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Thursday, August 24, 2006

Essex shooting on Free Press website

Is anybody else following the alleged shooting at Essex Elementary School that's apparently in process? The Burlington Free Press is updating their website every few minutes or so with new news. Looks like they're posting stuff directly from the police scanner. Sounds like they're also in contact with neighbors.

Nobody else has any details yet, so I am refreshing the page every few minutes.

A good way to get web traffic, but I wonder how reliable the info is. Not sure if they have anybody on the ground there.

UPDATE: WCAX is also reporting the shooting. The Free Press says there has been more than one.

UPDATE II: The WCAX page has mysteriously disappeared, and there's no link on the homepage. What happened?

UPDATE III: A report from CNN.

August 24, 2006 at 02:45 PM in Media/Keeping an eye on the competition | Permalink


The VT LJ community is covering it:


Posted by: k8t | Aug 24, 2006 5:52:16 PM

We can expect to hear more about Gun Control.

This will be a Liberal call to action.


Posted by: krishna | Aug 25, 2006 12:54:09 AM

Is it me, or is this the most a Vermont newspaper has ever updated its Web site on a single topic in one-day span? Major dailies like the New York Times and Washington Post seem to update stories pretty regularly throughout the day. Certainly, it seems appropriate given the immediacy of what happened, though I wonder about the benefits and drawbacks to telling a narrative in such a way. Is it generally a good thing or a bad thing for newspapers to provide that 24-hours-day coverage. As we've seen, early reports yesterday -- especially those heard on the police scanner -- were conflicting, and some just flat-out wrong. I don't know what the answer is; I'm stilling thinking about it myself.

Posted by: Scott Monroe | Aug 25, 2006 1:49:42 PM

Yeah, I'm torn. The Free Press website was pretty much the only source of info I had for a couple hours, but it turned out that some of that info was incorrect.

For example, the Free Press website reported that there were two shooters, and that a man was shot "in the right rear flank." Everything this morning says there was only one shooter. And I scanned the paper coverage today and could not find any mention of that injury. Did I miss something?

I also noticed that on the website, they identified the shooter as black, but I didn't see that ID info in the story this morning. Do they have different standards for racial info online? Not sure.

I was also curious whether they had a reporter on the scene early on, since they were taking info from the police scanner. Reading the stories this morning, it seemed that they had had somebody on the ground there pretty quickly. But then why not have that person report to the website?

Just some questions.

Overall, I was grateful for their online coverage, since I wouldn't have known anything about this occurance otherwise, at least not until I heard about it on VPR during my drive home.

But I do question the value of putting up sensational in the moment reports that turn out to be inaccurate. Doesn't that just add to the confusion around the event? How much do we need to know before we post something to the web?

I wonder what their standards and policies are around that question. If anyone knows, please advise.

Posted by: cresmer | Aug 25, 2006 3:04:24 PM

From the perspective of someone who covered yesterday's events, I will speak to the accuracy of information.

What we all walked into was a chaotic scene. There were police cars, tactical units, families, ambulances, etc. We were getting information we believed to be true as it was coming from the police themselves, and bystanders. There was so much going on, and it was happening so quickly, that it was difficult at best for all of us to decipher what we believed to be true, and get it out to our viewers/listeners/readers in a timely fashion. Once we received an update from the Essex chief of police was when we had a better idea as to the day's events.

We all did the best we could in a very difficult situation.


Posted by: Chris Fells | Aug 25, 2006 3:41:10 PM

Thanks for your perspective. I understand it must have been difficult.

I guess I'm just questioning how we judge whether to put something up on the website (or on TV, or the radio) or let it sit for a few minutes before we share it, to give it time to gel.

Yesterday, the Free Press was updating its website every few minutes. I admit, I was one of those people checking back again and again to see if there was more info. But is it better to have more info if the info is wrong?

I think this is an interesting question--radio and tv have been dealing with this all along, but it's a new thing for newspapers. They used to have time to wait to get things together for the morning issue. With the internet-enabled 24 hour news cycle, that's changing. And I wonder how and if Free Press policies are changing.

I also wonder if the people who are updating the website are WEB people or NEWS people. And I wonder if the web people are guided by the same judgement and standards that govern the newsroom.

Those are important questions to be asking when the website becomes a primary source for information.

Posted by: cresmer | Aug 25, 2006 4:17:56 PM

Cathy said, "I also noticed that on the website, they identified the shooter as black, but I didn't see that ID info in the story this morning. Do they have different standards for racial info online?"

Yesterday, when the events were unfolding, the shooter was a suspect, who they had yet to apprehend, so that is why they mentioned that he is black. In today’s reports, he was already in custody, so there was no need to mention his race.

That's my take on it.

Posted by: Charity | Aug 25, 2006 4:51:16 PM

I just found this archive of web posts from the BFP site. Here are the ones that raised the questions I mentioned above:

2:56: Reports of second suspect in Essex

Scanner reports say there may be a second suspect. Witnesses say a white male, 6 feet tall in his 30s with brown bushy hair wearing a jean jacket fled north on Vermont 128 and fled into a nearby swamp.

3:13: Man shot near 30 Jericho Road

Scanner traffic reports that a black man is down on the ground with gunshot wounds near 30 Jericho Road.

3:21: Reports of man down on ground

Scanner traffic reports that a black man is down on the ground with gunshot wounds near 30 Jericho Road.

State Police Lt. Al Buck ordered bystanders near the corner of Vermont 15 and Vermont 128 to take cover at about 3:05 p.m.

3:32: Injured carried from apartment

An individual was carried on a stretcher from an apartment complex at 30 Jericho Road, near a greenhouse. An ambulance departed with the injured person about 3:10 p.m.

Meanwhile, police hovered around a black male who lay face down on grass next to a driveway and some mailboxes. The prone man didn’t move, but police — Essex and Richmond officers, talked to him. He had on blue shorts, but no shoes.

7:11: Victims identified

According to Essex Police Chief David Demag, speaking at a news conference:

The dead are:
Linda Lambesis, 57, of Essex
Alicia Shanks, 56, teacher at Essex Elementary School (of Essex)

The injured are:
Chad Johansen, 26, shot in the head
Mary Snedeker, 52, Essex Junction, shot but expected to survive

The alleged gunman:
Christopher Williams, 26, self-inflicted gunshot wound

I also want to reiterate that I appreciate this coverage, and was glad to see it. I just want to make sure it's being done as responsibly as possible, since I'm relying on it.

Posted by: cresmer | Aug 26, 2006 8:54:23 AM

They said it was a scanner report, so that implies that it might not be true. It is what the police knew at the time.

As events are unfolding, any up-to-the-minute report, be it on the web, TV, or radio, will not be 100% accurate. What kinds of things should they do to be responsible? (I'm not arguing, just asking what you think/want/expect.)

I found out about it on TV and at first they said, "We have a report that there is something going on at the Essex Elementary School, but we don't know what." I was like, "Put my soap back on and get back to me when you know something!"
Now that's irresponsible. Especially since I only get to watch soaps once in a while!

Posted by: Charity | Aug 26, 2006 12:16:13 PM


You are right, when there is "breaking news", there needs to be more information than "there is something going on". That statement could mean teachers are having lunch, walking off the job, etc.

Scanner reports are tough, but it is the way we (the media)can figure out what is going on when we just flat out don't have a clue because no one is talking. The media has a responsibility to gather and distribute information as we receive it. Sometimes it is correct, sometimes it isn't, we make mistakes too.


Posted by: Chris Fells | Aug 27, 2006 11:36:10 AM

more excellent coverage


Posted by: k8t | Sep 2, 2006 2:19:27 PM

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