RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – Monday’s tragic massacre at Virginia Tech University clearly marked the entering into a new era of coverage when it comes to news events.
Through the sounds of gunfire captured over a cell phone to the posting on blogs by students that the news media used to gain insight into the event, the power of the “me media” age was clearly demonstrated.
In real time, students posted news, alerts – plus fears.
From The Washington Post, some instant messages, or IMed:
"Where are u? Where are u?"
"Hey, hey, I just heard . . ."
Notably, the ABC newscast on Monday evening focused an entire segment of coverage from the Virginia campus on blog postings, “Facebook” social networking sites and cell phone camera/audio.
And I have to admit I found the words written under duress and the shaky cell phone replay much more compelling than the standard-fare interviews conducted with students, aid officials and campus leadership.
The blogs were spontaneous and filled with emotion. By the time people appeared on camera, they had some time to regain their composure and think about their answers. Through the blogs, however, we learned how the students were feeling at the moment and not being nervous or constrained by the fact that they knew the world was watching on video.
Planet Blacksburg, a student run Web site, also offered insight into the tragedy, quoting Ruiqi Zhang, a computer engineering student.
“A student rushed in and told everybody to get down," Zhang said as recounted by The Associated Press. "We put a table against the door and when the gunman tried to shoulder his way in and when he saw that he couldn’t, he put two shots through the door. It was the scariest moment of my life."
Michael Clemente, ABC News senior executive producer for digital media, told The AP that the student’s postings and discussions added detail unavailable before.
"We can tell a story with this kind of depth and complexity faster than we have ever been able to," he told The AP’s David Bauder. "I don’t think we could have had this kind of info in 12 or even 24 hours, before."
Unfortunately, it was a nightmare of a story to be told.