taxpayers (taxpayers) towards their institutions.

It all started on Monday, the day before the hearing, with the dispatch of a reconnaissance mission. Tasked with inspecting the Miami courthouse, the CNN team has located two payphones, forgotten relics of telecommunications’ wired past (the last booths in New York were dismantled in 2022), but the only way to communicate quickly with the ‘external. Noah Gray, Senior Channel Coordinator for special events (special events), they can then develop their plan.

Transparency and impartiality

It turns out that he himself grew up in Miami, where he attended Palmetto Senior High School, and contacts a broadcast journalism professor to offer to temporarily hire some of his students. The case is, it seems, heard very quickly. The next day, the classroom is packed. Next to Hannah Rabinowitz and Tierney Sneed, the two CNN reporters armed only with their notebooks, there is a handful of teenagers. When Todd Blanche, Donald Trump’s lawyer, announces: “We resolutely plead ‘not guilty'”, the journalists tear off the pages where they have just scrawled these words and hand them to the students, who rush to find their partner in charge of standing guard in front of one of the booths. All he has to do is call to announce the information, but there’s a problem: the booths only allow local calls.

However, the problem was expected. Another team is stationed in a van that serves as the chain’s mobile headquarters. There is a local production assistant on board, whose mobile phone number is accessible. It is he who liaises with Brad Parks, regional director of the investigative antenna, who can in turn transmit the information to the Washington office, where it is validated and then announced on the antenna, before all the others networks (tv channels). “In all my years in the field, I have never been involved in such a complex telephone operation”said Noah Gray at the end of the hearing.

The operation not only testified to great inventiveness, but fueled the debate on the transparency of federal justice often considered archaic and rigid on its principles. As for Donald Trump, the forensic cartoonists’ sketches will be the only visual pieces to add to the archives of this historic indictment.

Read also: Donald Trump: the main judicial investigations that threaten the former American president

Many jurists then deemed it necessary to reform the rules in the name of transparency and impartiality. “I think it’s about justice for the people, it’s our taxpayers’ money that pays for it, and all Americans should be able to see it.”, especially estimated Neal Katyal, former interim attorney general, on MSNBC. His arguments seem all the more well-founded since, whatever the bans, the press always ends up evading them, as Tuesday’s hearing demonstrated.

In France, except in exceptional cases, cameras are still prohibited, but journalists have the option of transmitting their information by telephone or computer. In the United States, however, television channels are so ubiquitous in the courts, especially since the OJ Simpson trial in 1994, that the absence of images can seem almost suspicious.

“Hyperpolarization”

“Since the 1980s many trials, even in the preliminary stage, such as the one held on Tuesday, have been televised and Americans have gotten used torecalls Marie-Christine Bonzom, political scientist, journalist and specialist in the United States, where she worked for almost thirty years (1989-2018). This time the judge didn’t want the hearing to turn into a media circus. I think this power should be left to him.she believes.

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The press can always assert the right to inform to ask to cover the processes, but in politically delicate cases, moreover when it comes to confidential acts, the publicity of the proceedings, according to the expert, would do nothing but ‘feed “hyperpolarization” of American society. “The United States has reached such a degree of partisan division that it has tainted all spheres of public life, including the judiciary and the media. Today everyone must ask themselves questions, both the media and the judiciary and the two parties that dominate political life.concludes.

“Proponents of media coverage of the debates believe that viewers should see everything in the name of transparency, but the question is what has the audience missed”observes Anne Deysine, jurist and emeritus professor at the University of Paris Nanterres, who has, among other things, published America and Democracy (The Harmattan, 2019). “This time, all that was missing was Donald Trump’s silence and his blatantly frowning gaze. The journalists were in the room and the slightest infraction would have been reported, even in the absence of images. Conversely, the presence of the cameras would have run the risk that everything would have been “sensationalized” and that the lawyers would have overestimated their score for the media, which would have only accentuated the polarization.she concludes too.