Feb. 17: Covering a court case

Court sentencing for Julius Webster, leader of the Heartless Felons, one of the state’s most vicious gangs. Webster was found guilty of the murder, among other charges, of Curtis Marks, a member of a rival gang: Video

How to cover a sentencing

In many ways, a sentencing is no different than a meeting or a speech. In general, a lot happens, but your challenge is to find the heart of the meeting — the big story — and write about it. No question, such an event can be a snooze, particularly because of the formality of it.

Points to consider:

  • Group/agency: Double-check to ensure proper wording — committee, court or a commission or an authority
  • Topics of debate. The fact that the court met is NOT news, just as the fact that someone spoke is not news. What happened? What did someone say or rule?
  • Important decisions, if any
  • Quotes from judges, suspects or lawyers who spoke during the meeting
  • Reactions from people at the event and those, particularly, who are affected by a decision
  • Crowd size
  • Atmosphere:: Was it friendly. Angry? Rowdy?
  • Any unusual events or departure from the decorum
  • What happens next

For the exercise above, the issue is what did the judge decide in the Webster case. What was his main message?

So pretend you are a reporter for the local newspaper, and the sentencing happened today, Friday, Oct. 21 — in real time.  Oh, and the sentencing took place in the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court. In the Marks murder, Robert Porter, Webster’s accomplice, was sentenced last week to life in prison.


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