Reddit is quickly challenging Twitter’s turf as a place for real-time updates and citizen journalism. During Thursday’s tense manhunt following the death of a Virginia Tech police officer, students took to Twitter and Reddit to keep family and outsiders informed of what was happening on campus while the school was on lockdown.
It was later revealed that the gunned-down officer was Army veteran Deriek W. Crouse, and the second victim was identified as the attacker himself, who was not a student at Virginia Tech.
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Though students received email updates, texts, and various alerts from the school, calling family and friends proved problematic. While sophomore Michael Morrison tweeted updates continuously, posting pictures and relaying messages from other Virginia Tech classmates, another student, identified by his Reddit handle “jammastajayt,” used the social news haven to interact with people directly. A member of the university’s Army ROTC program, jammastajayt started an AMA—or “Ask Me Anything”—to answer questions and relay information as SWAT members swept the VT campus.
“You can’t get in or out of the city/campus. We are all huddled in our rooms watching the news, some are hiding in closets,” he wrote. “We are really close to the where the shooter is, we just don’t know his whereabouts. VT has done a great job of getting information out though.”
Reports also poured into Reddit’s Virginia Tech sub-reddit section, with VT alerts posted throughout the duration of the lockdown and after. The last update posted from user “alexobenauer,” who started the thread, thanked members of the community: “Hokies, sounds like it is safe now from the press conference. Keeping the officer and his family in our thoughts and prayers. Hokie Nation, we stand together. Thanks for bringing your collective knowledge here on Reddit. I think it helped a lot of people today.” Once an online refuge for self-proclaimed nerds, the site continues to prove its relevance and usefulness for even the casual news consumer.