CNN alrady in the "firing line"

April 17, 2007

Well, it didn’t take long! CNN is now hosting ‘eye witness’ footage and audio on its website. Apparently taken on a cell phone by Virginia Tech student Jamal Albarghouti. Here’s a report about it from Digital Spy.
How does this sit with the Poynter’s advice about using eye witness reports?

Eyewitnesses verify identities of those who contact you to talk about what they saw or heard. Dont get snookered by someone who pretends to have been there. Verify the authenticity and legitimacy of eyewitness accounts before you use them.

Video/Pictures/Sound from Eyewitnesses This content is NOT being gathered by journalists. They are eyewitnesses or participants in the story. The content they offer may be authentic, but journalists have an obligation to verify that authenticity before using it online, on the air or in the paper.

Virginia Tech shootings – the coverage and the aftermath

April 17, 2007

One of the worst mass shootings in the US, the death of more than 30 students and staff at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg Virginia on 16th April, is likely to be a big story for months. The funerals of the victims are likely to attract massive global media attention and no doubt we’ll see some ugly scenes in the coming weeks as various outlets jostle to “own” the story and to shut out their opposition.

This is a reality in the commercial media world, even when there’s tragedy on such a mass scale.
The Poynter Institute has been quick to upload some tips for reporters and media covering this story. Particularly in dealing with eye witnesses, managing the footage of victims, dealing with rumours and managing posts onto blogs and commentary on news sites. All sound advice.

Ethical Martini will be monitoring the coverage carefully, and posting on any issues that arise.

Recent experience in Australia, particularly coverage of the worst mass shooting in Australian history, the Port Arthur “massacre” on 28 April 1996 (35 killed) is a salient case study, as is the Columbine school shootings of 29 April 1999.

Unfortunately, Martin Bryant, the man convicted of the Port Arthur killings has become a hero of th weird consipiracy theory movement, but The Age newspaper (Melbourne) ran a good commemorative piece in April 2006.

It will also be interesting to see how the political debate about gun control (or the obvious lack of it in the USA) is played out. The National Rifle Association is a powerful minority lobby group well out of step with mainstream American opinion, but rich enough to subborn the democratic process through liberal (illiberal) applications of cash to the right Washington pockets. The NRA’s mealy-mouthed statement in response the Blacksburg shootings is enough said about this lunatic fringe organisation.

Let’s hope Dubya’s staunch backing of the gun lobby is another nail is the Republican’s presidential hopes for 2008.

It’s sad that the deaths of more than 30 young, bright future American leaders has to happen to shake the US out of its complaceny. My sympathies to all who feel a loss at this time.