Brian Fuller's blog on the media, marketing and content creation

The horse has left the barn

Posted on | April 20, 2007 | No Comments

There was almost as much analysis of the reaction and coverage of the Virginia Tech shootings as there was coverage of the horror show itself. Didn’t hear a lot of it at the Web 2.0 Expo this week, but I didn’t hit every panel session either. Did see a guy ( maybe) wandering around the show holding his laptop, affixed with a web camera, in front of his face. Livecasting apparently. I’m into myself too, but that seemed a bit much, although probably good longterm for the tricep and lat muscles.

The Chronicle’s Joe Garofoli dives into it this morning. Part of the conversation is revolving around the airing of Cho Seung-Hui‘s tapes, photos and writings running up to the massacre. I don’t like to rationalize everything, but let’s face it: that stuff gets out, regardless. Hell, video of Saddam Hussein’s execution got out. The question becomes do you let it ALL out and let anyone who’s interested try to psychoanalyze that tortured bastard? Or do you let parts of out, as NBC did? It’s almost a moot point.

Best quote of the story from Dave Winer:

“When you see a suicide bomber with a camera strapped to his or her head, you’ll know that the bad has caught up with the good.”

The part of the piece (from his sources’ perspective) that I didn’t buy was encapsulated in the last graf: Jeff Jarvis read about it all day long then went home and flipped on the tube to watch coverage.

“But there are some things that the big outlets still do well.”

Not for long. What the VaTech incidents of the world are showing is that television news is becoming increasingly marginalized as a news medium. Indeed what coverage I saw really broke the boundaries (such as they are) of decorum: virtually every interview with a college kid pushed and pushed and pushed until they made the kid cry. It was deplorable and, frankly, useless. The discussion about TV this week wasn’t focused on how it covered the shootings but the ethics surrounding the broadcasting of Cho’s ravings. TV as we’ve known it is becoming subservient to Media 2.0.

It has a ways to go, to be sure. But the signs are there. Look at how the blogosphere covers San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsome. It has to rely to a degree on mainstream medium but it’s co-opted it just fine, thank you, and it makes for (well I won’t say better just yet) but certainly more entertaining and honest coverage.

For instance, you start with a Beth Spotswood post on the latest bizarre chapter in Gavin Gate, follow a few links around and you get the gist of what’s going on in a way that traditional media just can’t. When they engineer IPTV properly, well I might just start watching TV more, but it’ll be a different experience then (and probably one in which the whole family ain’t going to sit around).

The evolution continues. Pass the chips, please.

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No Responses to “The horse has left the barn”

  1. Anonymous
    April 21st, 2007 @ 2:19 am

    Consider all the airtime and column space given to the villain of the Virginia tragedy, to his 23-page statements and his 43 sickening photographs. Now compare it with the references one needs to search for two heroes who gave their own lives to save others’.

    Do NBC and others find no significance and educational value to highlight the sacrifice made by these two gentlemen?

    I hope that media will suspend repeatedly playing the killer’s tapes and videos and dedicate some space to honor examples of bravery like Liviu Librescu, the 76-year-old maths professor who held shut the door of his classroom while his pupils scrambled to safety, and was then shot dead .

    Another fallen hero is Virginia Tech student Waleed Mohammed Shaalan, who was hit by three bullets, including one in the head, in an attempt to save a fellow student.

    Shaalan, 32, had been at Virginia Tech since August studying for a Ph.D. in civil engineering. He was ambitious, saying he wanted to follow in the footsteps of Ahmed Zewail, an Egyptian who won the Nobel prize for chemistry in 1999, said his father, Mohammed Shaalan, 65.

    The day before Monday’s massacre, Shaalan called home and said he intended to visit Egypt next month and then return to Virginia with his wife and 15-month-old son who had been living in Egypt, his parents said Thursday. The family got another call two days later. The Egyptian Embassy in Washington told them Shaalan had been one of the 32 victims.

    See his 2004 wedding photo at

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