[I’ve changed the title and format to give this one it’s own post.]
Jerk of the Month: Peoria County juvenile court judge, Albert Purham, Jr.
A Peoria County juvenile court judge, Albert Purham, Jr., would not allow a blogger, Elaine Hopkins for Peoriastory.com, to observe and cover a July 25 juvenile court hearing. He ruled that a blogger is not a journalist under Illinois law.
Juvenile court is closed to the public in Illinois, but by law is open to journalists.
Operating a a “so-called blog” doesn’t make the person a journalist, Purham said.
Before the ruling he consulted the lawyers in the courtroom. A lawyer for the parent in this child welfare case had no objection, and her client, Lorraine Singleton who lost her children in 2003 and is trying to get them back, also had no objection.
But assistant state’s attorney Susan Lucas objected, as did an unidentified female lawyer apparently representing the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.
An explanation that Peoriastory.com has operated since February 2007, has business cards, and is run by Hopkins, a former newspaper reporter known to court personnel, did not sway the judge.
Peoria Pundit adds his two cents…
One wonders what Judge Purham would have done were he a judge decades ago when the first radio journalists began doing their jobs. Most early broadcast reporters were, like Elaine, veterans of the print world who were trying their hand at a new exciting way to distribute the news. Would Purham have turned away young Walter Cronkite, a United Press reporter before he became Uncle Walter?
What makes a person a journalist isn’t the particular media he or she uses to disseminate the news. It’s the fact that they are disseminating the news to a mass audience.
My own advice to all bloggers who are doing legit journalism and want to avoid problems with jerks like Purham: Join the National Writers Union. Dues are relatively inexpensive and they have a vetting process for issuing press passes, so their approval adds substantial weight when dealing with those unfortunate souls who are still living in the 20th Century. There are other benefits as well. I’m a member.
*** UPDATE 1 *** YDD makes an excellent point in comments about this issue by citing state law [705 ILCS 405/1-5(6)]
The general public except for the news media and the crime victim, as defined in Section 3 of the Rights of Crime Victims and Witnesses Act, shall be excluded from any hearing
Which YDD points out means…
I don’t think you’ll find anyone on the street today who would disagree that the Internet is a medium for news. Whether a blogger fits the definition of “journalist” is another question, but a completely irrelevant one under the law.
And then there’s this…
This Act shall be liberally construed to carry out the foregoing purpose and policy.
In other words, when in doubt, use the most liberal interpretation.
*** UPDATE 2 *** This was no run of the mill hearing. The grandmother of the girl in question claims she was abused in a foster home and has criticized a local judge. Elaine Hopkins, the blogger who was banned from the courtroom, is a former journalist and has covered the story on her blog…
Crystal Clark has settled down in front of the Peoria County courthouse, on the corner of Main and Jefferson, to protest the treatment of her grandchildren in foster care, and the refusal of Chief Judge Rick Grawey to meet with her group to discuss child welfare issues. […]
She said her grandchildren had been found to be dehydrated at the hands of foster parents, and she plans to refuse both food and water to call attention to their treatment. […]
Clark’s daughter lost the children when she was sent to prison for petty theft, but the children remained in the home they all were sharing with Clark. Then the children were removed from Clark’s care by a Catholic Social Service caseworker and placed in foster care. […]
While in foster care the children were abused, she said, and placed in several homes including one condemned by the the city of Peoria, before landing in foster care in a rural Peoria home. They have not been taken to their own church, she said, adding religious discrimination to the list of problems.
*** UPDATE 3 *** Google News is not 100 percent comprehensive, but it appears that the story about the foster care case is not being covered by the local media. I also have found no mention of the main players on the Peoria Journal-Star’s website.
Elaine Hopkins appears to be the only media person in the area who’s expressed any interest in this case. Without her reporting, nobody is gonna know anything. Maybe that’s how the Peoria judges like it.