Live-blogging from court – using CoveritLive – invites readers to interact with the news

Susan Spencer-Wendel (@SpenWen), courts reporter for The Palm Beach Post for more than a decade, has spent the past couple of years live-tweeting high-profile trials. (In 2009, she played a role in media-law history when, on her behalf, The Post won clearance from a federal judge for reporters to tweet from court in the Southern District of Florida.)

Today, Susan upped her social-media rockstar status even more during her first time using CoveritLive, instead of Twitter, to live-blog a high-profile sentencing hearing.

I’ve written before about why I prefer CoveritLive to Twitter for live-blogging an event. Those reasons are listed here, and it doesn’t mean Twitter is bad, just more useful for other purposes.

As defendant Dalia Dippolito, the South Florida woman who tried to have her husband killed, was waiting anxiously for the judge’s hammer to come down, so were thousands of Palm Beach Post readers logged on to Susan’s live chat.


Susan started off warning readers: “I will not be expressing any opinions here. Please ask only fact-based questions.” She then started posting details from the courtroom such as the people, the mood and the setting.

She answered readers’ questions, even crowdsourcing at one point to ask readers what they thought of a question she planned to ask the prosecutor.

Meanwhile, web producers sprinkled polls, links and a few photos throughout the chat window.

Replay the chat here, or if on mobile, here.

During the three and a half hours that Susan live-blogged from court, more than 7,400 Palm Beach Post readers tuned in. They shared more than 500 comments and questions, which Susan moderated to avoid having inappropriate or irrelevant remarks show up on our site.

Beyond the numbers, the best part of Susan’s live chat is that, for several hours, it turned PalmBeachPost.com’s top story of the day into an interactive feature that drew readers in and allowed them to participate.

Readers were downright clamoring to take part in the chat, posting questions and comments at the rate of several each minute:

Is the sentencing underway??????
anything yet??
have been waiting to see how this turns out!
the suspense is killing me.

Readers were also full of kudos for Susan and The Post for providing the minute-by-minute updates.

Thank you for your coverage and keeping us abreast.
I want to mention what a good job you did reporting the trial.
You all do a great job at the POST keep it up!!!
Love following this blog as well as the Casey Anthony Blog at the same time. Oh technology
Thank you SpenWen! you totally rock keeping us up to date.
this live update is absolutely fantastic!! thanks Susan!

A certain newsroom editor was even overheard saying: “It looks so great online, it’s so immediate! Such a better system than Twitter.”

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1 Comment

Filed under Community engagement, Cool tools, Online journalism, Social media

One response to “Live-blogging from court – using CoveritLive – invites readers to interact with the news

  1. Thanks for the great post Tiff! I’ think I’m going to use this in my newsletter. Great to hear Susan is liking the transition so much. I thought I’d just share here the experience WFTV has had using CoverItLive for the Casey Anthony trial too, also selfishly so I can have somewhere to reference this info to others since it comes from an email exchange. Bruce Wiley, a web producer at WFTV, told me the following:

    “Using CoverItLive was something we’d talked about for a year or so before the trial started. I’d seen the Orlando Sentinel use it for Orlando Magic NBA playoff coverage a year or two ago. Craig (Mazer) [the station’s former web manager] and I originally envisioned having our legal expert for the trial use it as more of an actual live blog, and taking questions at the same time. When we realized that he wasn’t going to be available to do that for us that we decided to moderate it ourselves, and to let users have most of the input. We pose some questions, answer those that we can, and really use it almost like a chat room. On a typical day we have as many as 11,000 – 13,000 people on the blog at the same time. Yesterday we had more than 60,000 on at the same time! Today has been running well over 50,000.”

    I actually just spoke with Bruce again and he told me they’ve been averaging 50,000 – 60,000 widget views these past few days, and yesterday when Cindy Anthony tool the stand the widget peaked at 73,000 viewers.

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