Taylor Dobbs hit the big time on Friday.
The former VTDigger intern and Montpelier resident found himself in the middle of the frenzied reporting on the Boston Marathon bombing investigation.
Dobbs, a journalism student at Northeastern University, was playing the new HD version of Age of Empires II on Thursday night when he got the text from his girlfriend: Twitter reports claimed there had been a shooting at MIT.
Dobbs who lives near the university soon met up with an acquaintance, Seth Mnookin, an MIT professor, and Brian D’Amico, a photographer and Northeastern student. The three men soon learned that a police officer at the university had been wounded.
As a half dozen Boston Police cars sped off in response to a call over the scanner for backup in another part of the metropolitan area, Dobbs, D’Amico and Mnookin followed in pursuit — navigating their way with a police scanner app and Google maps — Tweeting news snippets as they went. They heard about the carjacking on the police scanner.
Soon they found themselves in the vicinity of the Watertown shootout between the Tsarnaev brothers and law enforcement officials — five minutes after the firefight, in which 200 rounds of ordnance were fired, ended. Shortly after they arrived at the corner of Dexter and Nichols streets, the police cordoned off Mnookin’s vehicle behind a safety perimeter. When law enforcement officers saw the trio, they demanded that they identify themselves. Mnookin answered: “Press.” The response? “Get out of here.”
Undeterred, the three men made their way to the press area and continued tweeting. Dobbs, D’Amico and Mnookin were the first reporters on the scene in Watertown, and they tweeted everything they saw and heard. They saw police pull a man out of his car and order him to strip and they also witnessed the aggressive police search of another man who was wearing a backpack.
By the wee hours of Friday morning, the men had tweeted more than 160 minute-by-minute live updates on the death of Sean Collier, the MIT police officer, the Watertown shootout and information about the investigation.
Dobbs, who is a journalism student at Northeastern University, took dozens of photos with his iPhone. He’d had recent practice in the art of breaking news photography already: On Monday, he took shots of the dazed crowds that aimlessly wandered the streets in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing.
By Friday morning, Dobbs found himself in the maelstrom of media attention. His Twitter feed had been picked up by more than 2,000 new followers overnight — some of whom happened to be reporters from other news organizations.
One of those journalists, Matt Ryan, a reporter with the Burlington Free Press, recounted the reporting adventure in a story accompanied by Dobbs’ photos of police involved in the midnight manhunt.
Dobbs was also interviewed by the BBC, Al Jazeera, Fox 44, WPTZ and several Canadian radio shows.
Looking back on last week’s events, Dobbs says he isn’t sure why he threw himself into the media fray, but he’s glad he did.
“I was scared and tired and confused, and I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else,” Dobbs said.
To read Dobbs’ account of his reporting adventure, click here.