Parkland journalists: “We know the power of our voices”


Natalie Sadek

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School journalists received a Columbia Scholastic Press Association Gold Crown Award in New York City on March 16.

Paige Morse and Anna Silver

Despite an overflow crowd of close to one thousand teenagers, the room was silent as a panel of student journalists began to tell their stories of how to report on a day that changed their lives when 17 others ended.

On March 16, hundreds of student journalists packed into a Columbia University auditorium during the Columbia Scholastic Press Association Spring Convention. The silent solidarity towards the guest speakers, student journalists of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, was louder than words.

Student editors Carly Novell, Leni Steinhardt, Taylor Yon, Dara Rosen, Zoe Gordon, Brianna Fisher, Rebecca Schneid, Mady Kravitz, Emma Dowd and Kyra Parrow, as well as advisors Melissa Falkowski and Sarah Lerner, held back tears as they detailed their plan to cover the February 14 school shooting in the newspaper and yearbook.

As survivors themselves, the Parkland journalists are mourning, yet still feel passionate about fulfilling their journalistic duty to the community.

“The day after the shooting, my camera was by my side,” Parrow said at the presentation. “In a way photography helped me cope with everything that was going on.”

According to Schneid, student journalists are tributing each life lost in the shooting which will run in their upcoming memorial issue to show “why they’re important to us and why they should be important to you.”

Each victim will also be honored with a page in the 2017-2018 edition of the school’s yearbook.

The students recalled the incredible difficulty of interviewing family and friends of the victims, reporting on hopes for futures that will never happen.

“I went to her room, and her sister said amazing things about her,” Schneid said of writing a tribute for victim Alaina Petty. “It made me wish that I knew her [better]. That’s the hardest part.”

“When you interview a parent you’d ask questions like ‘what is their favorite sport? What is their favorite movie?,’” Steinhardt said. “Now it’s, ‘What was their favorite sport? What was their favorite movie?’”

Dowd described the emotional interview with victim Carmen Schentrup’s best friend, but was tearfully overwhelmed by the memory of Carmen’s friend sitting at the piano where the two friends met. She struggled to finish telling the audience her story.

While many students received condolences and prayers, others received criticism. Novell revealed that she was accused of being a crisis actor by people online.

“People don’t want to say that it’s real, and I wish it weren’t real,” Novell said.

In this time of recovery and grief, the editors feel as though the yearbook and the newspaper staff are helping each other, and the encouragement flowing in from schools across the nation is appreciated by the students in Parkland.

“The support gives you a sense of happiness,” Gordon said. “Everyone is by your side.”

The presentation concluded with the Eagle Eye newspaper staff being awarded a CSPA Gold Crown Award, the highest award given to student journalists by CSPA. This moment prompted a long standing ovation by everyone who filled the auditorium.

The Parkland students remain hopeful that their coverage of the event and any activism regarding the shooting is impactful.

“We know the power of our voices,” Novell said.