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August 02, 2007

YKos — Libby Trial Blogging Panel

Posted in: Libby Trial Live Blog,Media,YearlyKos

Live bloggingAt YKos, this morning’s Libby Trial Panel was a special treat, much like last year’s Plame Panel that Jane organized. Today’s panel was chaired by Jeralyn Merritt and included our Christy and the inimitable Marcy (emptywheel) as well as Sheldon (Shelly) Snook. Snook is the Federal District Court media coordinator who made all the media arrangements that allowed the bloggers to cover the Libby trial. And of course, in the audience to add their own behind the scenes stories were Jane, who led and organized Firedoglakes’s live-blogging effort, Pachacutec (who blogged jury selection) and egregious (who was in court helping behind the scenes). The large audience, many of whom came to Firedoglake because of the Plame story, were kept enthralled by the stories. and cheered the panelists when introduced and when they were done. This is what many of us came for.

We got special insights from Jeralyn for the defense tactics, Christy for the prosecution, and Marcy for the experience of blogging the trial in real time These three pioneers of the new journalism related stories about encounters with the trial lawyers — Wells didn’t do his best crying act — and the Libby partisans — Mrs. Libby apparently has mesmerizing hair — as well as the clashes of attorney styles and ego.

Christy and Marcy also focused on the relationship with members of the mainstream media, and what it was like to win recognition and grudging respect from the reporters who came to understand that their future was sitting next to them, filing in the background they didn’t know, explaining the relevance of arguments they couldn’t quite follow because they hadn’t done the homework the bloggers had done. The bloggers had read the filings and cross checked them against known facts (like the book Marcy wrote).

It must have been a nervous moment for some old-line reporters, watching this group of unknown bloggers who they previously thought of only as DFH, high on snark, and then watch them beat the pants off the dozens of regular reporters. What must they have thought as they realized here was a group of highly intelligent, incredibly well informed and diligent Americans digging into every detail, reading the pleadings, doing their jobs in ways they no longer understood. Who were these people, blogging the trial not just with Q&A summaries but instant analysis, context, meaning, and commentatry filled with insights and relevance — and a picture.

And I suspect the reporters had a sense that these irreverent bloggers were on to them. As Marcy noted today, the bloggers knew what none in the MSM every admitted, that the Libby trial was just as much about the media’s complicity and its seduction by the favors of privileged access as it was the lies and obstruction of Scooter Libby and Dick Cheney. And when the verdict came down, it was not just Libby who was found guilty, but some of the best known media personalities as well.

I’m a stong believer that people matter, that individuals can make a huge difference, and this incomparable team of dedicated, brlliant bloggers confirmed that for me. But if you have any doubts, consider the impact of Shelly Snook, an attorney and media coordinator for Judge Walton’s District Court.

It was Shelly Snook, working with Judge Walton, who worked out the unprecedented arrangements that brought this blogging Trojan Horse within the walls, only to find it filled with Jane and Pach, Christy and Jeralyn, and Marcy, who then swarmed into the courtroom and the media center and out across the toobz. It was Snook and Walton who made sure these bloggers were there and had everything they needed to do their jobs. Snook seems like a total professional, a straight shooter, and a guy who would simply explain, as he did today, that he was just doing his job. But I think it was more than that, because you could tell this man understands what his efforts allowed and what these bloggers accomplished.

If Shelly Snook had been someone else, anyone else, live blogging of the Libby trial might never have happened, or might have been severely limited by typical bureaucratic rules that would have handicapped the effort. But the opposite happened, and Shelly and his Judge are a large part of the reason. On today’s panel, Sheldon Snook played it absolutely straight, as one might expect from an unbiased professional, an honest officer of the court. But he must have known that this was not an ordinary trial, and that it required more than ordinary media coverage. And by choosing to do his job the way he did, he made sure that this special coverage happened.

So far, the Libby trial is the only moment of legal accountability we’ve had (or may ever have) regarding the lies that misled a nation and took it to war. That part of the system worked. George Bush commuted Libby’s sentence but he cannot erase the trial and the fact that millions of Americans now know much more about what this White House did, thanks to a small group of people who knew this was important.

I saw a panel of fine Americans today, people who just did their jobs as citizens, and it made all the difference.


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