Proposed revisions to Iowa Court Rules for Expanded Media Coverage, or EMC, will keep the state among leaders in granting media access to courtroom proceedings.

We support their adoption.

The Iowa Supreme Court is seeking comments on the rules changes which regulate audio and video recording and photography in the courtroom. The changes are a result of a 10-month review by a 15-person committee consisting of judges, attorneys and members of the media.

When the original rules were written in 1979, reporting tools for print media consisted of a notebook and pen and still photography. Today, our reporters take notes and transmit information with smartphones, tablets and laptops for dissemination in print, on websites, and on mobile and tablet devices. Through social media and blogs, minute-by-minute reports from the courtroom can be seen throughout the world. Photographers can shoot stills and video with the same camera.

While some Iowa judges, including those in the Quad-City area, have allowed blogging and tweeting from courtrooms, other judges in different districts have not. The proposed revisions will make the rules consistent throughout the state.

“Our default is openness,” said Kathleen Richardson, executive director of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council and a member of the court’s advisory committee which made the recommendations.

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The proposed revisions also would allow media coverage of initial appearances by defendants in criminal cases if the presiding judge approves. The request could be made either in writing or orally to the magistrate or presiding judge. The defendant would be able to object to expanded news media coverage prior to the start of the proceeding.

Once comments on the proposed revisions are received, the committee will review them. The final decision will be made by the Iowa Supreme Court.

We commend the thorough process that resulted in the proposed amendments and hope for quick implementation.