By Jared Fields, Managing Editor
The Kennedy assassination changed journalism forever. It marked the time when TV surpassed the newspaper as the primary means for covering an ongoing event. From then on, the public turned to television for breaking news coverage.
That day in Dallas launched the careers of journalists like Dan Rather and Peter Jennings. Journalists and viewers looked at news differently from then on. Viewers expected immediate updates, and journalists were expected to live up to the new standard.
Journalism’s next big change happened Monday in Virginia.
There, among all the chaos and confusion of the shootings at Virginia Tech, TV reporting failed where the Internet and cell phones thrived.
While huddled in classrooms or just wondering where friends were, people turned to their phones and even Facebook to see what was happening. Some even used their camera phones to document what took place.
The news reporters, news gatherers and historians are these people.
The ABC World News only added commentary to facts about the shootings. Any reporting they used was from cell phone videos or Facebook accounts – very little of the reporting was from its own work. A majority of its reporting came from Facebook. They even showed a guy’s wall post saying he was tired of reporters trying to talk to him.
The phonebook is being replaced by Facebook. No reporter will go to a phonebook when so much more background and contact information is available on Facebook.
Meanwhile, students went to Facebook, as is the custom for any event now, to update profiles and make groups.
None of this is a surprise, it takes a major event to show us when the norm has changed. If Monday’s shootings happened just two or three years ago, we would all be glued to the TV.
I was not, however.
I read a short report online to see how many were dead or injured. Cell phone videos were already online to watch what happened.
I didn’t need TV shots from the events that happened outside of the building when first person accounts were a click or two away.
I, like TV reports that night, turned to the Internet. The only reason I know what the national news aired that night was because I was at a class event watching the TV. Otherwise, like 364 days in the year, I would not have seen the nightly news.
Think back to similar events, like Columbine or Sept. 11. In a relatively short time, the way similar events are covered changed from getting just interviews afterward.
Now, the need for interviews is almost useless because we already have the first-hand knowledge from the witnesses without the cuts and edits of a newscast.
Monday was so different because technology is available that wasn’t then. But mostly, there is an expectation from younger generations for multimedia news and a new understanding by the media to supply that need.
Where technology-deprived generations want their news fed to them in a TV or newspaper report, the technologically savvy want not only a variety of news outlets, but to be the news providers as well.
Just like newspaper, this change won’t mean the end for TV reporting. The difference now is that so many more people can be more than just a witness to history. We can be authors.
Where the Kennedy Assassination launched the careers of a few, Monday’s events will make us all reporters.