The Now Infamous Va. Tech Video


The Now Infamous Va. Tech Video


Posted April 17th, 2007 - 15:39PM by <a href="">Steve Fox</a>

Well, it didn&#39;t take long. One of my students at the University of Maryland has a brother who attends Virginia Tech and lost two friends yesterday. She started to break down as she told me she would not be in class tonight.

As everyone steps up to applaud the "citizen journalism" that occurred yesterday, with kudos upon kudos give to the cellphone video made infamous by CNN, I can&#39;t help but think what my student&#39;s brother thought yesterday upon seeing that video played over and over and over again.

Consider this: the video had no inherent news value and told no story.

It did have sounds of bullets being fired and screams.

Those were bullets that killed, maimed and injured students and faculty members. This wasn&#39;t a video game.

Is such video responsible journalism? Are these the types of Citizen Journalists that people want to see? Are we doomed to create "citizen journalists" to play the I-patsies for cable television?

There were other not-so-proud moments, including the <a href="">decision to publish this</a> and then the <a href="">rush to judgment reported here</a>.

As most professional journalists who have covered breaking news and tragedy know, the facts are never clear in the first couple of hours and will likely change. And, when reporting on tragedy, two things rise above most -- try not to do harm and think of those involved -- both victims and their families. It means slowing down. And, thinking, should I really whip out my cellphone here?

Cable television long ago threw out the baby with the bath water. Now, breaking news events are an opportunity for ratings as viewers watch tragedy unfold. Journalism? Hardly. Students who were in shock were interviewed regularly, with the final question of "how are you feeling" inevitably searching for a sob. Watching tragedy unfold via cable news is the soap opera of the modern era. It&#39;s hardly journalism.

Which brings us back to our heralded cell-phone videographer yesterday. The London bombing showed us how anyone with a cell phone can capture images. But, that was after a news event had occurred. Our heralded citizen journalist captured sounds of people being killed, injured and maimed yesterday as it occurred.

Is this really the type of behavior to applaud, to train citizen journalists to take part in? More importantly, what&#39;s the news here?

Finally, step back for a second. Play the video. And, imagine you have a son or daughter attending Virginia Tech, you can&#39;t get ahold of them and you turn on CNN to find out some information and instead you come across that video.


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Steve Fox




Brent Jesiek


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Steve Fox, “The Now Infamous Va. Tech Video,” The April 16 Archive, accessed June 24, 2024,