If I were an 18-year-old aspiring journalist, I’d want to be like Morgan Jones

Welcome to national journalism, Morgan.

I’m among those who admire your instincts, initiative and energy and I’m reminded of how important and exciting being part of news coverage felt at your age — something that hasn’t faded much, actually, at my age. Though you just graduated from high school in June, one day ago you delivered a live timeline of breaking news that earned national attention from readers, editors and broadcast producers.

You “fast became the go-to source in the story” of the movie theater massacre near Denver during its earliest hours, says a post at BuzzFeed.

Huffington Post is more breathlessly effusive in its pickup of that July 20 interview:

“In an unbelievable display of citizen journalism, an 18-year-old Reddit user shared up-to-the-moment coverage of yesterday’s Aurora shooting through the night and into the morning hours. From his Denver, Colorado bedroom, the teen synthesized social media updates with posts from traditional news outlets to create a comprehensive timeline of the event in real time.”

Compiling a real-time transcript from a police scanner, social media and traditional media isn’t the same as composing a multi-source news report with context, interpretation and narrative flow, of course. But your speed, diligence and accuracy were journalistic. So was your sleep-sacrificing compulsion.

“The teen was the first to post a link about the incident on Reddit,” NPR notes, and as the night wore on, he added new information he could glean from the scanner, aggregating news coverage and correcting any old information. He began posting updates, pulling in new information, correcting old information and addressing questions from other users.”

Equally admirable is your pro-style approach to fixes.

“I don’t delete things and replace them with something else,” you told NPR’s “All Things Tech.” “I do a strike-through and put what [latest information] I have below it so it gives people an idea of how it’s changing, so it’s transparent.”

The immediate impact and next-day praise are a case study in the expanding role of “citizen journalism,” particularly at the start of a developing event. It’s no longer surprising to see eyewitness smartphone video as a prominent part of early coverage, and now your tireless, self-assigned work after midnight last Friday until dawn is a vivid example of newsrooms without borders between citizens and pros.

“I stayed up all night, and I am exhausted now,” you told BuzzFeed, “but it feels like I’m helping out people who need to know this stuff.” That last sentiment pulled many of us into journalism.

Well-done, Morgan, good luck at college this fall. And welcome to journalism.

Alan Stamm worked at The Detroit News from 1976-2003 and is now a marketing communication consultant in Birmingham, Michigan.

Related: How news spread of Colorado theater shooting | Sports journalist Jessica Ghawi dies in Aurora shooting | Reddit covers the Colorado movie theater shooting | ABC News apologizes for speculation that linked theater shooter James Holmes to Tea Party | Details about Colorado shooter too important to tweet incrementally | ‘Dark Night’: Front pages mourn for victims of Colorado theater shooting

How to: 7 tips for covering the Colorado theater shooting | How to approach sources on Twitter when covering tragedies like the Colorado shooting | 6 ways journalists can cope when covering traumatic stories like the Colorado theater shooting

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  • http://www.nextlevelofnews.com Steffen Konrath

    I see something different happening here: citizen journalists (can) take the lead in the first hours after an incident – tragedy in this case. John Herrman, Buzzfeed expressed it this way: “By virtue of speed, his familiarity with the area, and the promotion others users.” (Source: link in your article) – No I don’t believe he’s a new archetype of a journalist, he fills a gap instead.

    - Steffen Konrath
    Future of Journalism
    Blog: http://www.nextlevelofnews.com
    Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/stkonrath