Citizen Journalism in the Aurora Shooting

The citizen was 18-year-old Morgan Jones and he was the initiator of one of the biggest instances of citizen journalism today.  He was not the only citizen journalist but, he became famous for his Reddit thread on July 20, 2012. The crazy thing to me is that this Jones wasn’t even at the shooting.  He was sitting safely at home on his computer and saw one news update and immediately started his thread.  Jones began posting minute-by-minute updates on the story.  He used tweets from witnesses and victims, reports from traditional media sources and even information from police scanners.  The post even got to the point that reporters and news outlets used this Reddit post for their information because he had already dug it up.

This instance of citizen journalism (and citizen journalism in general) is really important because sometimes, citizens are the first responders and primary witnesses.  They were there, the reporters weren’t, let them tell you about it.  Even though Jones wasn’t there, he combined all the information out there to keep his feed going and get all of the information out to the public.  This citizen journalism was the quickest and most rapidly updated account of the shooting.   This instance shows the power of the internet for citizen journalism.  News programs can only get information out as fast as they can pull together the news team, pass information in between each other, then to the reporters on screen.  But on Reddit, citizens can come together to collectively determine the facts of a news story.  The citizens were editing each other.  This Reddit feed even was the FIRST place where the picture of the shooter, James Holmes, surfaced, which shows the power of the citizens.  When Jones was posting, he created “a cohesive narrative of the tragedy”.  It was found out also that Jones wasn’t just copying and pasting every tiny scrap of news; he was providing updates but also correcting old information that might be wrong and answering questions from other users, all to create the most complete knowledge of the incident.

This event was similar to traditional news reporting. He was up all night getting the information out there.  He became the go-to source for the event (for other citizens and news outlets), as just a kid sitting in his room late one night.  Some people would argue that posts like this lack the editorial processes of traditional journalism, which I would agree with sometimes but, in this case, the information was being edited by many citizens together, in real time, in a collaborative effort.  I would also argue that in a case like this on Reddit, you have access to a network of information that maybe the traditional news outlets don’t because of the HUGE amount of connections that occur that way through this one website.

This is the link to the actual Reddit feed from that night:

I would say that this Reddit thread was an instance of both gatekeeping and gatewatching.  Jones was controlling what was going through and doing his best to get the most recent and factual information out as fast as possible.  This one person was behind the story getting all the information out.  But I would claim there was gatewatching as well because it was a curation of all of the information in one location.  The information was being evaluated and when it needed updating, it was updated because so many people were watching this specific gate.  I think that in this case the gatewatching and gatekeeping flowed really well together and mutually reinforced each other.  There was the obvious challenge of getting the truth out but the processes of gatewatching and gatekeeping worked so well together, that the truth was able to get out eventually, even if it took a couple corrections, or a couple more contributors from the world.

Other sources:

4 thoughts on “Citizen Journalism in the Aurora Shooting”

  1. Having lived in Colorado for many years and gone to high school in Aurora, the theater shooting certainly hit close to home for me. The morning the news broke, I found myself eager to find out the details of the tragedy as soon as they were released. I relied largely on the radio in my car and social media such as Facebook and Twitter, as I was not aware of this Reddit thread. When a tragedy like this happens, it seems that all forms of media, no matter how official, are often reliant on details from informed citizens and eyewitnesses because everyone is simply trying to piece together what has happened.

    1. I had no idea about this Reddit thread either. I was just planning on writing about the Aurora shooting and how its information spread via Facebook and twitter. But then I found many articles on the author of the specific Reddit page. It seems like the Facebook posts were coming from a different source of media at some point or another. I like that you said, “no matter how official” because in times of tragedy, people really do want the information and sometimes don’t really pay attention to where it is coming from.

  2. When the shooting happened I was actually on a camping trip in the middle of no where with cell survive, but no TV or radio news to rely on. I had Facebook and twitter on my phone that were blowing up with comments about this. These forms of media were really what I had relied on to receive information about this event which truly shows how important these forms of media have been in the past decade! I probably would not have know this even occurred if it wasn’t for the social media of people posting and tweeting about this. This really shows how reliant citizens can be on people informed of the situation at hand.

    1. I would definitely agree with you. I actually was at the batman premier in a different part of Colorado and I didn’t hear about what happened until I logged onto my Facebook page the next morning. It is really fascinating to me to see that I and I’m sure many of my peers have come to use Facebook and twitter as sources of news. Even if it is on purpose or not. Many times it is not on purpose for me, I just happen so see things because I don’t go looking for news about the world on Facebook, it finds me.

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