Massacre news spreads quickly

TV networks rushed to get reporters and anchors to the scene of what at first appeared to be a single shooting death, then unfolded into the worst gun massacre in US history.

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A video shot by student Jamal Albarghouti appears unremarkable to the eye, with police at the end of a parking lot standing, guns drawn, outside a campus building. But the sound — bang! bang! bang! — captured what was going on.

Albarghouti told CNN that he at first believed he had come upon the investigation of a bomb threat. There had been several at the university in recent weeks, he said.

“After a minute when I reached the area where I took the video from, I saw cops with guns and they were asking everyone to lay down or leave really quickly,” he said.

“I knew it wasn’t another bomb threat. I knew it was something way more serious.”

Cable news networks have covered the story continuously. Broadcast networks also broke into regular programming several times, including when President George W Bush made a statement and Virginia Tech authorities held a news conference.

Anchors Katie Couric of CBS News and Brian Williams of NBC rushed to Blacksburg, Virginia, to originate their evening newscasts there. Wary of travel troubles due to bad weather, ABC’s Charles Gibson held back and planned to head south after the news.

CBS expanded its evening news to an hour, NBC planned a Dateline NBC special on the shootings in prime-time and America’s ABC network was expanding Nightline. CNN’s Larry King Live put off its celebration today of King’s 50th year in broadcasting to cover the story.

“This is a story that has really shocked the nation,” said CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. He stood before a video wall that displayed several still pictures of the aftermath.

Fox News Channel, at the bottom of its screen, flashed a timeline of the shootings.

ABC’s website helped to gather eyewitness accounts and also served as a message board to help Virginia Tech students and parents keep track of their loved ones. The website posted links to social sites like Facebook where students were trying to watch out for one another, said Michael Clemente, ABC News senior executive producer for digital media.

“We can tell a story with this kind of depth and complexity faster than we have ever been able to,” he said.

“I don’t think we could have had this kind of info in 12 or even 24 hours, before.”

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