How the Web and Social Networking Sites Have Changed News Gathering


By George

Another senseless act of gun violence erupted today – this time on the rural campus of Northern Illinois University. A graduate student is being identified as the gunman who went on a murderous rampage that left five students and the gunman dead. A total of 21 people were shot.

Our sympathies are with the victims, their families, and their friends.

The shooting has unleashed another 24/7 cycle of news coverage. The cable channels, wire services, and national newspapers have been updating the story continuously since it broke this morning. One of the remarkable aspects to this tragic story is the significant role that social media networks and the Web are having on the coverage.

The Web continues to transform the news industry – the way to cover the news, research the news, and present it to readers. For example, CNN is showing photographs of the victims from their Facebook pages. Facebook is fast becoming a news destination for reporters looking for personal information about people suddenly thrust into the spotlight. The cable station even has video of Facebook as an unseen user clicks through the individual pages of the shooting victims.

CNN has also been conducting online research into the identified suspect – finding photographs and other Web content to help fill out its profile of him. ABC News is doing the same. They posted a story today containing information culled from users of an online music community where the killer was allegedly an active participant.

CNN is among the first news outlets to set up an online forum for readers to sound off on the shootings. Hundreds of readers have already left comments behind on the tragedy. CNN has used the forum as a way to gauge national reaction to the shootings.

But it wasn’t only readers wanting to communicate using the latest technology. According to the Washington Post: “Inside the library (at Northern Illinois), more than 50 students gathered around computers. They searched for news and to send messages to friends and relatives, and also tried to use their mobile telephones.”

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