Kevin Warnock

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Letter by Kevin Warnock to Jayne Salinger of the San Francisco Bar Association concerning the San Francisco Mock Trial

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Moderator for San Francisco Mock Trial 2012 finals, February 23, 2012 at Golden Gate University. Photo by Kevin Warnock.

Moderator for San Francisco Mock Trial 2012 finals, left, February 23, 2012 at Golden Gate University. Photo by Kevin Warnock.

Dear Jayne Salinger,

We have never met.

You wrote the following brief statement to me via a Facebook message on February 27, 2012:

“Hi Kevin,

I am the director of the mock trial program you attended last week. Thank you for taking such wonderful photos. Unfortunately these photos cannot be made public as the students are minors. And including their names is also not advisable. Can you plesae cease in posting these photos and remove where applicable?

Thank you.
Jayne Salinger
The Bar Association of San Francisco”

You wrote to me because I wrote on February 24, 2012 this article about the 2012 public finals competition for the San Francisco Mock Trial program. I illustrated the article with photographs that I took at the mock trial, including those shown here. You said that because the students are minors that my photographs cannot be made public. This blog is public.

When I first read your message, I wondered if I had done something wrong by posting the pictures. So, I did some searching and found around 89 pictures of the 2011 San Francisco Mock Trial finals, on that program’s Facebook page. Presumably most of these photographs are of minors, since the Mock Trial program is for high school students. I presume you are aware of the contents of the Facebook page for the mock trial program that you direct.

Student playing a police officer explains exhibit to Havel Weidner at San Francisco Mock Trial, February 23, 2012. Photo by Kevin Warnock.

Student playing a police officer explains exhibit to Havel Weidner at San Francisco Mock Trial, February 23, 2012. Photo by Kevin Warnock.

I also thought back to my four years as a staff photographer for the newspapers at the high schools I attended — Lab School at the University of Chicago and McAteer High School in San Francisco. The photograph captions typically identified the subjects by first and last name, so I knew that at least back then the practice was permitted.

Today, February 25, 2013, I discovered that student journalists still name students fully, in stories and and captions accompanying photographs, because I found via Google the article Case closed – Mock trial dominates in the high school newspaper published by Lowell High School. This Lowell newspaper article is publicly accessible on the Internet.

Lowell High School won the 2012 San Francisco Mock Trial championship, and later won sixth place in the California competition.

Since my research I conducted after receiving your message indicated I was most likely allowed to post student pictures to my blog, I put aside your message.

I did not reply to you at the time, but I always intended to address your concern.

My plan was to speak with you in person about this matter, at the San Francisco Mock Trials final this year — 2013. My reasoning for meeting you in person was so that you would be able to hopefully directly assess my character.

Last year, as I wrote on my blog, I discovered the Facebook page for the Mock Trial program in San Francisco. I ‘liked’ the page back then, so I have been getting status updates ever since. Today, I got a status update saying that Round III is coming up. Sadly, unlike last  year, dates and times are no longer listed. Last year the page listed the time and date in the following status update before the trial:

“Congratulations to Lowell and School of the Arts for making it to the final round of the 2012 Mock Trial Tournament! Final round is TONIGHT at Golden Gate University Law School, 536 Mission, Room 2203. Teams from Lowell and SOTA may arrive at 5:45 to set up; guests/spectators may arrive at 6 p.m. to get a seat. The round will start at 6:30. Good luck to both teams!”

I could not find any information anywhere on the Internet about when the finals are to be held this year, which meant I could not meet you in person as I planned to do.

I believe strongly that the Mock Trial finals should be public, and to encourage that, I wrote this post.

Had the finals been public this year, I would have attended again, and I would have found you there and spoken with you at some length, which would have obviated my need to write this post.

San Francisco Mock Trial February 23, 2012. Photo by Kevin Warnock.

San Francisco Mock Trial February 23, 2012. Photo by Kevin Warnock.

My blog post last year was good press, and you should have welcomed the post, and you should further have linked to it from the Mock Trial Facebook page and from the San Francisco Bar Association page for the Mock Trial Program.

Getting press is difficult.

Getting press is important to success in life.

I see that Mock Trial has received almost no press, outside of student newspapers. Student newspapers count, of course, but coverage by unrelated journalists like me is far more credible.

Chuck Rasnikof, a political science teacher at Lowell, sat next to me while I was covering and photographing the 2012 Mock Trial finals. We spoke for twenty minutes, and had a good conversation.

I told Rasnikof how I was invited to the Mock Trial finals by Devon Ivie, an exceptionally impressive high school senior I had met February 22nd. Ivie struck up a conversation with me on the MUNI Metro while she was on her way home after the final practice session for the trial. McAteer High School used to be in the same building where she was attending high school at the time, School of the Arts (SOTA), so we had something in common. She shared with me her plans after high school. She told me about her affection for playing the flute. She told me about Mock Trial, and sold me on the wisdom of personally attending the finals. Finally, she told me her name, which made it easy for me to ‘friend’ her on Facebook. She accepted my friend request the next morning, before the finals that evening.

After the finals were over, I said hello to Ivie and her real-life lawyer mentor. I asked Ivie to find her teammate Havel Weidner so that I could meet him.

Weidner was a key participant in the trial, and to my ear, played the most significant role in the outcome. I wanted to interview Weidner to confirm my understanding of his closing remarks.

That night I edited the pictures and wrote the blog post, since I knew there would be interest in the pictures. After four hours of concentrated writing and Photoshop editing work, around 3am the next morning I published the post, which I intended to be the first of two posts.

I also posted the pictures to my Facebook account.

Havel Weidner and others at San Francisco Mock Trial, February 23, 2012. Photo by Kevin Warnock.

Havel Weidner and others at San Francisco Mock Trial, February 23, 2012. Photo by Kevin Warnock.

Ivie and some of her friends discovered the pictures I posted to Facebook, and there was a flurry of sharing and her friends asking my permission to tag themselves, which I granted.

I suspect that you discovered my blog post through Facebook, since I link to my blog from my Facebook account.

I even got a Facebook friend request from Ivie’s friend Christina Rey. I had not met Rey, but I remembered her speaking during the trial. I accepted her request.

Then, about the time you sent your message above asking me to take down my pictures and remove the names, both Ivie and Rey defriended me.

I have not been in touch with Ivie, Rey or any of the other mock trial students since then.

It’s extremely rare for people I know that I have met in person to defriend me, and since it happened around the time you wrote to me, that makes me think you or other trial organizers had a hand in that. There was no independent reason I can think of for Ivie and Rey to defriend me, as I had just portrayed them well in front of all their friends and made them ‘famous.’

Here is my guess as to what happened:

You saw my Facebook pictures of the trial and the rapid sharing and tagging going on. You found out that I am not connected to the competition. You concluded my picture postings were undesirable. You persuaded Ivie and Rey to question their decisions to share and publicize the pictures, which they probably perceived as ‘getting in trouble.’ You may have even told them to defriend me, but even if you didn’t order them to defriend me, you probably made them feel like they did something wrong and that it was smart to distance themselves from me.

I meet dozens of impressive university students per year, and I end up helping and mentoring a small percentage of them.

I was so impressed with Devon Ivie that I was planning to help her, though I never got an opportunity to offer my help. Thus, it was sad and it remains sad that I have lost contact with her before I was able to speak with her for more than half an hour. I did determine that she warrants my assistance, from my conversation on the metro and from watching her perform very admirably during the trial. She is articulate and impressive.

If my guess as to what happened is true, then I ask that you handle future similar situations much differently.

Students about to graduate from high school are not young children that should not appear on the Internet. Instead, they are nearly adults, probably just months away from adulthood. These particular students are among the most legally savvy minors I have ever encountered. They argued their case exceptionally well.

These students did not and do not need ‘protection’ from the modern press, of which I am a part. To the contrary, they should be encouraged to solicit press coverage when appropriate.

There were unfilled seats in the auditorium at Golden Gate University where the 2012 finals took place. Those seats should be filled, when possible, with reporters, bloggers and other journalists. I suggest that during Mock Trial you train students to interact with the press. Real lawyers have to contend with the press, since cases sometimes are partly ‘tried in the press.’

But even leaving out high profile cases that are partly tried in the press, there is legitimate value in having students try to get bloggers and reporters to attend the finals. For example, consider these benefits:

  • Learning how to contact and form a relationship with journalists
  • Learning how to pitch a story
  • Learning how a published story can help or damage a mission
  • Publicizing accomplishments for the benefit of university admissions officers, employers and others who will be searching for information on the students for the rest of their lives
  • Helping schools fund raise from alumni and others by giving schools stories they can point to that demonstrate success of school programs

High school students don’t get many opportunities to be featured in the press. When seniors in high school go on to become freshmen in college, the likelihood of coverage in the press temporarily goes down, I fear. Only as university students establish themselves are they likely to be featured in the press. Years pass. Lessons about nurturing the press are not typically taught in university, and time is money, so teach students about the power of the press now, which you still have a chance.

I have been a journalist for years — since I was 13 if you go back to when I joined the newspaper staff for the Midway at Lab School.

Ms. Salinger, your Facebook post to me is the first and only attempt somebody has made to stifle my efforts.

I was and remain shocked.

Thankfully I kept my blog post from February 24, 2012 on my blog, which gets hundreds of viewers everyday.

While preparing this post, I discovered that  you named SOTA student Havel Weidner in your Internet post Mock Trial Coaches Help Students Increase Diversity Pipeline from May 2012, after your message to me.

I find it curious that you feel it is alright for you to name a presumably minor student, but an actual journalist cannot.

Note that I never wrote the second post I said above that I had intended to write. I was planning to write up the actual case, and comment in detail on the performances by the many student participants. That post would have easily taken eight hours to write, but after your discouraging February 27, 2012 Facebook message, I chose to not write the post, as I didn’t want to be criticized a second time for my writing. I also didn’t want to irritate a bunch of smart lawyers, so I censored myself, for which I am embarrassed. I should have written that post. I cannot write it now because I have forgotten too many details to write a quality article.

I acknowledge that I make a lot of guesses in this post. I apologize if I have guessed incorrectly. But even if I missed the mark on exactly what happened and when, my advice that you should encourage press coverage of the Mock Trial finals stands.

The performances I observed at the 2012 Mock Trial finals were the most impressive performances I have ever seen by a group of high school students. That what used to be McAteer High School is now churning out students so impressive gives me hope for humanity. McAteer was a dreadful and simply awful school, and it’s only through my attendance at Lab School earlier that I am able to write this blog.

The San Francisco Unified School District should be promoting Mock Trial as well. The district gets beat up in the press, and Mock Trial is so good that it should be featured prominently in the district’s public relations efforts.

According to Facebook, Devon Ivie is friends with Jasmine Lee Lee, a freshman at University of California Berkeley. Lee also graduated from School of the Arts. I met Lee in January, as she is the co-founder of an Internet startup headed by my friend Iskander Rakhmanberdiyev. I mentor Rakhmanberdiyev, and Lee has watched me advise Rakhmanberdiyev and others. I mention this news, which I only discovered today while writing this post, to give you a sense as to who I mentor and about what subjects I can advise.

Devon Ivie at San Francisco Mock Trial finals, February 23, 2012. Photo by Kevin Warnock.

Devon Ivie at San Francisco Mock Trial finals, February 23, 2012. Photo by Kevin Warnock.

If you or anyone organizing the mock trial did not praise Devon Ivie for her outstanding work in getting me to cover the 2012 San Francisco Mock Trial finals, then please contact her and heap some praise upon her – in writing and by phone if you can spare a moment.

From where I sit, Ivie is a rising star, and her outgoing nature that led her to strike up a conversation with me should be strongly and repeatedly encouraged, for that nature will bring many successes to her in life.

Thank you for reading this and please appreciate I am a huge fan of the success that is Mock Trial. That evening a year ago was one of the highlights of 2012.

Kevin Warnock

PS – My advice for Jayne Salinger applies everywhere impressive adolescents are found. It is wrong for society to try to ‘protect’ people like these students by keeping their names and pictures off of the Internet until they become adults. For better or worse, the Internet is like a credit report, only more important. People perform searches on other people, and they always will. If new adults have no report because they have no presence on the Internet the day they turn 18, that harms society. Of course, young people need to be educated about the perils of the Internet as well. People should not post material that reflects poorly, since such material has a tendency to last forever. These students at Mock Trial were likely putting their very, very best foot forward, which makes my blog posts about them ideal early installments for their Internet ‘reports.’