ETHICS: Social media and the court reporter

social media and the court reporterBy Robin Cooksey

Technology has no doubt created a world where information can be accessed at incredible speeds, and opinions and thoughts are disseminated to others simply by the click of a mouse or a keyboard. Whether you are providing remote CART services or broadcast captioning or you are working as an official or freelance reporter, chances are you have used some form of technology to do your job.

Since the advent of the Internet, technology has continued to evolve, and social media has become its cornerstone. Merriam-Webster defines social media as “a collective of online communications channels dedicated to community-based input, interaction, content-sharing and collaboration.” It is so commonplace now and its use is so widespread that businesses set up websites and Facebook pages to promote their business. Government officials use Twitter so that constituents may be informed on current issues.

Social media has become such an integral part of our society now that state and federal governments have actually promulgated rules and policies to address the concerns that social media potentially bring to the court system. Jurors are now instructed that they are not to use any form of social media to research the cases on which they’re serving or communicate about them. Jurors are further cautioned about the consequences if these rules are not followed.

While court reporters serve a different function in the legal setting, the rules that apply to the jurors are equally important to follow as a court reporter. Our Code of Professional Conduct does not specifically address the dos and don’ts of social media. It does, however, state that we are to “guard against not only the fact but the appearance of impropriety”; we must “preserve the confidentiality and ensure the security of information, oral or written, entrusted to the reporter by any of the parties in a proceeding”; and we must “maintain the integrity of the reporting profession.” If a reporter were to engage in discussions on social media regarding any matter that they were reporter for, not only would he or she be guilty of misconduct, they, too, could potentially cause irreparable harm to the parties.

In order to respond to the needs of our society, we need to stay abreast of current trends in technology. Use video conferencing, Skype, live-streaming, and the like in order to provide the best product or service that you can. And then, at the end of the day, relax. Share your photos of your family and pets, your favorite recipes, and your thoughts. Let’s remember to keep the “social” in social media.

Robin Cooksey, RMR, of Houston, Texas, is a member of NCRA’s Committee on Professional Ethics.