Va. Tech shootings: Rumors spread quickly through social media

This post has been updated.


A police officer secures the scene where a gunman killed a police officer and another person after a traffic stop Thursday on the campus of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va. (By Matt Gentry/Associated Press)

(View live tweets and streaming video after the jump.)

Around 1 p.m. one of the first outlets to report on a university alert was Virginia Tech’s student newspaper, The Collegiate Times.

A VT Alert was just sent, stating that gun shots were heard near Coliseum parking lot.Thu Dec 08 17:44:18 via TweetDeckCollegiate Times
CollegiateTimes

In the process of attempting to report the story through social media in real-time, updates from the Collegiate Times — and subsequent corrections — were curated by news outlets.

As those ordered to remain in campus buildings searched for information on Reddit, on Twitter and by accessing police radio channels, news outlets — including the Washington Post — worked to sort fact from fiction and hear from people on the ground while the story developed.

There was the photo tweeted of police searching a school building that turned out to be from the 2007 shootings. There were the reports of additional gunfire that later appeared to be unfounded. And there was the maroon Mitsubishi police were allegedly seaching for; officials later said there was no connection between that car and the shootings.

In a media briefing scheduled at the university, officials were cautious about providing more information on the second victim. Officials cited “instantaneous” communication as one of the reasons for withholding further details.

There have been no additional reports of victims or shootings at the campus. While a campuswide alert has been lifted, exams initially slated for Friday have been postponed, according to associate vice president for University Relations Larry Hincker.

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