The Paly Voice

Marjory Stoneman Douglas journalism students discuss reporting on tragedies

Allie Feitzinger and Esther Cao

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Editor-in-Chief Emma Dowd addressed the challenges The Eagle Eye's staff faced while writing stories about the victims of the shooting. “The first thing we all wanted to do was take an emotional check, like see who’s prepared enough to start writing these stories and who’s not," Dowd told the Paly Voice.

Editor-in-Chief Emma Dowd addressed the challenges The Eagle Eye’s staff faced while writing stories about the victims of the shooting. “The first thing we all wanted to do was take an emotional check, like see who’s prepared enough to start writing these stories and who’s not,” Dowd told the Paly Voice.

Journalists from Palo Alto High School have more insight on reporting tragedies following a conversation with The Eagle Eye, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School’s journalism publication, about the student journalists’ unique experiences covering a devastating tragedy.

The school, located in Parkland, Florida, experienced a school shooting on Feb. 14 that killed 17. The student journalists spoke about the difficulties they experienced while reporting on the tragedy. The conversation occurred in MAC 105 and was streamed live on Twitter and Facebook. While The Paly Voice hosted the event, students from other publication staffs also attended.

“I think that it’s obviously really difficult because this [the shooting] is something that happened to us as well, and the people that we’re interviewing are our friends and like our family,” Editor-in-Chief Rebecca Schneid told the Paly journalists.

The newspaper produced a special memorial edition that featured each of the victims, which proved to be a harrowing task, according to Schneid.

“Any journalist knows it’s hard to cover a tragedy … it’s 10 times worse when it’s your tragedy,” Schneid said.

The shooting spurred students across the country into action with the March for Our Lives movement, and members of the Eagle Eye staff say they believe seniors leaving school will not hinder the movements’ progress. Rather, students say the movement will spread as students go to college around the country.

“It’s going to stay with us for the rest of our lives,” staff writer Lewis Mizen said. “Many of us, we’re going across the country, you know, everywhere, and all of us are going to have our own story.”

Eagle Eye Advisor Melissa Falkowski said she expects the movement to continue at MSD, especially as most of the victims of the shooting were freshmen.

“I think that though the school year is going to end, the focus here isn’t going to transition away from that [gun violence] because we still have to come here every day and live it, and the freshman class has to come here every day and live it until they graduate,” Falkowski said.

The Parkland students said they hope to utilize the movement’s momentum to enact change.

“We have a long road ahead of us for recovery, and I think we have a long road ahead of us in terms of working on this issue and affecting positive change around this specific issue that a lot of us feel so passionately about now,” Falkowski said.

Staff writer Daniel Williams encouraged teens to take action by voting. 

“We’re trying to put [get] people to vote,” Williams said. “What happens is, our demographic is one of the lowest to turn out and vote, and we then complain about the people that are put in office.”

The students went on to speak about their approach to maintaining a journalistic, objective perspective while writing about the tragedy and the events that followed.

“As much as possible, it’s important to just portray as many perspectives as you can so people can get all kinds of sides of the story,” Schneid said.

The publication has also worked to feature different voices through several initiatives, including guest editorials, a “Humans of MSD” account, and a “Letters to the Editors” section.

“We make it our mission to … understand that the voices of our school are not represented entirely by us,” Schneid said. “It’s up to us to use our platform to elevate other people’s voices and allow them to speak however they want to.”

Schneid encouraged students to get involved and actively pursue change.

“For you guys, get involved with what you can,” Schneid said. “Use the powerhouse that is social media. Talk to your congressmen.”

Paly students have previously gotten involved by organizing calling and letter-writing campaigns and participating in a national walkout against gun violence.

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