In crisis situations, the quick pace of social media posts creates a dilemma for journalists: how to check for accuracy while still reporting with immediacy.
Along with the school district’s assistant superintendent, three Pittsburgh journalists recalled the challenges they faced while covering the April 9, 2014, stabbing at Franklin Regional High School on the day it happened and in the aftermath that traumatized children and adults alike.
More than 20 students and staff members at Franklin Regional in Murrysville were stabbed. Former student Alex Hribal, who was 16 years old at the time, was charged as an adult with 21 counts of attempted homicide.
On Sept. 12, 2014, a sniper fired a rifle from the woods of the Pocono Mountains, killing Cpl. Bryon K. Dickinson II and critically injuring Trooper Alex Douglass outside the Pennsylvania State Police barracks in Blooming Grove. The ambush started what would become a nearly seven-week-long manhunt for suspect Eric Frein until the search ended Oct. 30 at an abandoned airport.
What also began on Sept. 12 was a 48-day marathon for journalists not only in the Pocono Mountains, but across Pennsylvania and the nation. On Saturday, a panel discussion at the 2015 Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association conference featured four journalists who were close to the action and actively involved in covering breaking news of the shooting.
Over 48 days, journalists covered the Frein manhunt story minute-by-minute, with hundreds of tips coming in by phone, e-mail and social media every day. Laurie Mason Schroeder, courts reporter for The Morning Call in Allentown, talked about how journalists were bombarded by rumors about the slain trooper’s personal life and who the killer might be. “You really have to step back and say, ‘We’re not going there,’” Schroeder said.