Regular readers will know that, as the Virginia Tech massacre unfolded I, like many other journalists and reporters, went online to see if I could find any firsthand accounts coming out of the campus.
One particular account I found, that of a student named Paul who wrote about how his girlfriend Kate had been shot in the hand whilst heroically barracading the door to the classroom with other students, helped us to better understand the horror that was unfolding on the campus that day. I blogged about it and passed on the information to colleagues working at BBC News 24 and BBC Radio Five Live – and the next day I second guessed my attempts to confirm Paul’s account by contacting him directly and I blogged that too, inadvertently kicking off a debate about "digital doorstepping" and landing myself in the following week’s Media Guardian not once but twice.
Today in my referrers I came across a link from Paul’s LiveJournal and found a post where he quotes from and thoughtfully responds to one of my posts on the subject. Paul’s post is worth reading in it’s entirety but I find the following passage, which starts with a quote of my post and then Paul’s response, particularly useful:
Quoting my post: "Next time something horrific like this happens, I hope more of us take
the time to carefully consider whether the content we’ve found online
was ever intended to be seen by a wider audience and if any harm could
be done by exposing it to that audience – and then, rather than seeking
access, we link, quote and clearly disclaim. It’s not a world exclusive
or a front page by-line, but there is, as ever, value in making the
Paul: "I can’t say that my actions or inaction during that time
would have been changed dramatically had things been worded differently
by reporters, but what the author of this article gets at is an issue
that I wish more reporters at the time took into consideration. When
you see a reporter from Fox who "just wants to talk" and then you see
Bill O’Reilly later that night completely bash your school and
everything you believe in because in his mind he is "right," really
makes you adverse to everything and everyone in journalism when in
fact, if approached correctly, journalists could make so much more
headway by actually understanding the situation from our end of it."
the author of the article: Sorry I couldn’t get back to you in a timely
fashion, but…yes, the post was/is true. Thanks for truly
understanding things from the other perspective."