The Attorney General of the United States, who happens also to be a graduate of the University of Nebraska School of Journalism, displays a certain ambivalence in the matter of the legal rights of press photographers. This is understandable enough, for there are many editors and reporters who are also of two minds on the subject. And it should be pointed out that the questions which arise with reference to Canon 35 must logically extend to the new communications medium of television which, if anything, will further complicate the whole business.
It is true, as the National Press Photographers Association has earnestly maintained for more than a decade, that Canon 35 was drafted in the days of noisy flash techniques of picture-taking, which also were the days of lurid “tabloid journalism.” The picture-taking technique has quieted down, and the sensation-mongers among the country’s daily newspapers have diminished in numbers—although they are still prevalent enough in the large metropolitan centers where there are most likely to be the type of headline-making trials which such papers delight in covering. . . .
. . . In sum, Canon 35 might be modified, or court rules might be modified, to permit non-flash camera coverage under certain well-defined conditions and within definite physical limits inside the courtroom. As a matter of news value, most trials would never be photographed; the rules would cover those situations where the public interest is high and the photographers apt to become overzealous. If the court determines that the public should be admitted to a particular trial, various representatives of the press should also be admitted. Individuals who abused the right could be ejected just as the court may eject anyone who creates a disturbance in its presence. Within such limits, it probably would develop that camera coverage of trials was not such a momentous issue as both sides have made it up to now.
William F. Swindler,
Commentary on Press Photographers and the Courtroom,
35 Neb. L. Rev. 13
Available at: http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/nlr/vol35/iss1/3