A group of Rowan University journalism students are using social media and traditional reporting to investigate an unsolved murder.
The class recently ended, but Twitter (@DonnieProject), Facebook (The Donnie Project) and a content-rich website called thedonnieproject.com continue to disseminate and, the students hope, gather information about the life and death of Rowan sophomore Donald J. Farrell III.
A Morris County resident, "Donnie" Farrell was mortally injured during an October 27, 2007 attack near a convenience store on the Glassboro campus. He was 19.
"It hits close to home because he's one of our own," says Kristen Stenerson, a senior who worked on the project in Amy Z. Quinn's class.
"The students reported the hell out of the story," Quinn says. "It was never our intention to solve the case, but to create (an online) environment that's friendly to the idea of coming forward with information."
One of the group of five men who accosted Farrell, striking and knocking him to the ground, can be seen in a video recorded by a security camera before the incident.
Long posted on YouTube, the video is now on the project website, and below.
Nevertheless, a $100,000 reward and an ongoing investigation by the Gloucester County Prosecutor's Office have resulted in no significant breaks in the case.
Kathryn Quigley, an associate professor of journalism at Rowan who suggested the project, notes that while students who knew Farrell have graduated and witnesses may have left the area, "social media have exploded" in the four years since the murder.
There are people out there who know something about Donnie's death, and "they need to dime somebody out," Quigley says.
"There's so much we've discovered," adds student Damian Biniek, citing a possible Atlantic City connection for "Smoke," a person of interest in the case.
"We're going to be keeping tabs on this."