Swift online response to the Virginia massacre pt. 1

The massacre in Virginia is a particularly shocking tragedy that (yet again) throws up some serious questions about gun-control and the cultural and sociological triggers which seem to repeatedly bring about similarly catastrophic acts in the US

While the topic is particularly morbid, it’s been very interesting to watch the response online. Robin Hammon at Cybersoc.com has a very interesting post examining the media scrum that ensued following the event. Many journalists turned straight to the blogosphere to find out more on the story; many found a livejournal blog account by ‘Paul’, a student at Virginia Tech and the boyfriend of a girl injured in the shooting. The subsequent comments (currently totaling 188) featured a significant number of enquiries from press looking for interviews. 

This has been greeted with scorn and vitriol from members of the public, disgusted at the intrusive ‘door-stepping’ of the press, all looking to get the news-jump on the opposition.

Arguably, the narcissistic nature of blogging means that visitors are encouraged to read and respond; here, the press were simply engaging to find more information, to clarify facts. The account offered by Paul is shocking to read and one can only imagine how he and his peers are feeling at present, but by posting his account on a public site and making it freely available, he has automatically given his consent and is positioning himself as an viable, accurate news source.

It’s a regrettable truth but door-stepping is an integral part of story generation. The media has a responsibility to get their story as fast – and as accurately – as possible, and this invariably means participant or eye-witness accounts. The blogger boom has simply increased the availability of these sources – there is such a wealth of information, sources on the spot for any and every event, that the story is at the fingertips of the anyone who looks for it.

The facts behind of Monday’s event is still emerging and while it may be unpalatable for the public to see eye-witnesses being targeted by the media, this is also a public who demands the the truth; the only way they’ll get it is from the media they so vehemently criticise.   

Welcome to the age of cyber-doorstepping. It’s a mucky business.

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