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Internet succeeded where bureaucracy failed at Va. Tech

April 17, 2007

VT memorial (AP)

A repeating theme seen in all the stories about the Virginia Tech massacre Monday is the lack of warning from campus officials in Blacksburg that a shooter was on the loose after the first shooting at a dormitory.

So, the students turned to their reliable source of information … the Internet. Especially at a school where every student has a laptop, per school policy.

crying at VT (AP)We knock the Internet in the news media for being inaccurate, and we tout ourselves as the more authoritative source of news — just look at how Wikipedia gets run through the wringer by the traditional press.

But in times of tragedy, the Internet and its collective shared experiences can be the great informer. We see it here, while uncovering the facts about this horrible day in our history.

I remember the morning of September 11, when our newsroom sat in shock and silence as the Twin Towers fell (I had been on the roof of them just a week before) and we all worried about how many more airplanes there were in the skies and how many more people could die that morning.

News links and more after the break…

We turned to our computers and a cornucopia of news sites to gather any data we could, and we’d yell updates from cubicle to cubicle, as some staffers tried to ring relatives that may have been in the danger zones. I remember leaving work early that day, and spending the rest of the night online, trying to get any facts and news I could.

From some of the students our reporters have contacted at Virginia Tech, the Internet was their lifeline. Through sites and services like MySpace, Facebook and Twitter, students shared what they knew about the tragedy while confined to their dorm rooms. Message boards told them to stay put and keep away from the windows. And it told others to stay off campus if they were commuting in.

Al Tompkins from had this post today about the tons of places the Internet helped Va. Tech students:

When I went to, I found this collection:

Also, Jack Lail, managing editor/multimedia for The Knoxville News-Sentinel, collected a bunch of blogosphere links on his blog to trends and coverage from yesterday’s tragedy — one big one was many newspapers’ decision to cover this story with blogs, updating regularly as details came in. has the key local blog providing information.

Another great idea comes from MSNBC today. They are highlighting any new information on the Va. Tech story in their online updates with a blue hue.

Another favorite blog, Boing Boing, has a good frequently-updated post on the day’s events.

A sadder note: The Daily Mail of London is reporting that the shooter lined up victims against a wall execution-style, which is eerily like the incident here last October, where Charles Roberts massacred 12 Amish girls in a one-room schoolhouse in Nickel Mines, Pa. It’s bringing back all of those buried feelings and emotions from that tragic day.

Even sadder: Anti-video-game crusader and lawyer Jack Thompson is trolling to blame this massacre on violent video games. How? Did they find a copy of Grand Theft Auto or a Playstation Portable at the scene? This is just shameless, Mr. Thompson.

  1. April 17, 2007 11:25 am

    great coverage corey. sad news though.

  2. Bethany permalink
    April 18, 2007 12:08 am

    I knew Thompson would use this story to further his “cause” even without any evidence the shooter had been influenced at all by video games. I don’t think we should be focusing on those kinds of issues right now – the mourning and healing process should be more important. How selfish is he.

  3. April 18, 2007 6:44 pm

    I heard about MySpace and Facebook… I was wondering if Twitter played a role in it too.

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