Friday the 13th, 2013

In December, people look forward to the holidays, which are supposed to be full of joy and quality family time, but no one at Arapahoe High School in Centennial, Colorado expected their holidays to start off with such a dark turn of events. On December 13, the students of Arapahoe High School never expected a gunman, much less a fellow classmate, to come into school and open fire. Karl Pierson, 18, was that gunman and student of Arapahoe High School.

Blogs and other social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter allow citizens to contribute their own thoughts and opinions about issues at hand. They sometimes offer first-person information or visuals about the issue before the broadcasting news is able to report about the event. Facebook (link) allowed the students, staff, families, and other people to reach out and contribute their thoughts and feelings to those involved in the shooting. Even more recently, the same Facebook page was used to provide support to students involved in a shooting at Berrendo Middle School in New Mexico. On a cite called Twitchy, news reporters and other more seemingly reliable sources contributed to the thread, updating the public about the shooting.

The traditional news outlets gave people people the basic information that they want to hear. But the reporting of the same event by citizen journalists may have less reliable information. To gatekeepers, the news reports to the audience what they think is relevant and what they think the audience wants to hear. The more tragic the story, the more newsworthy it is. People always want to know who the victims and instigator are, when the event happened, why it happened, how something like this could happen, and what the events were that lead up to the tragedy.

From this event, the gatekeepers have told us who the shooter was: Karl Pierson, who his intended target was: librarian and debate coach Tracy Murphy, the victims: the student body of Arapahoe High School and Claire Davis who later passed away, why he did it: for “revenge” or other reasons against Tracy Murphy. Even though we hope to find that the information given to us by “the gatekeepers” to be true, I found that the details about this event were not always reliable. The Huffington Post said that a “15-year-old female student remains in critical condition.” link, but according to other reports the female student in critical condition was 17-years-old link. Another website even got the target’s name wrong, calling Tracy Murphy, Tracy Martin link.

Citizen journalists can post whatever they deem to be true or false and the audience can accept it either way, but just because that citizen journalist is reporting his or her opinion or story does not make it valid reporting and reliable. But not all of the information that is found on these other seemingly reliable websites is completely reliable either. Both methods of obtaining information and/or reporting information can have it’s flaws and unreliability. If we want reliable information, then the best way to get it is to look for it ourselves, but in our society controlled by media, who knows what is and what isn’t true anymore.


4 thoughts on “Friday the 13th, 2013”

  1. Especially in a critical situation like this I think it is really important for people to take the information they see on social media outlets carefully. If we keep believing what we see and do not do forward information searches, we will believe anything, and everything, even if the information is false. I did my blog on a shooting as well, and the social media said that the victim died, which wasn’t the case at all. Although social media outlets can be good information searches, being quick and easy to post and receive they can be so misleading that in critical situations like this they can do more harm than good.

    1. I think that’s interesting you say we have to do research in order to avoid false information, because I have a first hand experience that proves this. When the Arapahoe shooting occurred I was about 3 blocks down the street working my job at UPS. I hadn’t heard about what happened but I saw a lot of cop cars flying by every minute or so. When I finally found out, it was from someone who’s child was in school and she was about to go pick him up. She didn’t tell me any details other then there was a school shooting. This is important because I think people tend to stretch the truth when they’re posting something online, knowing that it’s harder for people to point out holes in the story. I think by doing research you mean taking all accounts into consideration but also taking everything with a grain of salt until the facts are confirmed.

  2. Because of social media, everyone always knows what’s going on, however I do think its important to take what you read via social media with a grain of salt, considering journalists may not know all the facts.

    In situations like school shootings, everyone always wants to know whats going on, for a number of reasons. First of all, its a scary, tragic and traumatic situation, and when its all said and done, people showed nothing but support for Arapahoe high. Strangers and people who had no connections to the school posted and wrote via social media, in order to support and pray for the community.

    Another reason why people want to know is there is a deeper debate with gun laws/gun control. Whether or not you believe guns or the people are the problem, there is clearly an issue that needs to be addressed. This situation has happened too many times for us not to talk about it.

  3. I wrote about the Boston bombing, which had a lot of similarities with this event. In crisis situations especially, information that people believe to be true is quickly disseminated online in many forms. This causes a large amount of misinformation that can create a domino effect, being passed on from person to person despite the fact that it is incorrect.

    I really liked that you gave specific examples of mistakes they made, it definitely brought more light to your points. I think it would be interesting to compare the misinformation between this shooting and a shooting that occurred in a less media-centered world. Would there still be misinformation through word of mouth? I would guess that today, more people would be informed of the tragedy. However, how ACCURATELY they are informed would definitely be a different story.

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