Parkland Student Journalists on Covering the Shooting and Aftermath: ‘It’s a Balancing Act’

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WASHINGTON — The day before hundreds of thousands are expected at a march on Washington to address gun violence, five high school student journalists from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School told of the challenges of covering the story as observers and survivors.

“It is a balancing act between being a journalist and a survivor,” said Rebecca Schneid, one of the editors-in-chief of the Eagle Eye, the student paper at the high school. “Any journalist knows that sometimes it is very hard for you to cover something of a tragedy, and sometimes you have to talk about your own emotions too. When it is also your school, and it’s your family and your friends, that is a whole other level.”

The students appeared on Friday at the Newseum, just a few blocks from where the rally stage is being set up on Pennsylvania Avenue, with a view of the Capitol in the background.

As news organizations continue to report from the school in Parkland, Fla., Schneid said that as survivors and journalists, they have “such a unique platform.”

“No other publication knows Parkland like we know Parkland,” she said.

Kevin Trejos, a student photographer who was one of the first at the scene, said, “It’s a difficult situation because I have to kind of balance the two. I had to be there for myself to see my friends and to see everyone else from our school grieving, and be with them and help them through the process, just as they were helping me. Also I have to be there as a journalist just to take photos. In a way, it kind of helped me escape from the reality of it.”

The panel, moderated by “Face the Nation” anchor Margaret Brennan, also included Christy Ma, Nikhita Nookala, and Emma Dowd, who also serves as editor-in-chief.

The students talked of the challenges of producing profiles of the victims of the shooting, and of their decision not to publish the name of the gunman. Instead, he is referred to as “the shooter” or “the gunman,” and the paper has not published his photo.

“There is not one of us at the publication who believes he deserves any more publicity than he is already getting,” Schneid said.

The staff of the paper will be covering the rally, which was initially organized by students from the high school in the aftermath of the Feb. 14 shooting massacre. The purpose is to urge Congress to pass meaningful gun legislation.

But some of the students have come under attack from gun rights activists. At the Newseum event, one woman asked the student journalists about a particularly pointed claim: that they were “media pawns to push the liberal agenda.”

“All of our views that we speak are our own,” Schneid said, adding that if critics “feel threatened by that, then that is on them.”

She said that the student journalists have been as neutral as they can be in reporting on the story and the wave of activism that has followed, but “many of us feel very passionately about what this movement is aiming for.”

Some of the activists have been dismissed as “children.” Trejos said that is “technically a fact. Yes, we are children, but we also have a voice.” He noted that many of the activists that gave energy and led the civil rights movement of the 1960s were around the same age.

The march is expected to feature speeches from some of the students and a mix of performers and politicians. Among those expected in Washington: Lin-Manuel Miranda and Ben Platt, performing “Found/Tonight,” which was inspired by the movement; Common; Miley Cyrus; Andra Day; Ariana Grande; Jennifer Hudson; Demi Lovato; and Vic Mensa. More than 800 marches in other cities are planned.

The march will take place from 3rd Street NW to 12th Street NW.

Trejos drew some laughs when he was asked about the potential historic nature of the march. He suggested that the full impact had yet to set in.

“For me, it is like my friends just decided to start a march, and there are tons of people there,” he said. “That’s where I am at. We’ll see tomorrow.”