Reporting Tragedy: Columbine to Aurora

Journal-isms: Coverage of the movie-theater killings might have a greater impact in the digital age.

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Denver Post Editor Greg Moore Says Today’s Coverage Will Have More Impact Than That of ’99 Massacre

The mass shooting at an Aurora, Colo., movie theater that killed 12 people and wounded dozens early Friday presents the kind of story that tests news organizations, particularly in an era of cutbacks. The Denver Post, the dominant newspaper in the region, was no exception.

The Post’s coverage was influenced by the 1999 shootings at Columbine High School in Littleton, outside Denver. Two teenagers shot to death 12 fellow students and a teacher, then killed themselves.

Denver Post Editor Gregory L. Moore agreed Sunday to answer questions sent by Journal-isms readers.

“Columbine informs everything we do,” Moore said by email. “We learned so much about covering tragedy from Columbine.” He also said, “The web has allowed so many more people to experience our journalism, so our impact certainly is much greater than in 1999.”

Moreover, “We are doing whatever we feel we need to do to cover this story right,” he said, noting, “We had people on the scene within an hour of the shooting, maybe sooner . . . We had some people on the scene for 17 hours.”

Here are the questions and answers:

Q. How do you feel about the large volume of copy, and most important, accuracy without a copy desk or the reduced number of editors? (In May, the Denver Post announced that it was eliminating its copy desk. Instead of dedicated copy editors, reporters and assignment editors would be responsible for copy editing duties, which will be spread throughout the newsroom, according to the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas.)

Moore: I believe we have been up to the challenge of handling this huge story. We have had some issues responding to the normal crises of grammatical copy and typos but nothing super embarrassing. I have never seen us more meticulous, something we have to be with the staff losses we have incurred. People have incredible capacity to rise to the challenge and we are. Everyone is using every skill they have to make our newspapers and our website the best they can be. And they are succeeding.

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