Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Judge-Turned-Journalism Prof Teaches Media Skills at Judicial Orientation

Months after their first crash course on courtroom conduct, Ohio’s newest crop of first-time judges returned to the Supreme Court for four days of orientation on many more subjects, including effective ways of working with the media.

“I took very seriously the code of judicial conduct that says one of the duties of a judge is to educate the public about what the courts do, and the function of the courts,” said Thomas Hodson, whose credentials include journalist, journalism professor, attorney, and former Athens County judge — on both the municipal and common pleas courts.

“I don't say anything to a reporter that I don't feel comfortable seeing in tomorrow's headlines or tonight's evening news,” Hodson said after instructing new judges about working with journalists and utilizing social media.

Hodson, director and general manager of the WOUB Center for Public Media at Ohio University, was one of a score of presenters addressing a near-record group of 75 new judges over four days this week at the Thomas J. Moyer Ohio Judicial Center.

The class includes 64 new judges who met in December after the fall elections. By the time the second orientation round began this week, 11 more new judges had been added to their ranks.

Allen County Common Pleas Court Judge Terri Kohlreiser said she’s becoming more comfortable, calling her role “way better than it was on January 2nd when I first had to preside over something.”

“It’s like becoming a parent,” Judge Kohlreiser explained. “You can take all the classes in the world. But until you actually have that child, you don’t really understand. It’s the same type of thing being a judge.”

Along with distinct discussions geared toward each respective court – municipal-county, common pleas, juvenile-probate, and appellate – there were all-encompassing topics that included judicial ethics, case statistics, court management, and working with news hounds.

“I did have interaction with the media being on Columbus City Council. But now as a member of the bench and the judiciary, you have to look at it a lot differently, and there are things that we cannot comment on,” said Franklin County Common Pleas Court Judge Jaiza Page.

As both a print and broadcast journalist, Hodson has been at the forefront of informing people and others in the media about the judicial system. As an attorney, he advises the legal community about how news agencies operate, deconstructing what the news media does when covering the courts.

Hodson stressed poise when it comes to how judges should interact with reporters, and how they preside over cases.

“It’s being compassionate, being a human being, being someone who cares about fundamental fairness,” said Hodson. “Get over the fear of media. See the media as something that is a mechanism to really talk to the public that elects you in Ohio.”