On April 20, 1999, in the small town of Littleton, Colorado it started off as an ordinary spring day, well for most residents. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold would soon change that for everyone. For almost a year and a half the two friends had been planning a gruesome attack on Columbine High School. On this day their plan did not quite turn out like they had planned. Nothing had gone right. The bombs that they had planted at a near by location to distract law enforcement only ended up setting off a small grass fire, which did cause much damage, and the other bombs that they planted in Columbine’s cafeteria did not go off either. Eric and Dylan did not have a back up plan on how to carry out their objective, but what they then ended up doing later became known as the “deadliest school shooting in United States history until a student killed 32 people, and himself, at Virginia Tech on April 16, 2007”, according to the New York Times.
As the chaos broke out and the media started to pick up on the story the calls started to flood the news stations. It was not just the news media that was getting all different types of reports about what was going on inside the high school, but police, faculty and staff, and parents were getting conflicting reports. All these reports were coming directly from those that were witnessing the chaos that were inside the school. According to the author of Columbine, Dave Cullen, one news station eventually reported for students that were inside the school to turn off their televisions that they were watching or to turn them down to cause less panic among those still inside. No one fully had a true story of what was going on inside Columbine High School. How many shooters were there? Who were they? Were they members of this Trench Coat Mafia that the media was reporting about? The false reporting or the lack of concrete facts was starting to cause more worry among everyone. It wasn’t until later in the day did more accurate reports start coming in about who the real shooters were. The news media did not have social media or smart phones to rely on for updates. Instead they had to take caller’s word for what they thought to believe what was going on.
Unlike today where we have faster ways, such as Facebook and Twitter, of communicating news, news media outlets did not have this. For a while viewers were taking anything that the news media said as true. With out the reassuring live footage with concrete reports, it is hard for viewers to determine what the facts were and what was not. Today news media does not need to be interrupted with other breaking stories because of social media. Quickly news can be spread through Facebook, Twitter, and trending stories in real time. The short amount of space that these social media sites allows users to post stories do not always have the full pictures allowing for viewers to do more research on their topic or move on to the next story because the 140 characters was all they needed. Viewers of mass media need to be critical of what they are watching. According to the article The Twitter Effect: How Social Media Changes the News Narrative, even some news reporting is solely based on social media updates. Although some people do view as all media reporting as true, not everything is. According to Katie Rogers, journalist for The Washington Post, in her article Va. Tech Shootings: Rumors Spread Quickly Through Social Media, she even states that false reportings were spread through social media about the recent officer shootings that occurred last year. Someone had even posted a picture claiming it was officers casing the campus but later to find out it was from 2007 during the Virginia Tech shootings. A lot of media outlets rely on texts, pictures, or statements sent into the stations in order for them to bring a better understanding or more facts to those watching.
What would have media reporting been like if Facebook and Twitter were in existence during the Columbine shootings? Some already claim that the reason for Columbine receiving as much media coverage as they did was part of the news stations going along with agenda setting objectives. School shootings were peaking during this time. According to the article Media Framing and Policy Changing After Columbine, after viewers were more aware of what was going on more policies were put in place for how schools should deal with school shootings and the media coverage.
The media already had a huge effect of its viewers and how the situation was delivered. Just imagine what it would have been like if social media was in place. According to the article Media Influence and the Columbine Shootings, sometimes the amount of media coverage these tragedies receive allows the murderers to be perceived more as legends rather than who they really were. As viewers of news media we have to be aware of what the true facts are and what the real meaning behind a story is. Not two teens like Eric and Dylan trying to beat those before them in how massive of massacre they create.