A few favourite links this week
Uproar among Mecom's Scandinavian employees

Virginia Tech shootings – a watershed for live blogging?

A shooting at Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg Virginia has reportedly left over twenty people dead. Robin Hamman looked around for coverage from students and staff on campus, and the results are, well, staggering? This was tough reading for me. A watershed of sorts, absolutely – certainly a much more devastating, disturbing read than most newspaper articles would be...

Update 17/04 (6am): Bloggers Blog offers an overview of sites detailing blogs and cellphone coverage of the tragedy, while Jeff Jarvis muses on the video from the scene made by student Jamal Albaughouti, and the students' efforts to keep student site PlanetBlacksburg.com constantly updated with impressions and news.


Yes, that particular account from Virginia Tech is horrifying. Everything I can easily confirm about it checks out too - I believe it's genuine.

The hospital mentioned exists and is in the area.

The lecturer named is listed as a teacher at the university, teaches the subject mentioned in the post, and, at least last semester, taught in that building at 9am.

My colleagues at the BBC, who I passed the link on to, will have also taken steps to verify the information before reading some of it out on BBC News 24 a short while ago.

It looks like lots of media people are leaving comments on his blog. We tried AOL messenger.

It does does raise some questions about how - or if - to engage with people who blog about their personal experiences at times like this.

Accuracy is certainly one concern, but I believe this will raise many of the same concerns as in the aftermath of big catastrophies, like the tsunami in Thailand: do you put people who are in a state of shock, perhaps just lost close ones, in front of the camera? I don't think live blogging these experiences is that different from talking live on camera, but in the former case it's more difficult to verify that the account is genuine. The unedited, written accounts, are somehow much more disturbing than live TV though...

This shows the power of blogging and the role of the individual as a part of the journalistic process.
However as Robin points out it can be difficult to verify the output and there are moralistic concerns as to whether people should be blogging at this time.

I spent much of the evening and night reading increasingly desperate sounding journalists approaches to Paul, whose account we've talked about above, on his livejournal page.

I now think that we could have linked and quoted without verification rather than, potentially, adding to the horror of the day's events for Paul and his girlfriend Kate.

The post is here - I'm hoping the comments will turn into an interesting debate: http://www.cybersoc.com/2007/04/virginia_tech_b.html

Thanks for two very good and timely posts on this, Robin - although, to be honest I found the first pretty heartwrenching stuff. Very interesting though.

Regarding your second post: I'm afraid I don't think this sort of journalistic behaviour is very uncommon, though leaving the requests in the comment field really puts it on display in a very unflattering manner. As I've mostly covered media/politics/business/policy I've never been put in a situation as a journalist myself where I've been asked to get a comment at all costs from people who've just lost loved ones, but I've heard plenty of tales from people I know of all sorts of disingenious doorstepping etc in quest for information from people who've had relatives murdered or similar. I don't think journalists' behviour in this matter is all that different - it's just more obvious to everyone as it's all there for everyone to read in the comment field.

I do think that linking to the posts sounds like the best idea in retroperspective though, but in a case like this I guess you make up the rules as you go along as it's so fresh territory...

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