January 21, 2009 in Va. Tech Shooting
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December 18, 2008 in Va. Tech Shooting
Virginia Tech’s Collegiate Times has obtained copies of over 6,000 documents that the university has released after a settlement with family members of those who died and were injured on April 16, 2007. The documents were released to family members on Dec. 16, after the CT had finished publication for the semester. Kudos to their staff for working to get the story.
Rather than try to post all the documents on their own servers, they posted the documents on Scribd.com and embedded them in the CT web site.
April 16, 2008 in Va. Tech Shooting
(check back for updates – ed.)
One year ago.
The mysterious (is it a pearl necklace? A ring of Saturn? A row of ball bearings?) Collegiate Times print edition front page:
Collegiate Times online Anniversary splash page:
UWire’s Coverage Page:
(notice the campus lockdown map on the right side of the page)
Roanoke.com Anniversary coverage:
Roanoke.com Facebook page:
Washingtonpost.com comprehensive page:
MSNBC coverage page:
CNN coverage page:
Our previous coverage on the shooting.
As I mentioned Monday, I headed off to the University of Georgia’s management seminar for newspaper editors, where I talked about advising and also about how other newspapers covered the Va. Tech tragedy. If you’re interested, I’m including some links and expanded notes from my talk on Tuesday afternoon. I actually didn’t get to cover the second part of the discussion, and I promised some folks that I’d post further notes online. I wasn’t able to spend as much time as I’d like talking about how student news outlets could prepare for a huge news event, but these are some of the notes I had.
I don’t normally link to the CMA newsletter when it comes out, but the May/June issue features a couple of articles – by Kelly Furnas, editorial adviser at Va. Tech; and Dave Waddell of CSU-Chico – looking at the Va. Tech tragedy from the standpoint of advisers. Worth a read.
You can download a PDF of the newsletter here.
UPDATE: Be sure and check out Griffin’s comments at the bottom of this post. He raises a couple of good issues, but fails to sway me.
On a different note, a response: Chip Griffin takes up the case of using pre-roll advertisements around video of disturbing news items, mentioning that we were offended with the pre-roll ads that appeared around some of the video footage from the Va. Tech shooting tragedy. Griffin makes the argument that news orgs need to make money, and serving pre-roll ads make money.
As I noted in the original post, I understand the need to make money from online video. I understand that such video costs money to host. And I’m not opposed to any ads in the context of a tragedy. But there should be some level of understanding on the part of media organizations about the types of ads that play around particularly graphic, particularly tragic video.
The first ad I mentioned was a “make your own M&M” ad, which played at the front of a cell phone video of shots being fired – shots that took the lives of 32 people. The second was an ad for Microsoft’s software – right before video footage of a deranged psychopath spewing hate. Does an advertiser want their carefully crafted message singing the praises of their product sandwiched next to such video? I wouldn’t think so.
A possible solution? Get the ad department to work quickly in such a situation to tailor some low-key contextual ads that don’t denigrate the seriousness of the video. Imagine a 15-second pre-roll ad that featured a muted background with some low-key music and a message of condolence from the advertiser – “(insert advertiser name here) – our hearts are with the Va. Tech community (or whomever) during this time of tragedy.”
The ends are met: the advertiser gets their brand out, but in a way that doesn’t grate against the seriousness of the situation. And they get some good PR out of being sensitive. And the media org gets paid.
April 26, 2007 in Va. Tech Shooting
Fresh off our discussion of ethics, Bob Carey points out a story by News Photographer magazine about the alteration of a photo of Kevin Sterne that was sent out by the Associated Press following the Va. Tech shooting. Readers of this blog know that Sterne was the chief engineer of independent student radio station WUVT-FM, and he is recovering from his injuries.
Among the publications which altered the photograph: The New York Post, People, and The Sun (UK). Apparently, the photo editors at those publications feared that Sterne’s genitals were displayed in the photo (the questionnable object was the tourniquet that saved his life). I find it particularly galling that the Sun, known for its Page 3 girls, and the Post, known for gruesome headlines and tabloid stories, were so concerned for their readers’ sensibilities that they materially altered the image to remove a crucial piece of the puzzle.
The slight blurring of the image and the extreme magnification may have helped editors at the New York Post, The Sun in London, and People magazine come to believe that they were seeing parts of the victimâ€™s genitals. So they had the image doctored. Where before there was white or bloody tan content, now only green grass can be seen. The copy of the image they doctored was the one distributed â€“ untouched â€“ by AP.
The Sun in London ran the photograph as their entire front page. People magazine ran the picture twice: once small, on the cover as part of a three-picture combo, and then larger on the inside on page 61.
Chris Dougherty, the director of photography for People magazine, has not returned calls from News Photographer magazine requesting comment. But Col Allan, the executive editor of the New York Post, told The Poynter Institute for Media Studies, â€œWe decided to make a very minor alteration to the photograph of Kevin Sterne being carried out of Norris Hall to protect the wounded studentâ€™s dignity but in no way change the news impact of the picture.â€
I find that excuse sorely lacking, and agree with John Long of the NPPA:
“The need to be honest with the readers must always trump the needs of being tasteful or being sensitive to personal privacy,” John Long said today. Long is chair of NPPA’s Ethics & Standards Committee and for years has been the voice of the organization on photojournalism ethics.
“Being sensitive to the possible embarrassment of the young victim and digitally removing what might have been seen as his genitals was a noble gesture. However, in so doing People (and the New York Post, and The Sun, and other news organizations who did likewise) created a visual lie. The photograph was no longer an accurate depiction of what the photographer saw and photographed. It was a minor lie to erase that small section of the photograph, but it was a lie nonetheless and all lies damage our credibility.”
The Roanoke Times spells out how they covered the Va. Tech shooting story. As the closest daily professional newspaper, they obviously invested a lot of human resources into their coverage. Ryan Sholin asks the pertinent question: What is your emergency multimedia plan?
When I talked to Chris Ritter earlier this week, one of the things we talked about was making sure more people on staff knew how to do some basic multimedia: audio slideshows, simple iMovie video editing, even updating a web page. These are skills that aren’t difficult to teach or learn, and a beat reporter can become a multimedia worker in a pinch.
But I will put this into perspective, especially for colleges, where you’re often dealing with volunteer labor: Plans are easy enough to draft, but another thing entirely to put into action when there’s an event of this size. Sure, everyone’s going to live on adrenalin for a couple of days, but circumstances sometimes mean plans get discarded in the face of cold reality. Example: you lose one of your multimedia editors because someone close lost a friend in a shooting.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t play “what if?” Definitely think about what you’d do. But be flexible. That’s always a good policy in an emergency.
April 24, 2007 in Va. Tech Shooting
One of the reasons I spent so much time last week watching the coverage of the Va. Tech shootings, and the way the news was handled by the Collegiate Times, is that I was there a mere 7 days before – on Good Friday – talking to CT student editors about adopting a “web-first” mindset for their news operation. One of the sites we talked about was the Daily at the University of Washington and how they covered a campus shooting a few days earlier using updates, video and multimedia.
When I left the CT newsroom, the staff seemed genuinely excited about putting the news web site into the center of their operation. They talked about getting digital cameras and audio recorders and assigning “mojo bags” (my term, not theirs) to senior writers and devoting the fall staff training time to multimedia issues. In short, it looked like they were listening, which is always a good thing for an educator.
Last Monday, they got a bigger test of their commitment to the “web-first” mentality than anyone could have imagined. And they passed – with flying colors. Today, I spoke briefly with Chris Ritter, the online editor for the CT, and he asked for feedback on their coverage. How do you respond to that kind of question? Knowing something of the stress of the situation, the limitations of a student staff, and the paradigm shift that they had been undergoing this semester, I could only suggest some things which – in the grand scheme of things – seemed minor. After all, some people are suggesting the CT should be considered for a Pulitzer Prize for their coverage. All I can say is that I’m honored to have gotten to meet them and talk with them about the future of journalism and their college newspaper.
I’ve asked Chris to write something for this weblog about their experiences over the last week. As soon as I can, I’ll post it here.
While the Va. Tech community continues to pick up the pieces of their lives in the aftermath of last Monday’s shooting tragedy, we are going to be shifting back to our regular focus for this blog. There’s much left to say about the media coverage of the shooting and its aftermath, but there are other issues and topics we need to get back to somehow.
I titled this post “moving forward,” because I dislike the term “moving on.” While our focus will be shifting toward other college media-related matters, we aren’t “moving on” from what happened last week. Our hearts, thoughts, and prayers are with all those affected by 4/16. And our admiration and best wishes go out to all the journalists most directly affected by this. They did an admirable job under dire circumstances.
All of our coverage of the Va. Tech shooting is archived in a category. Here’s a link.