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Networks Covering Trump’s Trial Are Forced to Get Creative

A little after 10:30 a.m., just as a prosecutor began delivering his opening statement in Donald J. Trump’s Manhattan criminal trial, CNN’s chief legal correspondent, Paula Reid, had a live on-air update.

“We’re learning that Trump is sitting back in his chair,” Ms. Reid said, “and not even looking at the prosecutor as he speaks.”

This could make for a compelling visual, if only viewers could see Mr. Trump.

Instead, CNN viewers saw Ms. Reid sitting on a blustery balcony somewhere outside the courthouse alongside the prime-time anchors Anderson Cooper and Kaitlan Collins. Together they tried to navigate a challenging assignment: how to cover a historic trial when network cameras aren’t allowed inside?

Mr. Trump’s trial began in earnest on Monday, a remarkable event when a former president was being tried in a criminal case — and where television cameras are banned, forcing members of the TV and news media to figure out creative approaches to in-the-moment coverage.

For the next several weeks, networks will have to convey important developments from the trial with one hand tied behind their back. During Monday’s broadcasts, cable network anchors and correspondents often sounded like they were on the radio, taking an occasional stab with some play-by-play. Though live images are barred, reporters and producers are inside the court, and relaying real-time updates to on-air anchors and the public.

All morning, CNN deployed a rolling on-screen graphic running down the left side of its screen with a steady stream of updates from within the courtroom to try to help fill the maw — often a shorter version of what the network was updating on its website. Soon after court was in session, CNN’s Jake Tapper told viewers that Mr. Trump apparently had no reaction to a ruling by the judge, and then began jabbing his finger toward an on-screen graphic that said as much.

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