Rising to the Occassion in the Midst of Tragedy
Although I have since left teaching for other educational pursuits, last week's massacre on the Virginia Tech campus brought back similar anxieties. Having spent more than a decade on college campuses, I am familiar with the freedom of movement at all hours that enabled a crazed killer to wreak havoc on a rustic university town. Parallels to Columbine abound, but perhaps the most striking difference from where I sit is the difference in news coverage from Day One.
While "old media" outlets staked out the same ground they did eight years ago, "new media" offerings pushed the proverbial envelope and in many cases scooped their mainstream peers. At the forefront of this coverage was student journalists. While some of them were associated with traditional venues like the campus newspaper, others relied upon cell phone cameras, web logs, and social networking sites to tell a personal story that profoundly altered their lives. Even the killer himself embraced these technologies to tell his troubled stories, ultimately forcing old media channels to consider the ethics of unleashing this incoherent rant.
While the news trucks and cameras will soon depart Blacksburg, VA, the landscape of the campus and college life in general is forever altered. While it is difficult to rescue sunlight from utter tragedy, "new media" outlets rose to the occasion thanks to the very students targeted by one of their own.