OLD Media Moves

The early business journalist gets the best seat at the Enron trial

January 30, 2006

According to Houston Chronicle columnist Loren Steffy, the media began lining up outside the courthouse where the Enron trial was scheduled to begin today on Sunday night at 6:30 p.m.

Here is part of his posting on his Full Disclosure blog: “They started lining up at 6:30 — that’s p.m., as in Sunday night. My former colleagues at Bloomberg were first in line, of course, at the head of the media circus. Others trickled in throughout the night. By the time I arrived at 6:30 — that’s a.m., as in this morning — about a dozen people had assembled.

“So far it’s been all about the unglamorous side of covering the big story: standing in line, scrambling for seats, angling for the best electrical outlet.

“The 4th floor overflow room, where I’m going to spend most of the trial, is slowly filling with reporters. Most of them are milling around trying to figure out how to hook up to the WiFi network, which apparently is having problems as networks do.

“That’s not a problem for me. My laptop decided to blow a driver late Sunday, so I’m hobbling along, blogging from the press room one floor up.

“So that’s how the Trial of the Century starts: with the mundane.”

Just a couple of questions: Did the Bloomberg reporters bring sleeping bags? lawn chairs? A cooler full of libations? And what do business journalists standing in line for more than 12 hours talk about among themselves?

The New York Times’ coverage of today’s proceedings answered at least one of my questions: The Bloomberg team hired someone to hold their spot so they could sleep. The Times story noted: “The federal courthouse here today was teeming with members of the news media from around the world. A line to secure just eight seats reserved for journalists in the courtroom began forming at 6 p.m. Sunday evening. One person hired by Bloomberg News to hold a place slept in a chair beside the entrance to the courthouse, others arrived as early as 3 a.m. today and by 5 a.m. all eight spots were gone. Journalists who did not make the cut had to watch the trial on closed-circuit televisions in an overflow room. Federal trial proceedings are not open to public cameras.”

Although jury selection was done on Monday, I am beginning to get the feeling that this trial, or at least the perception of this trial, will have as much to do with Lay and Skilling and whether they are innocent or guilty as it will the business media being able to explain what’s going on in a way that will keep reader interest. That won’t be easy.

I’m also intrigued by how one of the defendants — Lay — is using the Internet to present his case. He has a web site, http://www.kenlayinfo.com — where documents related to the case are posted, and Lay’s press conference from July 2004 and his presentation before the Houston Summit on December 2005, can be reviewed. There’s even info on how to contact his PR person.

Subscribe to TBN

Receive updates about new stories in the industry daily or weekly.

Subscribe to TBN

Receive updates about new stories in the industry.