The Reynolds School of Journalism hosted Linda Deutsch at the 44th annual Scripps Dinner and Lecture, April 3. Deutsch is widely regarded as the premier Associated Press (AP) courtroom reporter.
“Linda is recognized as the top person in the nation covering the legal system. Name a significant trial, and she’s covered it,” said Jerry Ceppos, dean of the journalism school. “We’re fortunate to have her as our speaker. Ted Scripps would heartily approve.”
Scripps graduated from the University journalism program in 1952 and established the lecture series in 1964 to recognize distinguished professionals in journalism. The series continues with the support of the Scripps family and the Scripps Howard Foundation.
Deutsch is one of only 18 AP reporters worldwide to hold the title of special correspondent in the news service’s history and has covered high profile trials including Charles Manson, O.J. Simpson, Patty Hearst, Phil Spector and Michael Jackson over her 40-year career.
“I love journalism. It’s important to be the eyes and ears of the public when history is being made,” Deutsch said.
Deutsch was 12 years old when she became the first president of the Elvis Presley Fan Club. She produced a member newsletter gave her a taste of writing and publishing and she has continued to write steadily ever since.
“I’ve always considered the newspaper to be a daily miracle – a book length publication that’s delivered every day to your doorstep,” she said. “The Internet is a valuable tool that gets information out much quicker but a newspaper offers a buffet of information that simply cannot be replaced.”
Deutsch’s credentials have been affirmed by her peers, the judiciary, prosecutors and defense counsel.
“Linda has stayed true to the principles of covering the courtroom,” said Gary Hengstler, director of the National Center for Courts and Media. “She lets the facts speak for themselves, which has gained the respect of both prosecutors and defense counsel.”
In 2005, Deutsch was honored at the Society of Professional Journalists national convention as a Fellow of the Society, the highest honor awarded for contributions to the journalism profession.
The following year she received the Gideon award from the California Public Defenders Association, which cited her for making the legal system understandable to the public.
Deutsch is a member of the national advisory committee for the Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Courts and Media.
“The public recognizes courtroom journalists because we see them so often. In print there are very few superstars. Linda is on par with Bob Woodward in name recognition and credibility because she brings such balanced reporting to high profile trials,” said Hengstler. “And we have no stronger proponent of the First Amendment.”
Public scrutiny of the judiciary and the justice system in the aftermath of the O.J. Simpson trial prompted the judiciary and the media to examine inevitable conflicts between the First Amendment’s protection of freedom of the press and the Sixth Amendment which protects the rights of a trial defendant.
The National Judicial College held its first conference on Media and the Courts in 1996. Soon after, the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation provided funding to establish the National Center for Courts and Media in partnership with the journalism school.
“Linda Deutsch was the perfect person to bring the role of the courtroom reporter and the justice system together in this event,” said Warren Lerude, a long-time friend of Deutsch and Journalism School professor. “She is the personification of how journalism is gutsy, fun, inspirational and exceedingly worthwhile in our democracy.
“And in this day of the Internet, when there is so much gloom and doom being said about the future of newspapers, we wanted to share with our students how much excitement and public service awaits them in their careers as all media – including newspapers – develop new delivery systems for their journalism.”