The trial of Derek Chauvin, the ex-cop accused in the death of George Floyd, will be televised live in its entirety by KMSP, the Fox-owned affiliate in Minneapolis, the first time in the history of Minnesota that cameras are being allowed to show the entire live proceedings in a criminal trial.
On Monday morning, March 29, people all over the world will be able to witness history being made in a Minneapolis courtroom as cameras are allowed to show the entire live proceedings in the criminal trial of Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer accused in the death of George Floyd. This is the first time in the history of Minnesota that cameras are being allowed in any courtroom in the state, except for the sentencing of a convicted person, which happens on a case-by-case basis.
Minnesota’s governor has called it “the most important trial in the country.”
KMSP, the Fox-owned affiliate, is the only local Minneapolis TV station to broadcast gavel-to-gavel coverage of the trial. The station is streaming the proceedings as well, as is CBSN Minnesota, the streaming channel for CBS-owned WCCO.
Marian Davey, KMSP’s news director, says the state opposed cameras in the courtroom, but the judge approved them anyway.
“This unprecedented trial has really consumed our community, so the parties agreed to allow it to be televised,” she says.
Chauvin is charged with manslaughter, second-degree murder and third-degree murder in the death of Floyd.
Davey says “bringing the trial to our viewers uninterrupted allows the community to see with their own eyes what the jury is seeing. This trial is of such extraordinary importance that it’s just the right thing to do.”
Preempting normal programming so the station can televise the entire trial is not an option any station takes lightly, as there can be negative revenue consequences. That kind of live coverage commitment is usually reserved for the most exceptional events like floods, hurricanes or other natural disasters.
KMSP’s normal daytime programming, shows including Fox 9 Buzz, The Jason Show, Wendy Williams, TMZ Live, The Real, Dr. Oz and Judge Judy will be carried on KMSP’s co-owned WFTC, a MyNetworkTV affiliate.
“All of us as a team agree [with the telecast decision] even if there are some sacrifices that need to be made,” says Sheila Oliver, KMSP’s GM. “This is just such an important trial that we feel it is a public service of utmost importance to make sure we carry it gavel to gavel.”
There will be three pool cameras in the courtroom provided by Court TV. All television stations and broadcast networks will use that feed.
Because of COVID protocols, only one broadcast and one print reporter are allowed in the courtroom. Otherwise, all credentialed media are in a media center across the street from courthouse. For broadcast, the pool consists of 16 local and national members that rotate daily.
One broadcast reporter in that rotation is KMSP reporter Paul Blume, who is leading the trial coverage for the station.
Blume is trying to keep the weight of history from pressing down too hard on his coverage. “It’s another trial that I go and cover,” he says. “I have got to feel comfortable with that.”
Blume’s role will be to sum up the day’s activities on the station’s evening and late newscasts, and be available to discuss the events with the anchors. The station will also have an attorney available, he says.
Blume will be the broadcast reporter in the courtroom on March 29, the first day of the trial. He anticipates that “come Monday morning, we will get into opening statements, maybe the first witness before we take our first break. Then I’ll rush to a camera and be available for talk back with the anchors.”
Davey says the cameras will not show the jurors or the members of Floyd’s family unless they agree to be shown. “It’s the job of the pool reporter in the courtroom to be the eyes to witness the things that the camera doesn’t catch, reactions from both sides, the prosecution and the defense,” she says, “so the pool reporter can say this particular piece of testimony really moved the jurors.”
The trial is expected to last three to four weeks.
This being live television, Oliver says they expect a bumpy ride.
There will be things that happen that can’t be controlled, she says. “We will learn some lessons, and make our changes as we go through it.”
But Oliver says you can’t underestimate “what a pivotal time this trial is in our community. One of the main reasons why television stations exist is to make sure you capture the moment as it is happening in your community. It is so important for people to have faith that what they see is what the jury is seeing for the most part. They can make up their own mind based on what they see in its entirety.”
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