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How Local Stations Will Cover Casey Trial

Local stations have big plans for the trial, from social media to television

Local television, which has closely followed the Casey Anthony case, will go all out for her trial.

"Channel 9 will be there every step of the way," WFTV anchor Bob Opsahl promises in an oft-repeated promotional spot.

The competition shares that approach, and social media will transform the coverage. "With the O.J. Simpson case, you had to make sure you were in front of a TV. This one will play out wherever you are," WESH-Channel 2 news director Bob Longo says.

Jury selection is scheduled to begin today.The stations are jockeying to show they will deliver the best coverage.

WESH touts that its legal analyst, retired Circuit Judge O.H. Eaton Jr., trained Chief Judge Belvin Perry, who will preside at the Anthony trial. WKMG-Channel 6 trumpets the addition of prominent Orlando lawyer Mark NeJame to its team.

But it won't be all Casey all the time.

"I don't think the vast majority of viewers want to be immersed in every move in the Anthony case," said Robin Smythe of Central Florida News 13. "We're finding a continued appetite for the daily menu of weather and news."

What to expect? Here's a quick look at the plans for the television coverage.

WFTV-Channel 9

Who leads the coverage? Reporter Kathi Belich and legal analyst Bill Sheaffer will be showcased, as they have been since this case began.

Where to look for coverage: "We will have our content on any platform that anyone has: mobile, desktop, television, Facebook, Twitter. Also our media partner is Cox Radio," news director Bob Jordan says.

How important will social media be? "Generally speaking social media is a component in coverage of any big story and cannot be ignored," Jordan says. "It won't be the primary platform we provide. Television and online will be the primary sources."

What does the station want to highlight? "Those are the very things I'm not going to tell competitors," Jordan says. "This trial is going to happen obviously during the May ratings period. I won't give competitors the advantage of my play book."

WOFL-Channel 35

Who leads the coverage? Holly Bristow and Shannon Butler are the main reporters. Orlando attorney Diana Tennis continues as analyst. Fox-owned WOFL will draw on analysts from Fox News Channel when available, news director Jeff Zeller says.

Where to look for coverage: "We'll be streaming on the Web during the entire trial," Zeller says. "We will have the opportunity for live coverage during the morning."

How important will social media be? "I think it's going to be really important," Zeller says. "The bulk of trial will happen during the workday." WOFL will direct people through Twitter and Facebook plus offer a chat room while streaming."

b>What does the station want to highlight? "The two reporters on the trial have been with the case from day one. They know the ins and outs of the case," Zeller says. "Our legal analyst, Diana Tennis, is very familiar with the case."

WESH-Channel 2

Who leads the coverage? Bob Kealing is the lead reporter, and Amanda Ober will report as well. Judge O.H. Eaton is the station's analyst. "What he brings to the table no one else can bring to the table, with all due respect to everyone else," news director Bob Longo says.

Where to look for coverage: will carry the trial live. Kealing will report live from the courtroom, and Eaton will add analysis during the trial. "If there's a headline or analysis, it pops in there,"Longo says. WESH will send updates via Facebook, email and Twitter through the day.

How important will social media be? "It's a big social media live trial," Longo says. "TV is still the big megillah. It's where the emotion and the sound and the color and all come to play. It's in your house. Is one [medium] more important the other? It depends on where you are."

What does the station want to highlight? "Eaton and technology, in that order," Longo says. "Eaton being an analyst is a big deal."

WKMG-Channel 6

Who leads the coverage? Tony Pipitone will report at 6, 7 and 11 p.m. Mike DeForest reports as well, and Lauren Rowe will anchor from the courthouse on significant days. "At 7, we'll do special extended coverage each weeknight.," says news director Steve Hyvonen. Attorneys Mark NeJame and Mark O'Mara will provide analysis.

Where to look for coverage? " will be compiling all of our information," Hyvonen says. "On the same screen they will see live blogging from Tony Pipitone from inside the courtroom." The station will cut into regular programming to cover opening statements as well as at crucial moments in the trial.

How important will social media be? "This is going to be one of the most-watched trials in history, simply because of where we are with social media and live Web streaming," Hyvonen says. Updates will come via Twitter and Facebook.

What does that station want to highlight? Hyvonen cites Pipitone for breaking stories and NeJame for knowledge of the case. But Hyvonen adds, "We'll not do 100 percent Casey Anthony. We will provide other news."

Central Florida News 13

Who leads the coverage? "Adam Longo and Jackie Fell, who have been working this full time for quite some time," says General Manager Robin Smythe. College Park attorney David Fussell will be the station's analyst.

Where to look for coverage? Central Florida News 13 will offer real-time reporting at its website. The TV channel will have regular updates at the top and bottom of the hour. "There will be days when testimony will be so compelling we'll be covering live," Smythe says.

How important will social media be? "Some of this technology has been around a while. What's unique in this market is the interest in this trial," Smythe says. The channel will meet that interest through Twitter and Facebook. Twitter feeds will be dispatched regularly out of the courtroom.

What does the station want to highlight? Smythe says the station will give the Anthony story significant resources and time. "But we won't forsake daily news and weather coverage," she adds. "We think there are going to be a lot of people interested in weather and other news of the day."

Copyright © 2011, Orlando Sentinel
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