It was early in the morning on July 20, when most people were asleep, that 18-year-old Morgan Jones began informing the world about the unfolding massacre in Aurora, Colo., where James Holmes shot and killed 12 people and injured 58 others during a midnight rampage at the premiere of “The Dark Knight Rises.”
Jones, a Denver resident, goes by the name “integ3r” on Reddit, a social news website that hosts user-submitted content. It is the logical result of the marriage between the Internet and citizen journalism. On this occasion, it enabled Jones—from a bedroom where he normally plays video games—to scoop members of the established media for the most comprehensive telling of the shooting as it unfolded.
“The original post,” BuzzFeed reporter John Herman wrote shortly after the incident, “which grew beyond Reddit’s character limit and has so far spilled into two more, is an exhaustive, minute-by-minute account of the development of the story, from the earliest indications that something horrible had happened to the emergence of a cohesive narrative.”
The posts stitched together reports from traditional and social media sources and a police scanner, and featured a Reddit post where an apparent victim of the shooting published photos of his wounds.
“Integ3r,” Herman continued, “whose post is at the top of Reddit right now, has inarguably contributed more to the early understanding of this tragedy than any other single person.”
Jones’ familiarity with Aurora and the world of social networking, and other Reddit users’ promotion of his posts quickly made him the best source for updates on the story. The fact that he was central to reporting such a major event gives us another example of how the Internet has upended traditional avenues of distribution when it comes to informing the public. His feat would not have been possible just a few years ago. And his own surprised response to the ordeal reveals how nonprofessional people with a keen eye and a knack for social media can find themselves providing the essential public service of journalism when traditional reporting outfits can be stymied by their bureaucratic habits.
“This whole thing has been a roller-coaster of emotions for me,” Jones told BuzzFeed, “but it’s liberating to be able to inform so many people so rapidly.”
For providing the best live coverage of the Aurora tragedy as it happened, we honor Morgan Jones as our Truthdigger of the Week.
—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly. Follow him on Twitter: @areedkelly.
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