What’s she doing in the shot?!?
The question erupted in the press room of the Hemy Neuman murder trial. The courtroom camera was fixed on Andrea Sneiderman, who was seated in the gallery of the courtroom. Mrs. Sneiderman was having a visible reaction to some of the opening statements made by attorneys at the start of the trial.
The pool feed, shot by Turner Broadcasting’s Tru TV (formerly Court TV), showed Sneiderman in the second row of the courtroom audience. Seated in the row in front of her was WSB-TV reporter Jodie Fleischer. And Fleischer was plainly in the shot, slightly out of focus, screen left of Mrs. Sneiderman.
Nothing against Fleischer, a fine reporter who recently won a prestigious Columbia-duPont award. But given a choice, most reporters at WSB’s competitors would prefer to minimize the visual presence of competing reporters in their stories.
For those who haven’t followed, Hemy Neuman has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. He claims an angel who looks like Olivia Newton John, and demon resembling Barry White, convinced him to gun down Rusty Sneiderman outside a day care center in Dunwoody. Neuman was infatuated with the victim’s wife Andrea. Andrea Sneiderman called Neuman a “stalker,” but other testimony suggests she returned the defendant’s affections prior to her husband’s killing. Mrs. Sneiderman faces no criminal charge, and is the most intriguing character in the case.
There are two ways to watch a criminal trial. One way is to sit in the courtroom. In Federal court, that’s the only choice, because the US Supreme Court continues to illogically ban TV cameras from federal courtrooms. In local courts — where cameras are allowed — reporters can also sit in the courtroom. By doing so, you can watch things that aren’t on the pool TV feed, including the jury’s reaction to testimony. You can learn subtle nuances of the case from sitting in the courtroom.
But when you’re facing successive deadlines starting at noon (yes, there are still newscasts at noon, and they frequently get staffed by actual reporters covering actual stories. Ask your grandparents, or your out-of-work uncle), then TV reporters have to watch the pool feed.
In the Neuman trial, the pool feed goes into a room in the basement of the courthouse, four stories below the actual courtroom. The room has no windows, no cell phone service and intermittent wifi. But it has a clean audio and video feed of the trial — the same feed you can see on 11alive.com all day (or channel 211 on your Comcast cable; 11.2 over-the-air on your HD TV thing).
In the press room, the feed goes into machines that read time code. The time code enables TV reporters to quickly and accurately locate interesting tidbits of testimony or other courtroom yammer. To edit their stories, they have to schlep outdoors to a live truck parked in front of the DeKalb County Courthouse.
But the best reason to watch the pool feed: You can yell at the TV. You can make witty comments about the testimony. You can analyze the characters out loud, with maturity and restraint, of course.
This is the deep end of the pool. There’s no snarky commentary whatsoever. We’re all professionals here.
Some of us play roles. WXIA’s Duffie Dixon is among those with the steel-trap memory of the case from the get-go. WSB radio’s Jon Lewis is the legal consultant. Others are lay psychologists, failed murder mystery novelists, twisted marriage consultants and would-be humorists.
I occasionally play the role of Andrea Sneiderman’s apologist, only because I know I’ll get heckled when I do so.
And then there’s Fleischer. She played no role in the press room on the trial’s first day because she was in the courtroom, horning in on the pool video, forced to sit in silence, while the rest of us yelled at the TVs. Her WSB coworker Mike Petchinek manned the feed.
But by the trial’s second day, she sensibly moved out of the pool feed spotlight and into the windowless basement room with the rest of us.