I could not put my life on hold for three months to attend the Chapo trial. I also could not afford to spend three months in New York covering the trial. It was too cost prohibitive. When I first started keeping an eye on the Chapo trial, in anticipation of finishing the actual book I had being working on for years on the rise and fall of the Mexican drug cartels, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that technology and research happily came together to make it possible for me to write a book about the Chapo trial.
As I wrote earlier in the week, American federal courts do not live stream the court proceedings, so I expected to gather the news reports from the trial and add them to my research. But I was pleasantly surprised to find Keegan Hamilton from Vice News, Alan Feuer and Emily Palmer, both reporters for the New York Times contemporaneously tweeting about the trial on a daily basis.
This offered me the unique opportunity to see what was going on at the trial in almost real time, without being there. As Twitter is a free form medium, it was my belief that the three reporters could offer information unconstrained by their publication’s corporate and writing limitations.
Additionally, I make a living off social media technology concepts and the Twitter trial connection took me down a technology-research mesh that was hard to resist.
As I thought about this more, I soon realized that I had the opportunity to do something different. I realized that I could write a book about an important event through Twitter posts. It was an opportunity to use technology with traditional research while also adhering to certain requirements that I try to abide by.
I understand that there are inherent biases and corporate requirements that color news reporting. That is the reason I watch both CNN and Fox News as well as other news outlets. From those I draw my own conclusions as to what news is real, and what is fake news.
In writing any research material I try to avoid biases and inherent issues by using at minimum three independent sources.
Feuer, Hamilton and Palmer unwillingly offered me the last piece I needed to decide to write the book; “Convicting Chapo, Naked and Afraid – the Trial to Convict El Chapo”.
All three were posting their courtroom observations on an almost daily basis and all three were posting independent observations. Through Pacer, news reports and social media I also had access to many of the court documents the jury was seeing.
It was the perfect trifecta for the book.
Absent the Twitter feeds, it would have been impossible for me to write the book unless I spent three months, like they did, at the trial.
It is likely that less than 200 people could have had a closer look at the trial than that offered by the Twitter feeds. Obviously, the reporters, the judge, the jury, the lawyers and the 40 or so spectators in the courtroom would have had a closer look at the trial. There were also the witnesses, although they were limited to the amount of time they were in the courtroom and the unknown number of spectators in the overflow courtroom where the trial was being live fed to.
I have already written about how federal courtrooms should have a CSPAN-type of feeds to trials. But they do not.
As I wrote in my book, I wonder if a future trifecta of Twitter or other technology would allow a book such as this to be written again. I also wonder if news reporters will be discouraged or encouraged to use social media daily posts on important trials because of my book experiment.
My book was an experiment on federal courtroom access, technology and the hard work of three news reporters.
I now wonder how my use of Twitter will be commented on by news professionals and others, and whether I have discouraged live feeds via social media by news professionals.
I hope not and I hope the experiment leads to an exploration of research in a data-connected world.