Last week, members of The Voice staff had the opportunity to attend the Columbia Scholastic Press Association (CSPA) in New York. There, staff writers and editors attended journalism sessions with schools from around the country. They were able to learn from professors and professionals, as well as rub elbows with some of the best programs in the country.
With a workbook of sessions to choose from, there was one in particular that stood out to everyone. In the table of contents was a maroon, silver, and white eagle logo and under it said “It’s our story. We want to tell it.”
The student journalists and advisers from Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida were there to tell their story and how they planned on covering the tragedy that took place at their school, killing 17 of their fellow teachers and classmates.
The Eagle Eye staff sat on the auditorium stage in a panel-like format, all sporting MSD apparel and #MSDSTRONG shirts. The auditorium quickly became overcrowded, with convention attendants having to turn students away at the doors. However, CSPA Executive Director Edmund Sullivan felt that this was too important and opportunity for these young journalists to miss.
“If you’re standing in the back or along the sides then you’re not supposed to be in here…but I don’t see anyone standing. Do you?” Sullivan said with a smirk.
Several rounds of applause later, the Eagle Eye staff, led by adviser Melissa Falkowski, introduced themselves, their positions, and how the tragedy impacted what they do as journalists.
Several of the students mentioned how immediately following “everything had happened,” they had cameras on their hips ready to take pictures and record history. They focused on the beauty of the aftermath, like the flowers, teddy bears, posters, and candles of the vigil.
“It’s difficult to balance being a survivor, but also being a journalist,” one of three Eagle Eye editors-in-chief said.
As the Parkland community, and communities all around the nation for that matter, took time to mourn, these students began planning their next issue. The next issue of Eagle Eye, a quarterly news-magazine, will tribute the 17 victims of the mass shooting that took place on Feb. 14.
Many of the writers explained that the hardest part was having to talk to family and loved ones. It was hard for them to go to the parents of the victims and instead of ask “what does your son like to do?” ask “what did he like to do?”
MSD senior and yearbook editor-in-chief Kyra Parrow explained how the theme of this year’s book, selected last August, is “As One.”
“We were going to do a spread on Valentine’s Day and we’re still going to do that,” Parrow said. “We have the pictures, we have the stories, and there was love on campus…up until 20 minutes before the bell rang.”
Parrow explained how after the tragedy, they had to completely renumber and reformat their book to include tributes and pictures.
As the session began to wrap up, students and advisers lined up behind two microphones situated in both main aisles to give praise and ask questions. There was not a dry eye in the room.
As student journalists reunited with each other at the end of the session, they cried, hugged, and wiped each others tears; they were relieved that it was not them up their sharing their story but also aware of the fact that it very easily could have been.
The Eagle Eye staff of Marjorie Stoneman Douglas high school was presented a gold crown, the most prestigious award that could be won. These survivors showed the rest of their counterparts that journalism is not dying, it is most certainly alive.
Afterall, it’s their story. They were there to tell it.