Breaking news and social media

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Today in Baltimore, it was the first day of school. Unfortunately, at Perry Hall High School in Baltimore County, there was also a shooting today. It’s a shame, especially for kids having to remember this happening on their first day of high school. It was the new Baltimore County School Superintendent, Dallas Dance’s first day too. It was not a good one. Social media took on a large role as the events, rumors and facts unfolded.

Right after the shooting occurred, the school was not able to send any official message to the parents. They needed to fully assess the situation first. Kids in some classes were not allowed to have cell phones turned on, but others did have access to their cell phones. They immediately started texting their parents, letting them know they were okay. Later, as the school had an official statement about what had happened, parents were sent phone and text messages.

Twitter was abuzz with activity about the shooting. Lots of preliminary information and even more speculation and gossip was being generated. Loads of tweets with “Perry Hall shooter” were flowing freely through cyberspace before police even had the school secured. Baltimore County’s Emergency information Twitter page, @BACOemergency, was sending messages including some to the press. The was another rumor that the shooter had tweeted “SO SICK. RIP victims. R-T FOR RESPECT.” People also speculated that he was a victim of bullying.

The shooter is in custody. One student is in critical condition at Shock Trauma. A guidance counselor grabbed the shooter after the first shot and wrestled the shotgun away from him as a second shot went into the ceiling. More teachers joined in and the shooter was forcibly held until police arrived a few minutes later. That takes real guts! Kudos to those brave souls.

There is a rumor that the shooter posted “First day of school, last day alive.” on his Facebook page. The is a Baltimore County Breaking News Facebook page staffed by volunteers that worked diligently all day to keep people updated on events as they were happening.

Social media was all over this event. I’m sure at least one student video or photo exists of this event. The police probably confiscated and/or examined as many phones as they could find in the cafeteria, where the shooting occurred.

Good news or bad, Twitter, Facebook, texting and other social media gets news out to people much faster than the old-fashioned “telephone tree” when people called each other on the phone. While I can feel for the families involved in this tragic and frightening event, I can’t help but appreciate how social media was all over this. As the news becomes an online media event and people become amateur reporters with their smart phones, the news business has never been as instantaneous as it is today. The way we process breaking news has been forever changed, I think it is a change for the better.

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