Covering School Shootings
The following is an minute by minute timeline of how the Northern Star — Northern Illinois University's student-run, daily newspaper — covered the 2008 campus shooting.
Thursday, Feb. 14, 2008
About 3:10 p.m.
Newsroom scanner picks up DeKalb Fire Department personnel being directed to “shooting in Cole Center.” As chatter continues, news staffers realize the shooting is in Cole Hall, about 400 yards from the Campus Life Building where the Northern Star is located.
About a dozen Northern Star staff arrive outside Cole Hall. Most come from the newsroom; others from nearby classes. They are the first journalists on the scene, arriving just after rescue personnel. Yellow crime-scene tape is being stretched around Cole and surrounding sidewalks. Rescue workers are tending to wounded students on sidewalks near Cole. A class period has just ended, so hundreds of students are milling about, adding to the general chaos.
The student journalists huddle briefly, then fan out to nearby buildings to gather information. Some encounter wounded students and help apply First Aid.
Several Star staffers return to the newsroom. Someone has pulled the fire alarm in the Campus Life building. There’s no one immediately available to turn it off, so the deafening, screeching noise continues for about 45 minutes. Every newsroom phone is ringing, with national and Chicago media wanting information.
The Star’s first story is posted to www.northernstar.info. Numerous updates follow closely behind. The Star is the first to report that the gunman is dead.
Northern Star photos have been sent to The Associated Press and already are appearing all over the world on network television and news Web sites. Every phone continues to ring, with interview requests for national and Chicago evening newscasts.
Students and advisers decide to produce an eight-page paper for the following morning, and to remove all advertising.
The Northern Star learns that one of its student employees, advertising sales representative Dan Parmenter, was among those killed.
The staff assembles Friday’s edition, finishing well after midnight. Media calls from all over the world continue throughout the night.
Friday, Feb. 15
Papers are delivered around campus and the cities of DeKalb and Sycamore.
A half-dozen Star reporters and editors attend the NIU press conference, where the shooter’s identity will be announced. A few minutes earlier, acting on credible tips from several law-enforcement officers, the Star has posted an online update naming the gunman.
Online updates continue all day and all weekend.
Sunday, Feb. 17
News staffers and advisers gather to decide whether to publish a print edition for Monday. Classes are canceled and most faculty and staff will be gone. After lengthy discussion, the staff decides to publish online-only for Monday and throughout the week when students are gone.
Sunday, Feb. 24
Staffers cover NIU’s memorial service and prepare a 24-page special edition for Monday. This time, advertising is included; many ads contain messages of support and condolence.
Monday, Feb. 25
The Star resumes its daily print edition and NIU classes resume.
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