NEW YORK – American news consumers have a multitude of options to follow the trial of a former Minneapolis police officer accused in the death of George Floyd, which began on Monday with a chilling rerun.
Opening the case in a Minnesota courtroom, prosecutor Jerry Blackwell relied heavily on video from last May showing white former officer Derek Chauvin pressing his knee onto the neck of Floyd, a Black man. The widely seen video launched a worldwide reckoning on race.
Blackwell and defense attorney Eric Nelson’s arguments were shown live on at least 12 TV networks: ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox News Channel, MSNBC, HLN, Black News Channel, CourtTV, CSPAN, the Law & Crime Network and Newsmax.
Video also streamed on affiliated livestreams for many of those networks, along with TheRoot.com and PBS' “NewsHour.” Websites for The New York Times and Washington Post streamed it on their homepages, and The Associated Press offered its subscribers a livestream.
“It's a nerve-wracking moment for America,” said former U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, now an MSNBC contributor.
The Chauvin case is probably the most high-profile criminal trial since George Zimmerman was acquitted of murdering Black teenager Trayvon Martin in 2013, said Dan Abrams, the legal commentator who launched the Law & Crime Network four years after that.
Some of the networks, anticipating that video of Chauvin before Floyd's death would be a major part of Blackwell's argument, warned viewers of the sensitivity of what they were about to see.
“It was no easier to watch than when we were reporting on it 10 months ago,” said ABC News anchor David Muir.
The major broadcast networks dropped live coverage after opening arguments, along with Fox News. HLN, Black News Channel and Law & Crime are promising full coverage of all arguments, as is CourtTV, whose cameras are providing the pool feed of video from the courtroom.
One challenge for networks: what to call their coverage. Floyd’s name is more widely known than Chauvin's, but calling it the “Floyd trial” would wrongly imply that the victim was the one on trial.
Most called it the Chauvin trial. But there were some awkward variations. CourtTV called it “The Death of George Floyd Murder Trial.” ABC said it was the “Derek Chauvin Trial, 10 Months After George Floyd’s Death.”
For some of the specialty networks, the trial offers a rare opportunity to increase viewership, both on the air and online.
“This is the sort of trial for which we designed the network,” Abrams said. “Having anchors who are all lawyers, most of them practicing, allows us to offer unique insight to our viewers on a trial of national and international significance.”
That's also the case for streaming services at major networks. While ABC, CBS and NBC will likely offer special TV reports for big moments, they won't be showing it on a regular basis. CNN and MSNBC showed Monday afternoon's testimony, but whether that continues depends on how big a news day it is.
Instead, the CBSN streaming service plans full coverage, with Hulu and Amazon viewers being directed there, said Darius Walker, CBS News senior vice president. CBS' website will carry its own coverage, along with that of the network's Minneapolis affiliate, he said.
Research shows that CBSN's audience, which has an average age of 38, is particularly interested in social justice issues that the trial brings to the forefront, Walker said.
He's already absorbed in the testimony of the first witnesses, particularly video of vantage points not commonly seen before.
“These are all things that are new to the audience,” Walker said, “and I think it's riveting.”
Witness Donald Williams was testifying about what he saw of Floyd’s arrest when the court’s livestream feed went off the air for several minutes near the end of the court’s day. Though proceedings continued to be broadcast by CourtTV, Judge Peter Cahill sent the jury home for the day and said Williams would return Tuesday.
Find AP’s full coverage of the death of George Floyd at: https://apnews.com/hub/death-of-george-floyd