Parkland Student-Journalists Reflect on Surviving and Covering a Mass Shooting

By Mark Walsh — March 23, 2018 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Student journalists at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., have been walking a fine line between covering the horrific story of the shooting that unfolded at their school and reacting as survivors who were themselves traumatized.

“I had to be there for my friends,” Kevin Trejos, an 18-year-old senior, said of the moments after a gunman killed 17 students and adults and wounded others on Feb. 14. “I also had to be there as a photographer [for the school newspaper]. In a way, it helped me escape the reality of it.”

Trejos and four of his colleagues from The Eagle Eye, the student paper at Stoneman Douglas, spoke at a livestreamed panel discussion Friday at the Newseum in Washington, where on Saturday they will join some 200 other students from their high school—not to mention an estimated 500,000 other participants—in the March for Our Lives. The march was organized by Stoneman Douglas High students, with some help from others, to call for measures to protect children from gun violence.

Emma Dowd, a senior and the co-editor-in-chief of the newspaper, spent hours locked in the photo closet as the shooting unfolded. She said she had difficulty trying to act as a journalist in the immediate hours and days after the campus was secured.

“I didn’t feel I was emotionally able to even go back in the school to retrieve a camera,” Dowd said. “I was an emotional hot mess.”

But the student journalists under the guidance of teacher and newspaper adviser Melissa Falkowski have received international praise for their work in the weeks after the mass shooting. The newspaper published its first online account of the events within days, in a story by Nikhita Nookala and Christy Ma, who were also on the panel at the Newseum.

Ma, a senior, also hid in a school closet during the shooting incident, and she recalled talking with another student newspaper staffer about having to cover the incident.

“We were in the middle of our third-quarter issue,” Ma said, when someone declared, “OK guys, we have to trash the whole issue.”

Nookala recalled that at the bottom of The Eagle Eye’s first account, she and Ma had to list all the victims.

“I found that really hard to write, because I had to write ‘freshman’ so many times,” said Nookala, a senior.

The Eagle Eye launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for an ad-free print edition that was a tribute to the victims. And The Eagle Eye has partnered with Guardian US, the American edition of the British newspaper The Guardian, to cover the March for Our Lives.

Students are guest editing Guardian US coverage of the march, and the Guardian helped pay for 11 student Stoneman Douglas journalists travel to Washington. Guardian US also published a “manifesto” by the editorial staff of The Eagle Eye that includes policy demands that include banning semiautomatic weapons that fire high-velocity rounds, establishing a database of gun sales and universal background checks, and changing privacy laws to allow mental health providers to communicate with law enforcement.

Rebecca Schneid, the other co-editor-in-chief of The Eagle Eye and the fifth member of the panel, said that while the newspaper staff agreed on the positions taken in the manifesto, the paper has strived to include voices in news stories that may take a different view on gun control or other issues.

“In our paper, we attempt to remain as nonpartisan as possible,” said Schneid, a junior. “We love to publish opinions that are different from our own.”

Margaret Brennan of CBS News, who moderated the hourlong panel discussion, asked the students whether they saw themselves more as participants in the March for Our Lives or as journalists covering it.

“I sometimes have to separate myself as a survivor and a journalist,” said Schneid.

Trejos said he was having difficulty thinking of the event as “a march that ends up in the history books. For me, this is a march my friends started. That’s where I am right now. We’ll see after tomorrow.”

The students said their experience has convinced them of the power of journalism to elevate the discussion around issues such as gun control.

Nookala said she had joined the newspaper class “because it was one other thing I wanted to try” and the experience covering the mass shooting has “given me a passion for the profession.”

Schneid said she was debating a career in either medicine or journalism and this experience may have tipped the balance toward the latter.

“For journalism, I’ve seen the impact it has had on people’s lives,” she said. “It’s an amazing and noble profession if done right.”

A version of this news article first appeared in the Education and the Media blog.

Commenting has been disabled on effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
School & District Management Webinar
Ensuring Continuity of Learning: How to Prepare for the Next Disruption
Across the country, K-12 schools and districts are, again, considering how to ensure effective continuity of learning in the face of emerging COVID variants, politicized debates, and more. Learn from Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent
Content provided by Class
Teaching Profession Live Online Discussion What Have We Learned From Teachers During the Pandemic?
University of California, Santa Cruz, researcher Lora Bartlett and her colleagues spent months studying how the pandemic affected classroom teachers. We will discuss the takeaways from her research not only for teachers, but also for

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Schools Get the Brunt of Latest COVID Wave in South Carolina
In the past few weeks, South Carolina has set records for COVID-19 hospitalizations and new cases have approached peak levels of last winter.
4 min read
Two Camden Elementary School students in masks listen as South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster talks about steps the school is taking to fight COVID-19, Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021, in Camden, S.C. McMaster has adamantly and repeatedly come out against requiring masks in schools even as the average number of daily COVID-19 cases in the state has risen since early June. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)
Education More States Are Requiring Schools to Teach Native American History and Culture
Advocates say their efforts have gained some momentum with the nation’s reckoning over racial injustice since the killing of George Floyd.
3 min read
A dancer participates in an intertribal dance at Schemitzun on the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation in Mashantucket, Conn., Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021. Connecticut and a handful of other states have recently decided to mandate students be taught about Native American culture and history. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Education Judge's Temporary Order Allows Iowa Schools to Mandate Masks
A federal judge ordered the state to immediately halt enforcement of a law that prevents school boards from ordering masks to be worn.
4 min read
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks to reporters following a news conference, Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021, in West Des Moines, Iowa. Reynolds lashed out at President Joe Biden Thursday after he ordered his education secretary to explore possible legal action against states that have blocked school mask mandates and other public health measures meant to protect students against COVID-19. Reynolds, a Republican, has signed a bill into law that prohibits school officials from requiring masks, raising concerns as delta variant virus cases climb across the state and schools resume classes soon. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Education Hurricane Ida Deals New Blow to Louisiana Schools Struggling to Reopen
The opening of the school year offered teachers a chance to fully assess the pandemic's effects, only to have students forced out again.
8 min read
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021. Louisiana students, who were back in class after a year and a half of COVID-19 disruptions kept many of them at home, are now missing school again after Hurricane Ida. A quarter-million public school students statewide have no school to report to, though top educators are promising a return is, at most, weeks away, not months.
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021.
John Locher/AP