At the University of North Carolina, two shootings 30 years apart show how much has changed

by Lucas Garcia
Campus Shootings

The University of North Carolina has witnessed two shootings, separated by 30 years, which highlight the profound changes in information dissemination and the emotional impact of such incidents.

In some respects, the era of campus shootings has come full circle. Alumni who remember the tragic events of 1995 now have children attending the same institution, where an associate professor recently lost their life to gun violence. However, the way information spreads has evolved significantly, making these recent experiences different yet hauntingly familiar.

Nearly three decades ago, there were limited means for university officials to swiftly inform the entire community about a shooting on campus. Email was in its infancy, and long-distance phone calls with answering-machine messages were the norm. The immediacy of communication we take for granted today simply didn’t exist.

During the 1995 shooting, Thornburg, a former student journalist, only thought to contact his parents in California after spotting a television news van near the scene. This underscores the challenges of communicating critical information in that era.

Fast forward to the present, and technology has transformed the way information is disseminated. During a recent campus shooting, Thornburg, now a professor, received a campus-wide alert on his computer. He, along with his students, relied on text messages and real-time news updates to stay informed. It was a teachable moment, highlighting the rapid evolution of communication methods.

However, this increased speed of information dissemination also brings with it challenges. Misinformation can spread as quickly as accurate updates, making it crucial to discern reliable sources during crisis situations. Students today, raised in an age of school shootings, often arrive on campus with heightened anxiety.

In 1995, there were no instant alerts to protect students from potential harm. But many remained unaware of the situation until hours later, avoiding the immediate fear and panic of lockdown. In contrast, modern students experience a flood of information and messages from concerned friends and family, heightening their sense of urgency and anxiety.

The experiences of Zoe Bright, a current UNC sophomore, and her father, Mark Bright, who attended UNC in 1995, highlight this stark contrast. While both experienced shootings on campus, their responses and the information available to them differed significantly.

The role of journalism in documenting these events has also evolved. The 1995 student newspaper featured traditional reporting with a map of the crime scene and a photo of a victim’s body. In contrast, the recent edition focused on an oral history of the lockdown experience, capturing the emotional texts exchanged by students.

Regrettably, campus shootings have become a grim reality in America. The frequency of such incidents has increased over the last decade, leading to a desensitization to the violence. Some UNC alumni express a sense of inevitability about such events, a tragic reflection of contemporary American society.

In conclusion, the University of North Carolina’s experiences with campus shootings, separated by 30 years, underscore the profound changes in information dissemination, emotional responses, and the role of journalism. While technology has improved the speed of communication, it has also brought new challenges, making it crucial to strike a balance between security and anxiety in today’s world.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Campus Shootings

What were the key differences in communication during the two UNC campus shootings?

In the 1995 UNC shooting, there were limited means of instant communication, relying on phone calls and news vans. In the recent incident, technology allowed for instant alerts and real-time updates.

How have student responses to campus shootings changed over time?

Today’s students, raised in an era of frequent school shootings, often experience heightened anxiety and urgency during such events, compared to students in 1995 who were often unaware until later.

How has journalism’s role in documenting these events evolved?

In 1995, traditional reporting methods were prevalent. In the recent shooting, journalism focused on capturing the emotional experiences of students through real-time texts and oral history.

What challenges come with the rapid spread of information during crises?

While instant alerts have improved communication, misinformation can spread quickly. It’s essential to discern reliable sources during crisis situations.

What does the contrast in experiences between alumni and their children reveal about modern society?

Some alumni express a sense of inevitability about campus shootings, reflecting a desensitization to violence in contemporary American society.

More about Campus Shootings

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UNCAlum2000 September 14, 2023 - 12:19 pm

interesting read, I remmbr 95 shooting, diffrnt world back then

InfoWatcher22 September 14, 2023 - 4:53 pm

misinfo’s a big prblm, need to chk sources in cris situations

Journofan September 14, 2023 - 5:26 pm

journalsm’s role evolving, nwspapers vs real-time txts, intresting!

Reader87 September 15, 2023 - 3:58 am

wow, such a sad comparsn btw 1995 and nw, tech rlly chngd how we get info

ThoughtfulObserver September 15, 2023 - 4:27 am

incrse in sch shootings is hrtbrking, shows society’s prblems


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