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."

Instead of shying away from journalism, it made me want to be a reporter even more. I saw a lot of national media speculating and reporting erroneous information and it made me want to become a journalist to report information that readers could rely on. As the days wore on in 2007, the students were getting obviously frustrated with the national media. I saw several instances of the media mistreating students, including a photographer holding the camera inches away from a sobbing student's face after the student repeatedley asked the photographer to go away. The students should know that it is their campus and this is their heartache. They shouldn't feel obligated to respond to interviews unless they feel comfortable talking. And not all media are bad - I saw some true professionals do great work that week. A few bad apples don't spoil the bunch.

She also shared her thoughts by email on today's coverage, its similar struggles and successes:

I can't tell you how crazy it is to watch this. I'm seeing the same issues that we had in 2007 - email down, website servers down, staff kicked out of the newsroom - happening now. There are also a lot of rumors flying around Twitter, which is an issue we faced. There have been a lot of unfounded "sightings" all over campus. We had the same issue.

I know I sound like an overbearing mother, but I'm proud of these kids. I know how hard it is to report in this environment - especially the day before finals. They're doing a great job.


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