Digital media / Journalism

I’d want to be Morgan Jones if I were an 18-year-old aspiring journalist again

Morgan Jones, 18                                                                                    The new face of “citizen journalism.”

Welcome to national journalism, Morgan.

I’m among those who admire your instincts, initiative and energy . . . and I’m reminded of how important and exciting being part of news coverage felt at your age — something that hasn’t faded much, actually. Though you just graduated from high school in June, two days ago you delivered a live timeline of breaking news that earned national attention from readers, editors and broadcast producers.

You “fast became the go-to source in the story” of the movie theater massacre in near Denver during its earliest hours says a BuzzFeed post.

Huffington Post, characteristically, is more breathlessly effusive in its pickup of that July 20 interview:

“In an unbelievable display of citizen journalism, an 18-year-old Reddit user shared up-to-the-moment coverage of yesterday’s Aurora shooting through the night and into the morning hours. From his Denver, Colorado bedroom, the teen synthesized social media updates with posts from traditional news outlets to create a comprehensive timeline of the event in real time.”

Compiling a live transcript from a police scanner, social media and traditional media isn’t the same as composing a multi-source news report with context, interpretation and narrative flow, of course. But your speed, diligence and accuracy were journalistic. So was your sleep-sacrificing compulsion.

“Reddit users voted up Jones’ timeline enough that it became the site’s go-to source on the shooting overnight. The teen was the first to post a link about the incident on Reddit and as the night wore on, he added new information he could glean from the scanner, aggregating news coverage and correcting any old information. He began posting updates, pulling in new information, correcting old information and addressing questions from other users.” –  NPR

Equally admirable is your pro-style approach to fixes.

“I don’t delete things and replace them with something else. I do a strike-through and put what [latest information] I have below it so it gives people an idea of how it’s changing, so it’s transparent.” — NPR interview

The immediate impact and next-day praise are a case study in the expanding role of “citizen journalism,” particularly at the start of a developing event. It’s no longer surprising to see eyewitness smartphone video as a prominent part of early coverage, and now your tireless, self-assigned work after midnight Thursday is a vivid example of newsrooms without borders between citizens and pros.

“I stayed up all night, and I am exhausted now,” you told BuzzFeed, “but it feels like I’m helping out people who need to know this stuff.” That last sentiment pulled many of us into journalism.

Well-done, Morgan, good luck at college this fall . . . and welcome to journalism.

[This was published July 21, 2012 by the Poynter Institute, a journalism center in St. Petersburg, FL.]

“It feels like I’m helping out people who need to know this stuff.” — Morgan Jones

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6 thoughts on “I’d want to be Morgan Jones if I were an 18-year-old aspiring journalist again

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