Digital media expert: social media shaped Chardon High School shooting coverage

CHARDON, Ohio - A national digital media expert said social media affected how the public learned about the Monday's shooting spree at Chardon High School.

"It always does change the story to have those kind of issues flowing out that no official agency has control over," said Al Tompkins, senior faculty for broadcast and online media at The Poynter Institute, a school for professional journalists.

Tompkins said information about the shooting at Chardon High School spread quickly on the social media websites Twitter and Facebook.

He said the first posts online, including the messages from students who attend Chardon High School, were often wrong. Tompkins has studied school shootings and breaking news on social media.

He said misinformation in the immediate aftermath of a tragic event is common.

"We know that eyewitness accounts are really unreliable. We had wildly different reports about where the shootings occurred, how many shots were fired, what kind of weapon was used," said Tompkins.

Another error involved a picture of a young boy holding guns. Some Twitter users and news outlets reported the photograph showed TJ Lane, the accused shooter. The photograph is not TJ Lane.

Tompkins said the mistake does not mean social medial websites should monitor their users more closely.

"I don't think that's their function. These are social network communities and it would be like the phone company trying to monitor phone calls to figure out who should be talking about something," he said.

The Chardon shooting was still a hot topic on social medial websites Tuesday afternoon.

Celebrities, including Akron native LeBron James and Cleveland native Drew Carey, tweeted their condolences to the shooting victims.

News organizations continued to post information, pictures and videos about the latest developments.

Tompkins said, in today's world, it up to each individual user to decide if the information they learn through tweets and Facebook posts is accurate.

"As consumers of social media, part of our responsibility is to understand that you can't trust everything you read," he said.

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