Virginia Tech shooting: another citizen journalism milestone?

Poynter Online has a mind-boggling roundup of how students at Virginia Tech have told their story through mobile video, blogs, and forums. Unlike previous user generated content milestones like 9/11 and the Asian tsunami, this story took place in the heart of the new media generation, and the resulting coverage is more comprehensive, more accessible, and takes in more new media forms, including social networking. “Look at this collection from CNN’s I-Report.,” urges Poynter:

“Students text messaged one another while hiding under desks. Read some of those messages here.

Some students are gathering on Facebook. has a collection of cell pictures taken by students. More than 150 tribute groups have formed on Facebook.

“Other students went right to their blogs and wrote about what they saw.”

As this generation ages it’s reasonable to expect such coverage to become the norm, and this presents two challenges for journalists: 1) the need to develop the awareness of, and skills to find, this material; 2) in the face of such comprehensive and accessible first-person reporting, the need to develop new roles, perhaps as gatewatchers, facilitators and filters rather than reporters.

Then there’s a third issue: ethics. When reporting on the MySpace and Facebook content of murdered students, how far can journalists go? Is it OK to quote dead students’ ‘About Me’ sections? Channel 5 did so last night, including one who was summed up by her favourite flavour of ice cream and the fact that her “favourite colour is blue”.

Tony Harcup, a writer on journalism ethics, told me “my gut reaction is that it is perfectly acceptable to quote from the About Me sections that people have placed in the public domain. It’s not as if a journalist has broken into a dead person’s house and stolen their private diary.” But when we live our lives in the public domain, do our virtual selves have different rights? I have no answers, I’m just posing the question.

UPDATE: Shane Richmond includes these points in his blog. He slightly misunderstands my second point above, and I’ve posted a comment clarifying this.

UPDATE 2 (Apr 21 07): I’ve posted a further post on the ethics issue.


52 thoughts on “Virginia Tech shooting: another citizen journalism milestone?

  1. Pingback: Press Gazette Blogs - Fleet Street 2.0 » Virgina Tech shootings raises new issues for journalists

  2. Craig

    BTW, its Virginia Tech, or Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University NOT Virginia Tech University…..Never has been, never will be….Just another example of idiot journalists not knowing what they’re talking about!

  3. identified

    Shooter home address
    Cho, Sung T more info
    14713 Truitt Farm Dr
    Centreville, VA 20120-5411
    (703) 815-8215

    Shash, Abudulrhman 703.803-8332
    Map 14715 Truitt Farm Dr
    Centreville, VA 20120
    Abudulrhman Shash
    14715 Truitt Farm Dr
    Centreville, VA 20120-5411

    Marshall A & Doris Main
    14708 Truitt Farm Dr
    Centreville, VA 20120-5407
    (703) 266-8564
    Main, Marshall L. 703.266-8564
    Map 14708 Truitt Farm Dr
    Centreville, VA 20120

  4. Pingback: 4-16-2007 continued « Ubiquitous Thoughts

  5. Paul Bradshaw

    Thanks for the correction Craig. I’ll wear the badge of “idiot journalist” with pride. A polytechnic is a university in the UK, although some people insist on making a distinction between ‘old’ (polys) and ‘new’ universities, generally for reasons of snobbery.

  6. Hil Hunt

    Why does all this talk of citizen juournalism make me feel like DCI Gene Hunt? Hacks look for information wherever they can find it. If the neighbours know what’s going on, they go ask them. More often than not, there’s a friendly police officer. Local papers, cuttings libraries, college newspapers, class yearbooks, even memorial messages on bunches of flowers have always been grist to the mill in a story like this. Now people post their feelings and scraps of knowledge on blogs and websites. Go find it…but what’s the big deal? In the end it’s another source which needs weighing for taste, accuracy and credibility like everything else which professional journalism aspires to. Yes, people are recording stuff on their phones and cameras. That’s also been a potential source since the first cheap cameras and camcorders arrived in ordinary homes many years ago. Beyond that…what?

  7. paulbradshaw Post author

    Beyond that… well, there’s a difference in scale, and in accessibility.

    While journalists have always had ‘citizen’ sources, readers typically had to rely on them and their papers/TV/radio bulletin to access those first hand accounts. That’s no longer the case, and in this story it was the ‘citizens’ who released the names of the victims, of suspects (often erroneously), and of other details. In this situation, what is the journalist’s role? As you indicate, filtering for taste, accuracy and credibiility become more important than ‘getting there first’.

  8. Pingback: Virginia Tech: more on that ethics question « Online Journalism Blog

  9. tuessjg

    [Cool staff!||Hi! I think this need for || Help me with – ||Hello….||I find this – || It`s realy cool!]


    Admiring the time and energy you put into your site and in depth information you offer.
    It’s good to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t
    the same outdated rehashed material. Excellent read!
    I’ve bookmarked your site and I’m adding your RSS feeds to my
    Google account.

  11. Georgina

    salut,hello,ça roule ? Je suis agée de trente-deux années
    , et j’assume totalement .
    Mes parents m’ont appellée Karlotta et j’aime beaucoup ce prénom.
    Mon travail est géologue ! On dit souvent que je semble drôle.

  12. › Log In

    salut,hello,ça roule ? Je suis jeune de 30 berges j’assume totalement mon age !
    Mes parents m’ont appellée Angelique et j’aime beaucoup ce prénom.
    Mon occupation principale, libraire . Je suis plutôt d’un caractère timide.

  13. Allan

    bonjour Je m’appelle Madeleine.
    Je suis une jeune fille de trente-trois années .
    Je suis secrétaire . Je suis plutôt d’un caractère timide.

  14. HTTP://

    Le principal des soucis lors d’un proche voyage est le type de bagages a emporter.

    Un choix qui parait facile mais quand le temps de faire les bagages arrive,
    on se rend compte qu’il est complique de trouver la valise adequate principalement en cas d’un long sejour.
    Trouver ces bagages ne demande plus trop d’effort ni de depenses parce que les moyens sont deja abondants.
    Les boutiques en ligne qui proposent des bagages pas chers sont nombreuses et prennent de l’ampleur.

    De plus, les choix de qualites sont varies.
    Toutes les marques telles que Samsonite, Tumi, Little Marcel et autres sont disponibles sur ces sites.
    La forte competition reduit les couts.
    Les prix de ces boutiques en ligne sont exceptionnels et elles realisent, presque tout le temps, des promotions.
    A notre epoque, ces boutiques en ligne sont la meilleure option pour ceux qui n’ont pas le temps de faire les magasins.

    Pour un sejour, que ce soit long ou court, on peut trouver tout types de bagages dans ces boutiques.
    Bagage Bagage, Mesbagages et autres sont par exemple des boutiques en ligne qui vendent plusieurs bagages de toutes grandeurs et marques.

    Bref, chacun a son choix car il y a ceux qui restent amoureux du shopping et preferent faire directement les magasins.
    Ces boutiques en ligne ont ete instaurees pour une facilite d’achat specialement pour ceux qui en ont vraiment besoin.
    Neamoins, il faut mentionner que les clients de ces boutiques en ligne augmentent de plus en plus.


    Very good blog! Do you have any hints for aspiring writers?
    I’m planning to start my own site soon but I’m a little lost on everything.

    Would you recommend starting with a free platform like WordPress or go for a paid option?
    There are so many options out there that I’m totally confused .. Any recommendations? Appreciate it!

  16. Accomodation Herceg Novi

    I was wondering if you ever considered changing
    the page layout of your blog? Its very well written; I love what
    youve got to say. But maybe you could a little more in the way of content so people could connect with it better.
    Youve got an awful lot of text for only having one or 2 pictures.
    Maybe you could space it out better?


    J’ai 42A , et j’assume totalement .
    Mes parents m’ont appellée Renée et j’aime beaucoup ce prénom.

    Ce que je fais , aide comptable . On dit souvent que je semble réservée.

  18. Monika

    Salut la compagnie,

    Je porte le joli nom de Fabienne.
    Je suis une jeune fille de 27 ans .
    je suis en ce moment des études de bibliothécaire …
    il semble que je suis réservée.

  19. Nickolas

    Veuillez visiter le site http://www.paristourism.

    fr pour vous apprivoiser avec la ville de Paris.
    Pour un tourisme dans la ville, c’est un site de reference.

    Il expose les differents sites touristiques, les retaurants et
    les monuments reputes de Paris.


    Salut la compagnie, Mes parents m’ont appellée Laure et j’aime beaucoup
    ce prénom.
    Je suis une fille de trente et un années .
    Je suis étudiante … Est-ce un défaut que d’être une mère poule ?

  21. Carina

    each time i used to read smaller articles that also clear their motive, and that is also happening with this paragraph which I am reading at this time.

  22. Demetrius

    I just now preferred to mention I honestly love a person’s writing skills. It is good to read a particular person whom posesses a understanding of syntax and moreover punctuation on-line. Let me tell some others about Virginia Tech shooting: another citizen journalism milestone? | Online Journalism Blog. Thank you!

  23. Amelia

    Good day! Do you know if they make any plugins to assist with SEO? I’m trying to get my blog to rank for some targeted keywords but I’m not seeing very good success. If you know of any please share. Many thanks!

  24. Sienna

    Great beat ! I would like to apprentice even as you amend your web site, how could i subscribe for a weblog site? The account helped me a acceptable deal. I have been tiny bit acquainted of this your broadcast offered brilliant clear idea

  25. Nick

    What’s up, this weekend is pleasant in favor of me, because this point in time i am reading this fantastic informative piece of writing here at my house.

  26. Courtney

    After I originally left a comment I seem to have clicked on the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and from now on whenever a comment is added I receive 4 emails with the same comment. There has to be a way you can remove me from that service? Thank you!

  27. Marlys

    You are so awesome! I don’t think I have read through a single thing like this before. So good to discover another person with original thoughts on this subject. Really.. many thanks for starting this up. This web site is something that is required on the internet, someone with a bit of originality!

  28. Kristofer

    You made some really good points there. I looked on the internet to learn more about the issue and found most people will go along with your views on this web site.

  29. Saul

    Heya! I just wanted to ask if you ever have any trouble with hackers? My last blog (wordpress) was hacked and I ended up losing months of hard work due to no backup. Do you have any solutions to prevent hackers?


    Je suis agée de 41 ans tant pis si ça ne se dit pas !
    Je m’appelle Fifi.
    Je voudrais devenir monteuse image et son . On dit souvent que je semble curieuse.

  31. Hannah

    I have been exploring for a bit for any high quality articles or weblog posts in this sort of house . Exploring in Yahoo I at last stumbled upon this site. Reading this info So i’m happy to show that I’ve a very excellent uncanny feeling I came upon just what I needed. I such a lot without a doubt will make certain to don?t forget this web site and give it a look on a relentless basis.

  32. Denny

    Hmm it seems like your blog ate my first comment (it was extremely long) so I guess I’ll just sum it up what I submitted and say, I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog. I as well am an aspiring blog blogger but I’m still new to everything. Do you have any tips and hints for first-time blog writers? I’d definitely appreciate it.

  33. .Uej2pG2LM24

    Howdy! I’m at work browsing your blog from my new apple iphone! Just wanted to say I love reading your blog and look forward to all your posts! Keep up the superb work!

  34. Pool Cleaning Systems in Dallas

    The PHP-2030 will give your feet the attention they deserve.
    If you have a history of back problems 23 years ago I
    developed arthritis in my spine seems to have alleviated a little but I now
    get particularly severe pain in the back region.
    Many people may also be a major catalyst for your chronic pain.

  35. Zelda

    I seriously love your site.. Very nice colors & theme.
    Did you develop this amazing site yourself?
    Please reply back as I’m planning to create my own site and want to know where you got this from or just what the theme is named. Thank you!

  36. dirty chat rooms

    I’ll immediately take hold of your rss feed as I can not in finding your email subscription hyperlink or newsletter service. Do you’ve any?

    Please allow me recognise in order that I may just subscribe.

  37. Audrea

    Good day! I just want to offer you a huge thumbs up for your excellent info you have here on this post. I will be coming back to your website for more soon.


    Following I noticed the motion picture, I had to look
    at the dish and above the decades I have hopefully enhanced on
    the unique recipe I identified. When hiking or camping,
    people have a tendency to wear shorts and low socks due to the hot weather.
    Place 1-2 pieces of chicken at a time in
    the Ziploc bag containing the crunchy coating mix
    and shake until the chicken is well coated.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.