From The Daily: On our response to false reports of shooting on campus
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On Saturday, confusion spread across campus as unconfirmed reports of an active shooter in Mason Hall circulated on social media. Though these reports turned out to be unfounded, the fear people on campus felt as the reports surfaced was real. It became clear how terrifying these situations can be — and it became clear just how fast information can spread on campus.
We, the editors of The Michigan Daily, want to take responsibility for tweeting unconfirmed information on The Daily’s Twitter account, including unsubstantiated reports of wounded students. We deleted the tweets as soon as the harmful effects were brought to our attention, and we issued a correction immediately after. As the primary news outlet covering the University of Michigan, we at The Daily felt we had a responsibility to jump into action and inform the public of what was going on. Fortunately, we haven’t had to deal with a major crisis — or the immediate possibility of one — on campus in recent years. Unfortunately, that meant we were acting based on instinct and with little foresight beyond wanting to keep campus as safe as possible.
After these events, it has become clear that we need to develop direct protocols for breaking news events that potentially threaten public safety. Our promise to our readers is that we will be better prepared if another incident of this gravity occurs in the University or Ann Arbor community. The Daily has consulted other media outlets for advice and tips and will continue to discuss different facets of our new protocols with professionals and members of our community. We hope to consult with University, Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County security and police forces in order to better understand how we can inform the public. Our new protocol will be approved by our Management Desk, the group of managing editors and senior editors that make significant decisions for our editorial staff. We hope we never have to use these protocols, but we acknowledge and respect the need to have them and our need to function within them properly.
Going forward, in addition to working on a crisis protocol, we plan to report on this as we would any other situation on campus. We will press on the institutions involved and address student concerns about the University’s and police forces’ response to the event.
Finally, we want to express our support for marginalized communities on campus. Yesterday’s events — including our unconfirmed tweets — disproportionately affected students of color on campus, especially the Muslim community, which was holding a vigil for last week’s shootings at two New Zealand mosques at the time the crisis began. The Daily would like to acknowledge the undue stress this has caused to those communities.
This incident is a learning experience for us at The Daily, and we want to hear feedback from you, the reader. Our mission is to report facts and best serve those who read our publication. Our call for public feedback is necessary so we can address your concerns and incorporate them into that mission as much as possible. If you read The Michigan Daily or follow our Twitter or Facebook accounts, we want to hear from you. If you are a media professional, a law enforcement professional or University affiliate, we want to hear from you. If you are a student with thoughts about how we can best serve your community, we want to hear from you. Please email email@example.com with your thoughts.
The Managing Editors of The Michigan Daily