It is the type of devastating story that can turn a hard-nosed reporter away from journalism altogether. As the dust settles on the mass killing at Virginia Tech that left 32 dead and several others wounded, young journalists are turning to their blogs to question the mainstream media coverage of Monday’s massacre and their own futures in journalism.
Xenoguyver, a blogger described as an “aspiring journalist” complains that the media resorted to stereotypes and rehashing events like the Columbine High School shooting in the coverage of the Virginia tragedy. “What I’m saying isn’t that these things shouldn’t be covered, but they should be covered in a totally different, more sensitive way: the pursuit of the ‘facts’ has forced the human aspect of the tragedy to the back seat,” says the blogger. “That annoys me.”
A post on What’s left at the end of the day questions how much is too much when it comes to coverage. “As an aspiring journalist, I’m torn,” says blogger Em. “What do journalists do? The names of the dead should be released so anyone who knew them will know what happened. The same goes for the injured list. But where is the line? Everyone gets an obituary, does that negate the publicity these obits are getting? Technically, the journalists are just doing their jobs and reporting the news. But at what point does the news stop and the dramatization begin?”
On The World of Cash, blogger Christina acknowledges her internal struggle as a young journalist. “I am told to be as unbiased as possible, to give both sides of the story, to be neutral and objective,” she writes. “What is wrong with being passionate about a story that you are reporting or writing about? I’m sure more people were moved to action when Anderson Cooper freaked out on Senator Mary Landrieu then any other report on the Hurricane Katrina fiasco. Isn’t that the point of journalism? To make people care?”
Kimmie Dunn, too, is questioning her motivation. “Emotionally I just don’t know that I can keep dealing with some of this,” confesses Dunn, a self-described aspiring DJ and journalist, on her blog. “It’s so sad and it’s the responsibility of a journalist to remain impartial and report on the facts without any emotion creeping in. I’ve talked to some ex-journalists who said they got out of the field because of what I’m describing. They say they mentally burned out because of things like this. I don’t want to do that because I seriously love what I’m doing.”
Christina Hernandez is a CJR intern.
But the young journalists closest to the fray continue to report the story. Describing herself as a reporter on Words ‘n’ Such, a blogger lauds the student journalists in Blacksburg. “I looked at Virginia Tech’s own student newspaper and it was, beyond a doubt, the best front page I’ve seen in a while,” writes the blogger. “Kudos to the staff for getting it right in the midst of such tragedy.”