Our View: Chronicle sees success with cameras in the courtroom

Published: Saturday, July 13, 2013 5:29 a.m. CDT

Not many people see the inside of a courtroom.

But as of Friday that all changed in Kane County, when a camera was used in a local courtroom for the first time, providing additional insight – that beyond the written word – into a court case.

The Kane County Chronicle was able to take still photos of a status hearing for a civil case between the city of St. Charles and Clifford McIlvaine on Friday morning at the Kane County Courthouse in Geneva after it was granted extended media coverage by several parties, including Judge David Akemann, the judge presiding over the case.

Photo editor Sandy Bressner took a position in the back corner of the courtroom before the McIlvaine case was called, a cushiony piece of equipment wrapped around her digital camera to muffle the sound of the shutter click.

When McIlvaine was called in front of the judge, a historic moment took place – photos were taken of a Kane County court proceeding.

The moment was made possible after the Illinois Supreme Court approved a set of policies in May that allowed news outlets to request and win the ability to use cameras – including video cameras – to cover court proceedings in the 16th Judicial Circuit.

Kathryn Seifrid, court media liaison, said Friday morning that allowing cameras in courtrooms would not necessarily change the Kane County court system, rather it would allow more people to see what was transpiring in local courtrooms.

She noted that the first instance of extended media coverage would be a learning experience.

And that has been the case for the Kane County Chronicle, which required guidance from Seifrid when filling out the required paperwork.

In addition, although the Chronicle initially was denied extended media access to the McIlvaine case, that decision was reversed.

Prior to such access being allowed in Kane County, cameras already had been allowed in various other Illinois areas, including DeKalb, DuPage, Kendall, Lake, Boone and Winnebago counties.

Allowing cameras in courtrooms has multiple benefits. It provides enhanced transparency and allows the public to more easily comprehend the judicial process.

The Kane County Chronicle appreciates the assistance of the 16th Judicial Circuit in navigating the pilot program and looks forward to providing its readers with additional extended media coverage in the future.

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Jan Schlictmann at a Geneva law firm.

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