The collaboration intensified Monday at Virginia Tech, where media-savvy students used camera phones and Internet technology to "document" their experiences. If there were a journalistic star of the day, it was the preternaturally articulate VT graduate student Jamal Albarghouti, born on the West Bank and raised in Saudi Arabia, who provided CNN with video and personal accounts that the network still was airing a day later.
Albarghouti was one of a number of reporters-for-a-day enlisted by television and radio newscasts, and their contribution illuminated one of the new media's strengths, which is immediacy. On the other hand, it also was true that the students' video wasn't, in any traditional sense, very good. Its value was essentially voyeuristic rather than informative. To make that point is not to diminish it, but to acknowledge the fact that new media have the same limitations as old -- it's hard to do words and pictures that genuinely add to our knowledge of a situation, particularly a fluid and dangerous one. Unless you're just plain lucky, it takes practice to do so, and that's called professionalism. Sensation is actually rather easy to communicate -- and the students' videos, photos and social network entries did that -- communicating something worth knowing is a little more difficult.