American media consultant advises on Pickton trial

Peter Shaplen was involved in Scott Peterson and Michael Jackson trials

Neal Hall
Vancouver Sun

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Peter Shaplen, a high profile American media consultant who handled media relations for the Scott Peterson and Michael Jackson trials, was in Vancouver Wednesday to offer advice about the pending trial of accused serial killer Robert Pickton.

He said the Pickton trial has all the makings of a case that would attract high media interest.

"I think you have a story of tremendous human interest," he said in an interview about the Pickton case, which is expected to be Canada's most sensational murder trial when it starts next year.

Shaplen, who resides in California, was the media's point man at the Scott Peterson double murder trial, which involved 870 accredited journalists, and the Michael Jackson child molestation trial, which attracted 2,300 media people from 35 countries.

He said he was hired by the media to be a liaison with the court at those trials. Some of his duties including organizing shared "pool" footage from video and still cameras allowed at the Peterson trial, and organizing media seats and other issues that arose at the Jackson trial.

He said he had to balance the needs of the local media with the national and overseas media.

"Everyone had to have some degree of access," he explained. "There were no complaints or problems."

Neither trial, he pointed out, had a media spokesman for the court, so B.C. journalists are ahead of the U.S. in that three court representatives have been assigned to handle the media at the Pickton trial. "So the media here is very well served."

B.C. court services administrators first met Shaplen at a conference in the U.S. and asked for his advice on how to handle the hordes of American media expected to flock to the Pickton trial.

"Court services has been researching how to manage high profile trials and, in the course of that, got a lot of help and advice from him," Patricia Bowles of the B.C. Court Services said Wednesday.

She said Shaplen was invited to Vancouver after being a guest speaker Tuesday at a Victoria conference hosted by the Association of Canadian Court Administrators.

On Wednesday, Shaplen spoke to media news managers and visited the courthouse in New Westminster where the Pickton trial is scheduled to start next year. The voir dire portion of the trial is set to start Jan. 30. A ban on publication has been imposed on the pre-trial proceedings.

Shaplen, 51, now heads Peter Shaplen Productions, a media training and consulting firm whose clients include CBS network news, Paramount Pictures, nationally syndicated entertainment and business programs, and public policy organizations.

He started his news career with CBS in 1972 as the desk assistant for the Evening News with Walter Cronkite and the Weekend News with Dan Rather. He is a former editor and field producer for ABC World News with Peter Jennings, Nightline, Good Morning America and 20/20.

 The Vancouver Sun 2005



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