Commentary

Media Gaps

Following the tragedy at Virginia Tech, I think that a conversation about communication gaps is important to continue. Why, when we are at our peak of digital technology + media, are we so incapable of communicating in an emergency situation? It seems funny (funny, odd) that our technology has been pushed to the point where everyone in America can see the last flicker of life leave Saddam Hussein’s body, for our own entertainment of course, but we can’t tell everyone on a university campus there was a shooting two hours before the situation explodes.

In my opinion as a college student, the human error at Virginia Tech was unacceptable. If I were on or off campus and there was a shooting, it WOULD definitely impact whether or not I decided to go to class, especially if the shooter was not immediately apprehended. No system or person is perfect, but for two hours everyone had an opportunity and they failed the students, every single one of them. Withholding information that would allow people to make informed decisions is wrong.

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Communication gaps like these need to be closed. People should all have quick and easy access to information that may affect their near immediate future. So let’s review: First he bought guns, background check is comes back clean, but somehow he has been investigated for stalking two girls and was in a mental health facility in December, something doesn’t add up. He shoots and kills two people, police have no one in custody but feel that there is no reason to inform the student body that there was a shooting on campus and they have no idea who it was - this was the biggest error. Two hours later the next shooting begins, followed by an avalanche of misinformation. Again, nothing and no one is perfect, but there was opportunity.

On the plus side, Ball State is talking about implementing a system of text messaging to all students in the event of an emergency. Since the ‘normal’ means of mass communication failed, due both to human error and the lack of a communication pipeline, BSU is looking at solving the latter by using old technology in a less conventional way to bridge the gap.

2 comments about "Media Gaps".
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  1. Steve Jones, April 23, 2007 at 2:10 p.m.

    Law enforcement and other authorities are only as good as the communities they represent. If a community wants the best protection, they should be willing to pay for it in the form of competitive salaries and higher training standards. But all too often, people don't appreciate their public safety agencies (including fire/rescue and emergency medical) until after something like this occurs and are quick to blame the very folks whose hands they are tying. No one in America wants a police state (at least I hope not), but I haven't seen much improvement in support of our first responders since 9/11 almost 6 years ago.

  2. Leonard Novick, April 24, 2007 at 3:38 a.m.

    I think the article makes some very valid points. It is odd to think that the use of email to notify students shows the weakness of this now 'old-fashion' medium. On the one hand was the slowness in issuing even the email warning but by staying closer to changing communication usage patterns, it would have been possible to long ago have enhanced the emergency notification system with mobile text messaging. Pretty much every student has a cell phone, pretty much always carries it, pretty much always has it on and can therefore within seconds to minutes could have received an information update. The same could have been during the morning and afternoon as more information became available.

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