By Elliot Adams
I stumbled across this moving and provocative documentary about how The Collegiate Times, a student-run newspaper at Virginia Tech., dealt with the Virginia Tech Massacre. Their coverage was ahead of the international press, being the first media outlet to break news on the shootings, with online coverage as information came in on the day and extensive coverage that stayed ahead of the national press in the days following. The newspaper faced unique problems in how to give sensitive coverage of events from the student community’s perspective, and provide resources to assist the students in their recovery – all in the face of an increasingly frenzied and insensitive US media circus.
Documenting Disaster follows the 2007 Collegiate Times staff as they recall
the chaos of the week following the tragedy, reflecting on the responsibilities of being journalists dealing with tragedy on their campus. These students tell their personal experiences about covering the story of the tragedy, with accounts from their faculty advisor and the university spokesman who dealt with the media during the event.
It’s a pretty long video, but I highly recommend it. It is my opinion that often the press mishandles mass shootings by sensationalising them and focusing on death tolls, sirens and the killer in a way that encourages copy-cats. Perhaps it is reassuring then that a student-run paper has found a far more powerful and responsible approach by focusing on the stories of the victims and survivors.