While the national media has scrambled to cover the tragic shootings at Virginia Tech, some of the most compelling stories have been produced by non-journalists on the scene. I say produced, and not just told, because that’s what new media technologies have made possible.
Graduate student Jamal Albarghouti captured video of the police response on his cellphone, recording audio of multiple gun shots. The footage was sent to CNN as part of its iReport initiative.
Another student posted video of police rushing to the scene on YouTube. He shot from his dorm window, and the video attracted attention to his LiveJournal page, where he was posting frequent updates with his thoughts throughout the day. It’s amazing to read his reaction as he first finds out about the tragedy, lets his friends know he is safe, and contemplates the fact that with 33 dead, his friends may be on that list.
Later, he was contacted by a number of national and international media outlets for interviews, and understandably has conflicted emotions about his own national exposure and the horrible circumstances that brought it about.
Here’s a sample:
This is ridiculous. I find myself getting excited because I’m on the news (Fox News recently shared the blog). Each time I hear something else I get a brief moment of selfish joy before I am stabbed in the heart, realizing that I deserve no credit and that lives are gone, destroyed, and in pain. What is the significance of all this? My postings are simply what I always do– except I left my thoughts for the public instead of just my friends. This run of emotions is hard to bear. I need to go for a walk– but of course, what good is that since everything is outside my door. There is no escaping. The chains have been tied to the door. “
Another student posts on his LiveJournal that his date to a dance on Friday night may have been in a class where students were shot Monday morning. So far he’s been unable to find her to find out if she’s alright.
The Washington Post has done a roundup of personal blog posts related to the day’s events, including a link to several photos that have been posted on Flickr. If you search for “Virginia Tech” on the site now, you’ll find images of news websites and numerous tributes to the students including prayer vigils and even pictures from a vigil held in Second Life.
The first person accounts on blogs, YouTube, and across the internet give a better sense of what it’s like to be there than anything you’ll find from mainstream media sources. And while journalists continue to tell the story, citizen journalists are filling in the details.
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