The featured speaker at the April 14 PCBA luncheon was The Des Moines Register’s Grant Rodgers. Mr. Rodgers works as a journalist for the publication focusing on media coverage of the courtroom.
Mr. Rodgers first discussed his process in selecting cases through understanding his readership and ensuring engagement with his audiences. One element of determining this level of engagement is through the Register’s analysis of its online readership. Because the online audience is growing so rapidly, this tool is essential in determining which stories resulted in the most attention, which then allows Mr. Rodgers to determine what cases successfully engaged his readers. By looking at the number of views combined with the devices in which those views took place, he explained he can determine the stories he believes are most worth additional coverage or follow-ups. He also discussed how many readers comment on social media websites with specific questions or interests which also help filter his focus for what stories may successfully reach the Internet-native generation of readers.
Mr. Rodgers also discussed other tools he has used to report cases including live blog coverage of trials. He pointed out some attorneys have concerns with this kind of coverage such as the risk of witnesses having access to the coverage prior to testimony, and he emphasized his reliance on open communication with the attorneys in order to allow his reporting to go smoothly. Finally, Mr. Rodgers noted that, as a journalist, when he reaches out to attorneys, his main priority is to verify the legal issues and the facts in order to ensure accurate reporting. Mr. Rodgers fielded many questions from the well-attended group of PCBA members.