Articles about "Virginia Tech shootings"

Collegiate Times declined most media interviews to focus on covering Virginia Tech shooting
“We were getting flooded with calls,” Collegiate Times Editor-in-Chief Zach Crizer tells Poynter’s Mallary Tenore. “We told them our policy is to not give interviews to other media outlets during breaking news because we want all of our people to write for us. The New York Times offered the opportunity to contribute to a story (instead of interviewing us), so we got quotes for them and did some reporting.” In the end, some of the students did interviews with other news outlets. || Related: Newspaper’s Twitter account grew from 2,000 to 18,000 in hours (The New York Times) Read more

(Paul Kerlak/Virginia Tech)

Collegiate Times publishes special edition after Virginia Tech campus shooting

When Collegiate Times editor-in-chief Zach Crizer first heard about Thursday’s Virginia Tech shooting via a university alert, he ran to the scene with news editor Michelle Sutherland.

She talked with police while Crizer interviewed students and tweeted that the police officer who was shot had died. Photo Editor Daniel Lin, meanwhile, went to the parking lot where the second shooting had occurred.

In this photo taken by Paul Kurlak, police hold up a white sheet near the crime scene where an officer and second person were shot with the same gun.

“We had various people who we thought may have been eyewitnesses and we tried calling them,” Crizer said in a phone interview. “Eventually, cell phone service was so bad that it stopped and we couldn’t get through.”

Using social media to share updates, find sources

Crizer and Sutherland, who didn’t end up finding any eyewitnesses, posted frequent news updates from the Collegiate Times’ Twitter account. Staffers also tweeted from their personal accounts, and used Twitter to contact sources. By the end of the day, the paper had gained about 18,000 Twitter followers and 800 Facebook likes.

“We were constantly looking at people who read the Collegiate Times’ tweets,” Crizer said. “For the most part, unless it was something completely unfounded or crazy, we’d try to react and investigate the tweets being sent to us. We wanted to confirm or deny information, and attempt to answer questions if we could.”

Along with tweeting breaking news, Crizer said, staffers occasionally tweeted bits of context for readers who may not have been following the story closely.

Staffers covering the 2007 shooting couldn’t use Twitter the same way because it wasn’t as widespread. “Email and cell phone service were both down, so we relied on Facebook and AIM to communicate,” Amie Steele, former Collegiate Times editor-in-chief told my colleague Julie Moos. “Facebook was crucial in our reporting because we would see posts like ‘RIP John’ and would have a lead on a victim’s identity. On AIM, people were chatting about shooter ‘sightings’ and hearing gunshots.”

Dealing with unreliable information, photos

The paper made it a priority Thursday to verify information and correct the errors it made, Crizer said. Shortly after the shooting, a Twitter user told the paper that Radford University was on lockdown. But the university later released a statement saying it wasn’t on lockdown, at which point the Collegiate Times corrected the information on Twitter.

It can be tough to verify the information you get on social networks, especially during breaking news situations. Police and authorities weren’t available for interviews on Thursday, so Collegiate Times staffers listened to red flags from their Twitter followers.

At one point, the paper retweeted a photo of police running down a staircase in one of the campus buildings. “Someone tweeted it as if it were today, and then someone else tweeted that it wasn’t today,” said Crizer, who’s a senior. “Seeing as we hadn’t heard a police scanner report about police rushing out of that building, we decided to correct it.”

Finding backup plans for the website

As Crizer and Sutherland tweeted updates, Collegiate Times Online Director Jamie Chung ran the website from his dorm room. Chung’s room became a mini satellite office, where student photographers in the area uploaded their photos to his computer.

The site, which typically averages 38,000 visits per week, got about 52,000 visits on Thursday and 143,000 total views. It crashed several times, causing Chung to create backup plans. When the site first crashed, he redirected the entire site to a “breaking news” section. It crashed again, so he created a WordPress site, which featured photos and the paper’s tweets. The third time it crashed, he redirected the site to the paper’s Twitter handle.

“It was very important to us to make sure we could still reach our audience,” Chung said by phone, noting that the site’s server was eventually upgraded. “The biggest challenge was knowing there was a problem that you know needs to be fixed but feeling like it’s completely out of your control. We said, ‘We might be down, but we still need some credible channel for our audience to access the news.’ ”

The Collegiate Times had to take a similar publishing approach during the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007.

‘Flooded with calls’ from news organizations

News organizations were especially interested in getting news and updates from the Collegiate Times.

“We were getting flooded with calls,” said Crizer, who covered the aftermath of the 2007 shooting. “We told them our policy is to not give interviews to other media outlets during breaking news because we want all of our people to write for us. The New York Times offered the opportunity to contribute to a story (instead of interviewing us), so we got quotes for them and did some reporting.” Staffers ended up talking with a couple of other news organizations as well.

It’s not unusual for news outlets to turn to student newspapers when big university news breaks. It makes sense, given that students sometimes have greater access to sources and tips.

“We were the closest ones to the incident and were trying to make sure we gave all students what they needed to know to stay safe and to be aware and of what was happening on campus,” Crizer said. “We could give eyewitness accounts and offer that perspective of being on campus in lockdown mode, and then relay that to people.”

Publishing a special print edition

The paper’s last scheduled publication of the semester came out Wednesday. Thursday night, though, staffers were busy putting together a four-page Friday issue about the shootings.

Friday’s issue features a time line of events and a map showing where the shootings occurred. It also features a straightforward news story; a piece about the college community gathering together at a vigil; and a story about how students communicated with friends and family after the shooting. “We knew that in 2007 that was a major ordeal,” Crizer said. “People didn’t get to talk to anyone to let them know they were OK. We found that the proliferation of parents on Facebook made that situation a lot easier.”

Friday’s special edition of the Collegiate Times included a front page photo and profile of the police officer who died, as well as a full back page of photos.

Depending on how news develops, Crizer said, staffers may also put together a special weekend issue.

Covering Thursday’s tragic event showed Crizer how journalists and the public can work together to share information and tell a story.

“You always think that if you’re in a breaking news situation, the most important thing going forward is to answer all the questions that readers might come up with,” Crizer said. “I think in this instance, we really saw that we can directly respond to their questions in a timely fashion, and we can ask them questions. When we do that, we’re better because of it, and so is the community.”

Correction: Paul Kurlak’s name in the caption of this photo was originally spelled incorrectly. Read more

1 Comment

Editor who led student coverage of 2007 Virginia Tech shooting has left journalism

In 2007, Amie Steele was editor-in-chief of the Collegiate Times, responsible for leading the team covering the shooting that killed 32 people.

At the time, NPR profiled her and the paper’s work.

“Collegiate Times editor-in-chief Amie Steele has gotten little or no sleep in the past 24 hours, but she’s still on fire,” said Larry Abramson. “The stars of the journalism firmament have alighted here. But this petite, 21-year-old junior is the busiest and the most popular. Her pink cell phone seldom leaves her ear.”

Steele’s journalism future was short; she worked at The Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., from May 2008 to February 2010. “The unfortunate economic status of newspapers had me head in another direction, and now I’m working for the Government Accountability Office in Washington, D.C.,” she told me.

Interestingly, her experience with national media in 2007 changed her impression of journalism, “but not in a way you would expect.” Read more


News orgs take to social media to find Va. Tech witnesses, photos

News organizations from around the country are using social media to locate witnesses and obtain interviews and photos of today’s campus shooting at Virginia Tech. “Call our newsroom if you know anyone that goes to Virginia Tech,” tweeted Buffalo, New York television station WKBW.  “Hey #vatech – looking to speak & get updates from students on campus,” wrote CBS News producer Joe Danielewicz. Meanwhile, the media pounced on a Flickr page of photos from the photo editor of the student newspaper, the Collegiate Times.The images of the crime scene and of police activity attracted requests for republication rights from CNN, the New York Post, NPR, Australia’s News Limited, and other news organizations. (The newspaper eventually posted contact information for media seeking reuse rights.) Read more

1 Comment

Collegiate Times shifts publishing to Twitter, Facebook for shooting coverage

The website of Virginia Tech’s independent student newspaper, The Collegiate Times, struggled with traffic as people sought information on a campus shooting Thursday. For a while, the home page redirected to a sparsely designed “breaking news” page with a Twitter widget at the top and photos below. Shortly after 2 p.m. ET, the Times tweeted and posted to its Facebook page, “We are working to get our website back up. Just check Twitter and Facebook for constant updates.” The New York Times’ Brian Stelter tweeted, “Paper’s feed gained 10,000+ followers in 30 min.”

Later, the home page redirected to a fast-loading, WordPress-powered gallery of photos from the incident.

Mashable is updating a Storify with news and photos, including The Collegiate Times’ first tweets on the shooting.

The New York Times’ Twitter list for the shooting mostly follows journalists, but it includes two students: Michael Morrison, who’s studying electrical engineering, and senior Tauhid Chappell, who is majoring in electronic/print journalism, according to his Twitter bio. The Collegiate Times’ editor-in-chief, associate news editor, and a sports editor are also tweeting.

The Collegiate Times was apparently the first news outlet to break news of the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007. That day, the news site changed to a similar publishing approach as it covered that school shooting: Read more

1 Comment

Virginia Tech gunman sent “disturbing” material to NBC News
Sometime after he killed two people in a dormitory but before he fatally shot 30 more in a classroom building Monday morning, Cho Seung-Hui sent NBC News a rambling communication and videos about his grievances. The network turned the “disturbing” material over to the FBI and said it wouldn’t immediately disclose its contents. Read more


“We’re getting like 10 billion phone calls,” says VT editor

Los Angeles Times
Reporters for the Virginia Tech student newspaper, the Collegiate Times, continued to report and write stories even as phones failed and police evacuated them from their offices. “We knew there was going to be some kind of reliance on us, and we couldn’t let people down,” says managing editor Joe Kendall. Reporter Saira Haider, who lost a good friend in the massacre, says: “I don’t want to be biased — I just want to report. It is kind of hard to separate the two — the emotional side and the news side.”
> Ex-Collegiate Times staffer: It’s surreal to see this happening (Keynoter)
> Cable newscasts doing little but guessing and second-guessing (USAT)
> Bianculli: Cable news regained a bit of its focus, if not its soul (NYDN)
> CNN’s all-day average viewership of 1.4M was up 186% Monday (ChiTrib)
> Reporters at VT should be guided more by etiquette than ethics (Slate) Read more


Tuesday Edition: Students Tell Va. Tech Story Through Cell Video, Blogs, Forums

If you ever had a doubt about how important it is for your
newsroom to be able to tap into user-generated content, the Virginia Tech story
will change that. Look at this collection from CNN’s I-Report.

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

In stories like this, journalists have to go to new places
to look online to find students talking to one another and sharing their
stories. 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.

When I went to, I found this collection:

MTV also
is building connections
to the college community through this blog page, on
which students can leave messages about the shooting.

Resources for Covering the Shooting

The Casey Journalism Center on Children and Families pulled together a collection including:

Trauma source at Virginia Tech: Psychology professor Russell T.
Jones has expertise in psychological effects of trauma and natural disasters on
children. He has spoken at previous CJC conferences. 540.231.5934;

The American Psychological Association also created a brochure to make young people aware of the “Warning
Signs of Youth Violence.”

Profile of Rampage Attackers

2000, The New York Times tracked the
backgrounds of more than 100 rampage killers to see if a profile emerged. That
story said:

They are not drunk or high on drugs. They are not racists or
Satanists, or addicted to violent video games, movies or music.

Most are white men, but a surprising number are
women, Asians and blacks. Many have college degrees, but most are unemployed.
Many are military veterans.

They give lots of warning and even tell people explicitly what
they plan to do. They carry semiautomatic weapons they have obtained easily
and, in most cases, legally.

They do not try to get away. In the end, half turn their guns on
themselves or are shot dead by others. They not only want to kill, they also
want to die.

That is the profile of the 102 killers in 100 rampage attacks
examined by The New York Times in a computer-assisted study looking back more
than 50 years and including the shootings in 1999 at Columbine
High School in Littleton,
Colo., and one by a World War II veteran on a
residential street in Camden,
N.J., in 1949. Four hundred
twenty-five people were killed and 510 people were injured in the attacks. The
database, which primarily focused on cases in the last decade, is believed to
be the largest ever compiled on this phenomenon in the United States.

We are always looking for your great ideas. Send Al a few sentences and hot links.

Note: Al’s Morning Meeting is a compendium of ideas, edited story
excerpts and other materials from a variety of Web sites, as well as
original concepts and analysis. When the information comes directly
from another source, it will be attributed and a link will be provided
whenever possible. The column is fact-checked, but depends upon the
accuracy and integrity of the original sources cited. Errors and
inaccuracies found will be corrected.
Read more


Another Sad but Seminal Day for CitJ

This morning’s shooting at Virginia Tech is destined to become one of those cornerstone events in citizen journalism and participatory media. When news breaks in a location where nearly everyone has a camera-equipped cell phone, and where Internet connectivity abounds, people on the spot will be supplying as much coverage as news organizations — if not more.

Doubtless in coming days we’ll be poring over the first-person blog entries, Twitter posts, forum discussions, Flickr photos, podcasts, moblogs, YouTube videos, and more from those unfortunate enough to be on that campus today. The most poignant content will get highlighted and examined; the harshest and most tasteless will get excoriated.

But I have no doubt that reports, images, and sound supplied by people on the spot today will play a key role in forming the public memory of this horror.

Citizen journalism and other first-person accounts are getting more attention and respect, especially during disasters — deservedly so, I think. But I can’t help but wish that this burgeoning aspect of the media landscape could get known for on-the-spot coverage of something unexpectedly positive and beautiful.

Guess it’s just part of a larger issue: big news is rarely good news. That doesn’t vary much based on who’s covering it, or how.

UPDATES: Tidbits contributor Steve Klein notes the Va. Tech campus paper, The Collegiate Times, has been
doing updates since 9:47 a.m., starting with when shots were fired. Also, contributor Mac Slocum poses some hard questions about citizen journalists putting themselves in harm’s way.

Read more