Fearing the Fallout from Verdict in Virginia Tech Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Today’s verdict in the Virginia Tech wrongful death trial in Christiansburg, Va., has special meaning as it came down as I had just visited with people and places central to the tragic events on April 16, 2007.

BLACKSBURG, Va–  Spending three days here in the very building where hordes of media gathered nearly five years ago in the wake of the worst shooting on a college campus in U.S. history could not have happened at a better time.

This afternoon, a Montgomery County  jury unanimously awarded $4 million to Karen and Harry Pryde, and $4 million to Celeste and Grafton Peterson for the deaths of their daughters in Norris Hall on April 16, 2007.

The Inn at Virginia Tech is just a beautiful building. It was an ideal place for scores of news media to gather April 16, 2007 for news conferences. What Virginia Tech officials did not anticipate is that it would be the place where families of those students who were killed would also be housed.

The decision came just three days after the AEJMC Southeast Colloquium concluded here at the Inn at Virginia Tech, the place where 11 news conferences were held across the 8 days following the shooting.

Continue reading “Fearing the Fallout from Verdict in Virginia Tech Wrongful Death Lawsuit”

Stepping Up The Social Media Teaching Strategies Thanks To AEJMC Magazine Panel

In the effort to help students prepare for a magazine world where publications are shifts from paper to pixels, three professors shared some teaching tips based on their own research that might change the way we teach social media in our journalism classes.

BLACKSBURG, Va– The notion of “save the best for last,” definitely applies to a trio of presentations scheduled for the tail end of  the AEJMC Southeast Colloquium last weekend here on the Virginia Tech campus.

Representing the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication Magazine Division, Yanick Rice Lamb, Erin Coyle, and Susan Sivek delivered a set of recommendations for “Going Digital: Preparing Students to Succeed as Magazines Move from Paper to Pixels.”

“This is more than just a shift in the delivery method,” Sivek said. “It’s about changing our mindset as professors and instructors. Audience expectations are changing.”

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What Will It Take To Bring Paul Isom’s Case at East Carolina U. Back to the Media Spotlight?

Paul Isom made his case to attendees at the AEJMC Southeast Colloquium at Virginia Tech Friday. Now it’s up to AEJMC and SPJ to take another look at the free expression issues in this matter.

It’s been nearly four months since a streaker took the field during halftime at a East Carolina University football game and photos of the incident were published in The East Carolinian, ECU’s student newspaper.

Just a little more than two months ago, Paul Isom, the University’s student media director was removedfrom his position.

In a 25-minute address to attendees at the AEJMC Southeast Colloquium Friday at Virginia Tech, Paul Isom told of his termination as director of student media at East Carolina University.

The decision sparked a flurry of media reports around the country, especially among those of us in journalism circles, who are advocates for student free expression.

Probably not a moment too soon for East Carolina University, the media publicity of this case has subsided to barely a mention.

Continue reading “What Will It Take To Bring Paul Isom’s Case at East Carolina U. Back to the Media Spotlight?”

Virginia Tech’s Larry Hincker Biggest Highlight of AEJMC Southeast Colloquium So Far

BLACKSBURG, Va.–   The first full day of the AEJMC Southeast Colloquium has come to an end and even though I have not been able to cull my photos and edit my video, there is at least time for a moment to reflect on some of things I learned.

First and foremost, Virginia Tech is an awesome campus!   Growing up three hours away from here in Richmond, I had this image of a place I now know as the New River Valley that was a big deserted campus in the middle of nowhere.

One of the first newspaper stories I published while in high school was a Richmond News Leader feature on a girl from my church who came here to Tech and hated it transferring to another college.   I saw this campus through her bad experience.  (The Richmond News Leader is no longer published, but the story in the YOUNG VIRGINIANS section of the paper is memorable.

As a child, I learned Virginia Tech’s real was Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.  I learned why my parents would call it V.P.I.

That was 25 or more years ago.   So much has changed,  not the least of which were the events of April 16, 2007, which is a day most Americans will never forget– the  day Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people and wounded 25 others before taking his own life.

Tech’s PR Man Talks

Larry Hincker (Courtesy:Va.Tech)

Tonight, the man at the center of managing the hordes of media who took over this campus spoke about the incident to those of us attending the AEJMC Southeast Colloquium.

He told the story of the “insatiable demand for information that he couldn’t meet” as hundreds of satellite trucks, scores of news crews sought to cover this biggest incidence of violence on a U.S. college campus in the history of nation.

While there have been other campus shootings since the one here in 2007 at Northern Illinois and at University of Alabama at Huntsville,  this one represented a turning point.

This one has made Larry Hincker a much sought-after speaking around the world as a expert on campus notification systems and crisis management in the face of unbelievable tragedy.

This Week’s Court Case

Our AEJMC Southeast Colloquium just so happens to coincide with a wrongful death trial that is underway here in Montgomery County Circuit court.

In the case brought by the families of two students killed five years ago next month,  the plaintiffs  claim university officials delayed warning the campus of the initial two shootings on campus and then attempted to cover up their missteps.

Wisdom From One Who Knows

In his speech tonight, Hincker talked in great detail about what his role was as the chief communicator of information both to the media and those internally about what was going on this campus.

He talked about the use of the World Wide Web as both a “nexus of communication” and “filebox” for statements and communiques released on a constantly changing story.

In this photo taken by Roanoke Times photojournalist Matt Gentry, Hincker was one of several Virginia Tech officials who testified at this week's wrongful death trial in Montgomery County Circuit Court.and a "filebox" for statements and information previously released.

He showed graphics of the spike in traffic on the Virginia Tech Web site on both the day of the April 16, 2007 shootings and more recently on December 8, 2011 when an officer was shot and killed here on this campus.

Other key points from Hincker’s remarks tonight:

  • Universities ought to provide media training for student leaders
  • No Single Notification System Does It All
  • Don’t Let Your Local Media Play Second Fiddle to the National Media