By PATRICIA SANTANA
On Feb. 14, a gunman entered Broward County’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and started shooting. There were 17 fatalities, making it one of the top 10 deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history.
The gunman, identified as 19-year-old expelled student Nikolas Cruz, used an AR-15, the weapon of choice for many mass shooters. His motives are still unknown. He confessed in court to the shooting.
Much of the early information around this shooting came from social media posts by students trapped inside the school. Students barricaded in classrooms would tweet out safety updates or videos of the chaos. This ability to get live updates from inside a situation was unthinkable just a few years ago and allows for reporters and the rest of the outside world to have more information sooner.
However, there are many possible problems over reporting from these social media posts.
One possible problem is in regards to fact-checking. Much of what a student tweets could potentially be based off of incorrect assumptions or limited knowledge of the situation. In a situation such as this shooting, a news reporter needs to take extra care to not cause panic by disseminating false information, especially since social media allows for that false information to make its way back to other students in the same situation.
There is also the question of whether news media coverage is over-exposing people to violence.
Since the Parkland shooting, many people have questioned how necessary it is to see every dead body and puddle of blood. Some worry that it’s a violation of privacy and an act of disrespect to victims and their families. Many psychologists raise concerns that over-exposure to graphic images could worsen cases of acute stress disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder. There is also concern over people becoming desensitized to horrific violence.
However journalists decide to handle the inclusion of social media posts and graphic images in their reporting of mass shootings, I feel that the most important thing is to balance the need for truth and facts with respect for the tragedy.