WOUB Director Leads National Conference

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Tom Hodson, WOUB's interim director and general manager, recently served as a primary facilitator at a national conference focusing on the use of new media and social media by court systems around the country.

The conference, which took place in Washington, D.C. this past August, featured the findings of a research study showing an increase in the use of social media by court personnel and participants at both the state and federal level. Jeffrey Toobin, the senior court analyst at CNN also took part in the conference, which included an interview by Nina Totenberg of NPR with Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

Hodson has been working with the study on behalf of Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, as well as WOUB. The research is sponsored by the Conference of Court Public Information Officers, of which Hodson is a founding member, and the National Center for State Courts.

The study could potentially provide benefits to Ohio University in maintaining the prominence of its journalism program and media entities.

“This is cutting edge research, and what we want to do – both at the Scripps J-School as well as at WOUB – is be part of the emerging and changing landscape of media,” says Hodson. “The more we study (social media) and the more we understand how it’s being used, the more we can understand it ourselves.”

Two separate surveys were conducted over the past two years, each of which sought to empirically measure the extent to which courts were using innovative forms of media and technology.

“What we have been able to chart now, statistically, is an increase in the use of new media, which includes things like smart phones (and) interactive websites,” says Hodson. “But the real explosion has been in the use of social media through things such as Facebook and Twitter.”

Aside from his involvement with the Conference of Court Public Information Officers, Hodson’s background in law gave him a vested interest in the research and its findings.

“I was a judge for 10 years and I still sit as a judge on occasion, as assigned by the Ohio Supreme Court, so I had a judicial interest in (the study),” says Hodson. “It was something I had written about, sort of the uneasy relationship between courts and the media… it just seemed natural that I would be a part of these new studies.”

Now that statistical data is available regarding how and when these mediums can be used, there is a hope that more court personnel and administrators will continue the trend, jumping on board with the new technology before falling too far behind.

“Things that were not thought of in 2010 were being done in 2011, such as courts using Facebook pages or Twitter accounts to promote information,” says Hodson. “We’re hoping that this research will give people some ammunition to not be so afraid of all the new forms of media, but instead embrace them and find ways that they can be used in a very positive light.”