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It’s an intricate balancing act

Media consultant spends time resolving ethical issues facing the courts and the media

by Nicole Grodesky Public Relations ‘09

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Covering a high profile case such as the O.J. Simpson trial leaves the courts media liaison, Jerrianne Hayslette (Journalism ‘82), stuck between a rock that is a free press and the other rock being a fair trial. The public’s obsession with certain court cases invigorates the eager media to heightened levels of aggressiveness. Hayslette’s job is to fend off the wolves and to protect Lady Justice.

“There’s no way to prepare for being hit by a tsunami, and that is what the O.J. Simpson trial was in terms of public and media interest and attention,” Hayslette said.

Journalism alumnae Hayslette served as the Los Angeles Superior Court’s media liaison for over 10 years. During that time she mediated high profile cases such as the Menendez brothers, Heidi Fleiss, the Rodney King beating, the murder of Bill Cosby’s son, the O. J. Simpson criminal and civil trials and many cases involving celebrities, such as Michael Jackson, Pamela Anderson, Bette Midler, Nicole Kidman, Cher and Winona Ryder.

In her recently published book, “Anatomy of a Trial,” Hayslette tells her story through a unique perspective.

“I had unparallel access to the judge, Lance Ito, to the trial and the media,” she said. “I was the only one behind the scenes that did not have an ax to grind.”

“I had unparallel access to the judge, Lance Ito, to the trial and the media,” she said. “I was the only one behind the scenes that did not have an ax to grind.”

Hayslette’s book addresses controversial information surrounding the O.J. Simpson trial while focusing on the ethical dilemmas surrounding a free press and a fair trial.

“The judiciary and the media have a common objective,” Hayslette explained. “They are supposed to be serving the public. The strategies discussed maintain that focus. They provide a way for the courts and the media to meet their objectives, to maintain their integrity as they pursue their mission in a way that the public will have a better understanding of the judicial system.”

Hayslette left the court in 2002. Since then she has worked as a writer and media relations consultant specializing in international court programs and projects in places such as Indonisia, Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia and Solvania. Her national media relations consulting includes cases such as the Michael Jackson child-molestation trial and the JonBenet Ramsey murder case.

In addition to her media relations experience, Hayslette is an active public speaker at such conferences as The International Conference on Courthouse Design in Toronto, the Slovenia National Conference of Law in Society, the Florida Bar Media Law Conference in Tallahassee and the Metropolitan Courts Association National Conference in Seattle, just to name a few.

Haysette’s experience as a reporter and court media liaison has led her to the front lines of groundbreaking tactics and ethical issues facing the court and the media. She has become the expert and voice for balancing the media’s responsibility to the public and the dilemma facing the court proceedings due to extreme attention in high profile cases.

Among many lessons learned, she offers advice in her book, which gives an interesting look at how these high profile cases and the media have affected the judicial system procedures.

“Beyond the preparing, it is important to coordinate not just the court and news media who want to cover the case but also agencies within the court system that have associations with and affiliations with the court system, [like] the sheriff’s department and the local municipal people. They need to coordinate and understand each other’s needs,” she explained. “They need to communicate. If there’s a problem, you need to know who to contact and how to solve the problem in an interagency way.”

Hayslette can be contacted through her publicist at jfarhsi@aol.com.

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