As is usually the case in the immediate moments following a tragedy, local news outlets were doing most of the groundwork before the national correspondents and cable networks descended.
That night, however, my feed was dominated by links to Reddit, where an 18-year-old student from Denver named Morgan Jones spent the night chained to his dual monitors, exhaustively collecting and dutifully updating a Reddit thread with posts from local media, police scanners, and on-the-ground social media posts.
"It feels like I'm helping out people who need to know this stuff," he said.
Jones' aims, in other words, were well-intentioned; he wanted to work with the media, not in spite of it.
Jones was by no means the first citizen journalist to use an online platform to elevate his voice and contribute reporting to scoop legacy media (similar news-gathering Reddit threads existed far before Jones'), but the high visibility of Jones' thread, coupled with the fact that his careful work turned up few hoaxes and spread credible information, seems to mark a turning point for internet-based citizen news gathering.
I watched my Twitter feed, which was moving feverishly, considering the hour, spitting out information at a rapid clip.
Citizen journalism was one of the great dreams of the mid-2000s internet.
Just as blogs had given anyone with an internet connection and a keyboard a platform, media companies like AOL and CNN hoped that cell phones and high-speed internet would transform an army of private citizens and online hobbyists into freelance, oftentimes pro bono writers, videographers, and reporters.
Moving well past traditional news gathering, this breed of vigilante investigations has fractured into cells that defy categorization.
They are, case by case, conspiratorial and careful; methodical and reckless; helpful and irreconcilably damaging. After Aurora, other Reddit threads attempted to do similar work; just a month after the Colorado shooting, a popular thread collected on-the-ground information via social media in the aftermath of a shooting outside the Empire State Building.
Roughly 30 months later, the paradigm seems to have shifted.