I’d only been working as chief reporter with the Worksop Guardian for a week when they told me they wanted to send me to America to cover the double murder trial of Neil Entwistle – a local man accused of shooting dead his wife and baby.
I’d heard about the case at the time of the murders but that was two years earlier and my knowledge of the American legal system ranged about as far as a John Grisham novel.
One of the first things I did was get in touch with a Boston reporter who was a real help, giving me lots of information about the court and reporting laws.
Lenient reporting rules
The main thing was not to speak to members of the jury at all until after the trial. All key pieces of evidence and things that were said when the jury were out of earshot were all OK to report. Compared to UK laws it was a free for all.
The whole case was even streamed live by truTV and one pool photographer was allowed in to take snaps from inside the court.
On arrival at the Massachusetts court I was expecting a certain amount of animosity between the US and UK media packs after some public mocking of ‘bumbling Brits’ online on one of the American paper’s blogs.
Luckily the UK hacks were too thick-skinned to care and by the end of the trial we all had regular seats in the windowless media room with everyone openly comparing notes and intros to copy.
From my point of view the action did not stop from day one. I was representing the whole of Johnston Press and had to file everything as and when it happened. Trying to do the impossible and compete with live coverage added that extra layer of pressure.
The time difference also meant late nights for Worksop subs who were ever ready at the end of the phone when I called at 10pm to file the final day’s copy.
Demands of digital age
And because of Johnston’s blossoming ‘newsroom of the future’ I found myself acting as a one-man media circus as reporter, photographer and cameraman.
At times an extra pair of arms wouldn’t have gone a miss.
There was also the matter of how to handle the Entwistles themselves, our local Worksop family. I kept in touch with them throughout the trial but decided early on not to hound them.
I reasoned they knew exactly when they would speak and to whom and my priority was making sure I was there and available to them should they choose to release a statement.
And when I visited their hotel just after their son was found guilty they did – giving me my first world exclusive. In short the whole experience was ‘awesome’.