A study by the University of Winchester also revealed 55pc of editors would rely on a police press release for a court report, rather than sending a reporter or using agency copy.
A total of 57 editors responded to the survey, of which 56pc said they did not have a dedicated court reporter at their newspaper and 11pc said they rarely cover cases.
One third of respondents believed it was very important to have a dedicated court reporter, while 4pc said it wasn’t important.
The findings have been revealed in a report on online law magazine The Justice Gap, which is edited by journalist and Winchester visiting lecturer Jon Robbins.
The study also found:
– 8pc of editors said they had a dedicated reporter in the last five years, but didn’t have one now
– 62pc said their dedicated reporter attends court at least once a week, while 60pc said they covered court stories in every edition
– 59pc of the newspapers get their stories from a mix of reporters and agency copy, while 38pc get them entirely from a court reporter and 5pc solely form agencies
– When asked if their court reporter had used Twitter to cover a case, 44pc said they never had, 22pc said rarely, a further 22pc said sometimes and 12pc said often
– 92pc said they believed courts were generally positive towards journalists covering cases
Editors were asked to agree or disagree with the assertion by the legal journalist Marcel Berlins that it was “abundantly clear that the courts are no longer being properly reported”.
More than half of editors agreed, including 11pc who agreed strongly.
Brian Thornton, a former BBC NEwsnight producer who led the study, told The Justice Gap: “The fact that the media is engaging less and less with the everyday workings of the criminal justice system means that journalists are increasing unaware of what actually happens in such important settings as crown courts or coroner’s courts.
“I would argue that this ignorance is dangerous because it spreads to the public. If the public aren’t being informed about what’s happening in courts, how can they be expected to know?”
Brian added that the lakc of court coverage posed a problem for anyone investigating miscarriages of justice.
He continued: “The first thing that a reporter will do when they want to look into a case involving a possible wrongful conviction is to retrieve the relevant court reports/ transcripts.
“But because – as has been highlighted by the Justice Gap – court transcripts are routinely destroyed a few years after the conclusion of a trial, the only record that will exist of the trial is the one written by the court reporter and published, often, in a local newspaper.
“But if newspapers are reducing the number of court reporters, along with reducing the number of stories they cover, then there is a growing number of cases that will be lost completely to the collective memory.
“Hundreds and hundreds of cases each year will go unrecorded – bizarrely becoming essentially secret trials because no one will have any information about them.”