The eyes of the nation have been on my home state of Colorado quite a bit lately, and for all the wrong reasons.

The eyes of the nation have been on my home state of Colorado quite a bit lately, and for all the wrong reasons.
Less than a month ago we watched as fire crept into a sleepy community on the western edge of Colorado Springs. Hundreds of homes were burnt to their foundations, and we were reminded how unforgiving nature can be.
Friday our collective attention turned to the tragedy that continues to unfold in Aurora, Colo., where a gunman entered an early morning showing of “The Dark Night Rises” and fired upon a confused and cornered auditorium.
These events are tough for me to sit through, separated from those I know in Colorado. I spent the majority of my life in a town less than an hour and a half from both Colorado Springs and Aurora. I’ve driven through that neighborhood in the Springs, and I’ve passed that theater countless times, though I have never seen a movie there myself.
I’ve been keen to stay informed on the progression of these stories as they have unfolded. I have friends and family in both cities, so getting instant, on-the-ground information has been important in putting my mind at ease.
Luckily, I’ve had no trouble at all getting information, although not from the usual sources — and this ease of access has reminded me how important the free-flow of information on the Internet is to all of us.
Take, for instance, the chaos of Friday morning. The most accurate and timely source of information on that horrific shooting has not been The Denver Post, nor a local television, nor CNN, Fox News or any other always-on outlet.
The most comprehensive coverage of the tragedy has come from integ3r, some person sitting in front of his or her computer, stalking Twitter and other citizen news outlets while watching TV and monitoring media websites. Integ3r posted hundreds of updates, starting minutes after the crisis began, aggregating information from the media, witnesses, and his own background research in real-time to provide an informed, vetted and comprehensive summary of the news as it happened.
Integ3r is exactly what every news outlet wants to be but can’t. Posts included witness quotes, maps, pictures and video that brought those following the story onto the scene. There was no agenda at work, no advertisers to avoid stepping on, no commercial breaks to plan around and no sensationalism for the sake of ratings. Integ3r’s coverage was pure, unfiltered information, the way mainstream reporting should be but, inevitably, always falls short of.
I don’t intend this article to be a criticism of professional media. Every news source serves a purpose, and the mainstream media is meant to take a big-picture approach while presenting only that information which has been verified over and over, often at the cost of timeliness and detail.
But the free and open Internet utilized by individuals for the benefit of the masses still represents a kind of dissemination unique to the digital world and in many ways superior to any other kind of message transmission. It is reporting by the people for the people, and it is made possible by an Internet unhindered by the censorship and preferential regulation that constantly threatens to end our modern era of free information.
I have spent a lot of time following the live blogs of integ3r and other web-based citizen journalists from my computer hundreds of miles from Colorado. It has been a great comfort getting the full story in real time. We must all be conscious of the great value of the open Internet and take whatever steps are necessary to maintain its autonomy so people like integ3r can bring us the news, quite literally as it happens.

Ken Ward is a staff writer for The Sentinel. Reach him by phone at 620-241-2422 or email at