All hell broke loose in Ottawa on Wed. Oct. 22 when a shooter shot and killed Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, a reservist who was standing guard at the National War Memorial.
But there was something that stood out that day that Canada can take pride in: our media coverage of the events
Josh Wingrove, a parliamentary reporter for the Globe and Mail, was at Parliament Hill that day for a normal caucus meeting with Conservative MPs. “I was there at 9:30 that day chasing one story that didn’t really pan out,” he said.
Wingrove was sitting on a bench around a corner in Centre Block, working on a story from a scrum, when he heard a sound. “I thought it’d been a bookshelf falling,” he said, not realizing at first the shooter was down the other hallway from him. Curiosity got the better of him and he went to see what happened.
“I’m pretty active on Twitter...so my first instinct was to tweet it...because I know my boss would quickly see that,” Wingrove said. He spent the remainder of the day being escorted from room to room under lockdown, tweeting out what he saw and heard.
But when it comes to at your fingertips news it can be problematic. “I think we did very well, sort of as a group,” Bruce Campion-Smith, the Ottawa bureau chief for the Toronto Star, said about the overall media coverage. “The challenge with spot news is that it’s such a dynamic and fluid situation.”
Initially reports of three different shooting locations had occurred but it was said to only be at two. Campion-Smith said “it gives you a sense of how muddled and confusing that day was,” as Twitter exploded with different reports from different news outlets.
For Campion-Smith, the important thing to remember as a journalist is to report on what you can see. “Focus on your own little view of the world...and treat everything else with suspicion.”
Alfred Hermida, an associate professor at the University of British Columbia and author of Tell Everyone: Why We Share and Why It Matters, praised CBC’s coverage, saying it was “very good, acknowledging the fact that yes, there might be things people were talking about...but also putting that in context saying this is what we’ve heard, we don’t know if it’s confirmed, we’re checking it out.”
“This is how we should be reporting the news today,” Hermida said. Rumours and speculations can spread so quickly through social media that we need to “reflect first then react,” he said.
Wingrove made sure to only tweet what he knew while he was in lockdown. One tweet read, “I saw one motionless body outside the library of parliament. It appeared police had been aiming that (direction) with many gunshots.” Another tweet right after read, “I can’t confirm if the body was dead or if it was the shooter or an officer.”
“It goes to show the power of social media in breaking news like that, there are stumbles for it, it just happens so quickly that the standard and thresholds end up being different,” Wingrove said. “You don’t have time to pore over tweets like you would a story.”
“Twitter really wants us to live in the now, it wants us to react right away, real time information now,” Hermida said. “Part of being a journalist is to acknowledge that these rumours are out there but let me help you put it into context.
INK's Kaitlyn Van De Woestyne and Jason Kerr hit the streets of Regina to see how people felt Canadian journalists did covering the Ottawa shooting.