Saturday, April 21, 2007

This is Ethical Journalism?

I've wanted to write something for a long time. And it's probably good that I waited because all I could come up with on Monday was, "I'm pissed."

I was mad people died, that so many people died—at my school in Blacksburg. Blacksburg. I couldn't wrap my head around it. I was just pissed. Simple as that.

Annie e-mailed me at work to say someone had been shot at VT. It was upsetting news, but these things happen. When we met for lunch, Annie told me she heard that now 22 people were now dead. I was shocked. How did the number get that high so quickly? Hadn't they noticed all the other bodies before? Of course, looking back, knowing the time line of events, it makes sense.

At work I was refreshing Google News incessently. Newspapers in Canada, Germany, Israel, Australia, Korea were running the story. Now the world knows about Virginia Tech for this? Not for its excellent engineering, architecture, communication (I have Hokie Pride for my degree, thank you), business schools? Yeah I was mad.

And that was before I started watching the news. When NBC flashed an image of Burruss Hall with type that said, "Massaccre at Virginia Tech" I yelled at the TV.

"Whaaat the..." (Unlike the networks, I'll use some tact here.)

As I watch "Dateline" Monday night, it becomes clear to me that the newscasters are "investigating" who is to blame—other than the gunman.

Wait, what?

Brian Williams and Matt Lauer are standing near across the street from the Drillfield. I know exactly where they are on campus. If it was light outside, they would be able to see the Duck Pond just yards away from where they are standing. They look cold. It is windy. I can feel that wind. I know those guys have brains freezes and I know what those feel like. I remember how I always use to say Blacksburg could rival Chicago for the Windy City moniker. (But now Jess lives there and she told me that it got the nickname from long-winded politicians who were campaigning to hold the World's Fair in Chicago.) Besides, Blacksburg is a town. A perfect college town. But also, with students and professors from all over the world, it's a very cosmopolitan for a town. (What interesting dinner parties professor must have...)

Matt Lauer says he was surprised that the VT students were surprised to see him in West End; that they hadn't yet realized that this was a national story. My first thoughts were: Cheese Quesidilla! I worked at Wired! London Broil! Going there every night of freshman year with Lizzie and Keni, after the football players "came out" so we could "people watch," er, so we could check people out and guess who each other liked. My second thought was of September 11: While its aftermath lasted for months across the country, it seemed to be over (in O'Shag at least) in a week. We were freshman. Our parents were far away. There was frat parties and there was beer. The country was hurting, but we were enjoying our first month of freedom. Blacksburg is a bubble, so of course, those kids were shocked to see you Matt, why would some big name news reporter from New York City be in Blacksburg, even if this had happened?

And how did you even get there Matt? How much traffic did the Roanoke airport see that day?

I stopped watching the TV stations after a journalist on the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric who was "reporting" on the students' feelings interjected her own commentary. First she generalized all students were upset the university only sent out an e-mail because, "Students don't have the time to brush their hair in the morning, they're not going to check their e-mail!"

How little you know about Virginia Tech! Most mornings I did not brush my hair because I was always 15 minutes late, but I ALWAYS checked my e-mail and my IMs, which I'm there would have been 15 asking me if I found out what had happened.

Ah, bugger. So this did turn out angry. But I'm also feeling Hokie Pride, loss, saddness, strength, hope for the Blacksburg community, the Hokie community, hope that this will help change our country's approach to mental illness.

One journalist, Hoda Kotb, a "Dateline" reporter and graduate of Virginia Tech, did a You segment about what it means to be a Hokie, what that school means to her. Watching it, I was so happy to see someone on national television expressing my feelings.

(Ignore Anne Cury when she says, "this once safe and serene campus." Virginia Tech is still a safe campus. And it will become serene again, with the expection of football games.)


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