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Introduction   Previous school violence   In his own words   Reaction

Media Coverage

New vs. Traditional Media

The role and behaviour of media became topics of discussion after the shooting rampage of Seung-Hui Cho. Cho's was the first mass killing of the fully-realised social media age. Facebook, LiveJournal, and blogs became news sources equal to traditional media, leading some to herald the rise of citizen journalism.

Real-time Coverage

Blogs and mobiles spread the earliest information about the rampage. The most famous example is graduate student Jamal Albarghouti's video, shot on his mobile, which shows police reacting to the sound of shots fired and screaming. He posted the video to CNN's citizen journalism website where it got millions of hits in a single day. Virginia Tech's campus newspaper began posting blog updates at 9.47am, before the shooting had even stopped. Following the shooting, students reported mobile phone networks were down: "Right when it happened, the [mobile] phones didn't work," said one. In lieu of calling friends, students resorted to text messages, instant messages, and Facebook updates. Facebook groups were instantly created to update others with information. Students posted photos to Flickr and other sites, including one photo showing students as they took cover in their French class. Traditional media outlets availed themselves of this firsthand reporting, for which they've been both criticised and praised.

Traditional Media Enter

One LiveJournal posting from the boyfriend of a hospitalised victim immediately garnered attention. The second comment to the entry was from the CBC, requesting an interview. NPR, the Boston Herald, MTV News, and many others quickly followed, sparking criticism from the friends of the victim. In another example, CNN paid Albarghouti for the exclusive right to air his mobile video. Many were critical of this, arguing that the video has no inherent news value. The media became such a nuisance that a week after the attack, the student government issued a statement asking the media to leave campus, saying, "Students in general will also be declining all requests and contact from the media."

The Rise of Citizen Journalism

Yet others praised the media coverage. Canadian journalism teacher Mark Hamilton called it "the new mediascape in action, a potent mix of journalists, witnesses and aggregators telling the story better than any of them could alone." It was a sign of the new democratised media, which values the quality of information over the brand of the information's source. Dan Gillmor of the Center for Citizen Media wrote in the Washington Examiner, "We used to say that journalists write the first draft of history. Not so, not any longer. The people on the ground at these events write the first draft."

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