“Can a black man in the United States get legal justice? That is the story.” Wesley Lowery of The Washington Post stresses that reporting on scene does not mean that he must himself become the scene.
And for most of their ninety minutes of discussion, the other members of the “#Ferguson: Reporting a Viral News Story” panel concluded similarly. Present were Lowery, Emily Bell of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism (an institute functioning within Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, and that was responsible for the evening), Antonio French of the City of St. Louis, MO, Alice Speri of VICE News, and Zeynep Tufekci of UNC Chapel Hill. Bell moderated the talk, which focused on these individuals’ own journalistic contributions and concerns, and the sociological understanding of #Ferguson.
The case was the evolving use of social media in reporting a story. French, arguably the first to arrive to the events that would last days, weeks, months longer than anyone might have anticipated, is an area representative and resident. He only learned of what was beginning to happen over Twitter, where local news had published that there had been a “mob” response to the shooting of unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown by St. Louis police officer Darren Wilson. He questioned the language in use—”mob” rather than “community” response, particularly—and immediately went to visit the scene.