Citizen correspondents: How Reddit reported the Colorado shooting

Conor Skelding, Yahoo! News
The Lookout

It's not just news outlets and Twitter feeds keeping the public up to date on the latest developments surrounding the Colorado movie theater shooting that left 12 people dead and 59 injured Friday. Reddit, the site that offers user-generated news links, had many people heavily tracking the story, with strangers obsessively discussing, chronicling and covering details, just like any dutiful journalist would.

One Denver resident, integ3r, took it upon himself to update a "comprehensive timeline" of the facts of the case, as they broke. The effort turned collaborative as other users chimed in, hunting down relevant links to Twitter accounts, personal blogs and telephone directories and then posting them in the section for comments, which tallied more than 1,500. Integ3r would add those links to the timeline, crediting the tipster. (Earlier today, BuzzFeed revealed that integ3r is college-bound, 18-year-old Morgan Jones, who stayed up through the night "helping out people who need to know this stuff," and whose work informed media coverage.)

Redditors also communicated over an Internet Relay Chat (IRC) channel, #theatreshooting, which is a means for anonymous, real-time chat. While listening to the Aurora and Denver police scanners, users speculated on what parts of the story might mean, and they worked together to ferret out suspect James Holmes' Internet presence. Another member, quepasacontigo, whose residence is "across the street from where the gunman lives," shared pictures of the police presence outside of Holmes' booby-trapped home.

But not all redditors were working to establish the facts and build a narrative. Some simply wanted to explain what they saw or read the unedited, eyewitness impressions. Still others were looking for cybersupport from strangers.

Themurderator posted pictures of his wounds and wrote, "here are a few photos of my very lucky but nonetheless terrifying brush with death." DenverEM, who claimed to work at the Denver Health Medical Center, answered with his side of the story:

1:00 AM We are called and told there is a large shooting with many injured up to twenty people are heading to the ER with shooting injuries -We move patients and bring down surgeons as the ambulances move in

1:30 AM Patients start to show up one has buck shot wounds throughout (nonfatal), another a shooting to her forearm, multiple others, hemodynamically unstable patients brought to OR

4:00 AM most patients have been stabilized things calm down

Let me know if you have any questions

Peener13 chronicled what she saw in a post titled, "Someone came into our theater at the midnight release of the Dark Knight Rises and began opening fire. Who here on Reddit can help me calm my nerves?" She wrote: "The shooting began during a gunfight scene in the movie, and at first, we thought it was special effects when smoke rose up. When shots happened again and people began to run, we thought something was up. A guy ran in and shouted there was a gunman in the building, and the alarms to emergency evacuate started to go off." She included a cellphone picture of her movie ticket with her post. "I now know what tear gas feels like," she wrote. "I've never had to 'get down' with a police officer screaming at us."

All of this in-depth fieldwork led Matthew Ingram to muse, "Watching how Reddit has been filtering and curating news about Colorado, it strikes me that it has become what Wikinews wanted to be." A little bit later he agreed with William Gruger's idea that "Also notable is that the original video a Reddit user posted is being used in nearly every broadcast I've seen."

Upon reading integ3r's timeline, one redditor predicted "a future where professional journalists will become a lot less relevant than they are today." But a fellow user replied, "I disagree, I think what we are seeing IS the professional journalists of tomorrow. I hope integ3r gets more attention from the major news networks."