April 16, 2012
Tragedy at Virginia Tech

Jamal Albarghouti holds the cellphone he used to video the Virginia Tech shootings. (Jerry Grossman/Newseum)

5 Years Ago in News History: Massacre at Virginia Tech

On the morning of April 16, 2007, Seung-Hui Cho, a student at Virginia Tech university in Blacksburg, Va., shot and killed 32 students and faculty members before taking his own life. It was one of the deadliest mass school shootings in modern U.S. history.

As events unfolded, Virginia Tech graduate student Jamal Albarghouti was walking across campus when he heard gunshots. He used his cellphone to capture the chaotic scene as police responded.

Albarghouti downloaded his video to the iReport section of CNN's website. It was soon broadcast around the world. The video received approximately 1.8 million views that day, confirming the impact that user-generated information had on breaking news.

While covering the shocking massacre, NBC News found itself in the middle of a media firestorm. On the day of the shootings, Cho mailed a package containing photographs and video to the network, which received it two days later. NBC shared the "multimedia manifesto" with law enforcement and aired carefully selected excerpts on its evening broadcast. Virginia Tech students and the victims' families criticized the network for publicizing Cho's video confession.

Virginia Tech was later fined and charged with failing to provide a timely warning about danger to the campus. The charges were overturned in March 2012.

This year, students will attend classes on the day of the anniversary, the first time in five years.

Albarghouti's cellphone is on display in the Bloomberg Internet, TV and Radio Gallery. Details about the massacre and its role in the evolution of instant global media will be featured in the HP New Media Gallery, which opens April 27, 2012.

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