Students Turn To Web In Time Of Tragedy

The Skinny is Joel Roberts' take on the top news of the day and the best of the Internet.

How does the wired generation deal with a tragedy like Monday's shooting rampage at Virginia Tech? By using the Internet, cell phone cameras and text messaging to record and share information about the day's shocking events.

In their extensive coverage of the shootings, several newspapers look at how students at the Blacksburg, Va., campus – once labeled the "Most Wired Town in America" – began documenting the massacre nearly as soon as it began to unfold.

The Los Angeles Times reports on how one student, trapped in his dorm room, did what "anyone his age would do in a time of crisis — he blogged." The student reassured friends and family that he was alive, and then posted video he shot of police officers and sharpshooters arriving at the scene.

Students stayed connected throughout the day on blogs and popular Web sites like Facebook. "Their eyewitness descriptions, photos and video," the Times says, "made the trauma unfolding in the rural Virginia town immediate and visceral to millions."

The Washington Post reports on a student who used his cell phone camera to capture video of police running toward a campus building as the sound of gunfire is heard. That video ended up on numerous Web sites and TV news programs.

Said the Post: "This is what this YouTube-Facebook-instant messaging generation does. Witness. Record. Share."

For others on the Virginia Tech campus, the Internet also served as a lifeline, providing their only source of news about the events happening just outside their dorm rooms.

"We didn't know anything," one student told the L.A. Times. "So we kept trying to find out things online."

And the New York Times reports that some students "took refuge in the library, searching the Web to find out what was happening. No one knew."

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