How I ended up live-tweeting the Johnny Depp libel trial
Updated: Jul 12, 2020
I was asked to go along to the High Court to report on the first day of the Johnny Depp libel trial for Channel 5 News. Mr Depp is suing the owners of The Sun (and one of its journalists) for calling him a wife-beater, something he strenuously denies.
I have spent most of the last two years doing some crowdfunded reporting on the Bates v Post Office group litigation which is of considerable interest to a relatively small number of people. During the two trials of the litigation I live-tweeted everything that was going on. I also got a court order to ensure I was provided with the daily unperfected transcripts on each day of the trial, which I then published.
Although it was not a requirement of my job for 5 News, I thought people might be interested in what was going on during the Johnny Depp trial. So I started live-tweeting Mr Depp's evidence, and it turns out people all over the world were quite interested.
5 News only booked me for the first day of the trial and I didn't have any work for the remainder of my week. On my way home I started replying to the very kind messages I had received about my tweets, and half-jokingly suggested I might go back the next day off my own bat.
The response I received to this suggestion was phenomenal. By the time I got home I decided I might as well give it a try. I applied to the High Court for accreditation and then realised a way of covering my losses might be to ask people to use my Post Office crowdfunding tip jar.
I wasn't sure I was going to get in, so I didn't ask for any tips until I was in Royal Courts of Justice, primed and ready to go. Within hours I had received enough cash to cover my losses. By the end of the day I had enough to make the next day viable, so I committed to going again. The same for Friday.
But... whilst the drama of live tweets are one thing, they can only really summarise and paraphrase what's being said. Verbatim quotes are easy enough to take down, but in making sure you get them, you lose a lot of other things that are being said. Even the live transcription service I saw in the Bates v Post Office trials required two highly-trained people, and they don't have to use a platform which hangs for at least three seconds when you hit publish.
That's the reason I asked for the daily transcripts in Bates v Post Office and why I asked for them in Depp v NGN. The live tweets only have value within a day (at most) of being posted, but transcripts last forever.
In that regard I am very grateful to the judge and to Mr Depp's and NGN's representatives. I am now receiving the transcripts on the day they are produced, and I have posted them on this website. I expect there will be worldwide interest in their content. They certainly make for eye-opening reading. Please note the daily transcripts are "unperfected" which means they may contain slight transcription errors, but in my experience they are more than 99% correct.
These documents would not be available were it not for the enthusiasm of the people who started following my live-tweets and were then so kind as to put a few quid in the tip jar. I am so grateful to everyone who has made a donation.
I'll be back in court on Monday, and I will approach things day by day as I was last week. I'll also try to update this blog as and when I think there's something of interest to note.
As a freelancer, if there are any TV or radio network editors interested in getting live reports after the day's proceedings have finished, please get in touch.