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Eagle Eye co-editor-in-chief speaks on student journalism

This year on Valentine’s Day in Parkland, Florida, a mass shooting occurred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas (MSD) High School as 17 students and staff were killed and 17 more were wounded. Now, just over a month later, the students and faculty of the school, as well as the families, community and even the nation, are working to cope and recover from the tragedy.

Kaylie Clem | The Feather Online

Rebecca Schneid, third from right, speaks on a panel during a morning session during the 94th annual CSPA Spring Convention, March 16.

Many students from MSD and the work they are doing have gained national recognition as they head a student-led fight for stricter gun control. Most notably, voices of members from their school newspaper, The Eagle Eye, have become very active, especially on social media sites like Twitter. In light of the tragedy, their prominence and ability to raise awareness serves as an example to student journalists across the country.  

Recently, the staff of The Eagle Eye and adviser Melissa Falkowski spoke as a featured panel during the 94th annual Columbia Scholastic Press Association (CSPA) Spring Convention. In It’s Our Story. We Want to Tell It, the staff shared how they bonded together and used their journalism skills to record and report the event and reactions following the school shooting.

For junior Rebecca (Becca) Schneid, co-editor-in-chief of The Eagle Eye, the CSPA Convention in New York, March 14-16, offers more than informational sessions. It enables her to meet with other students from different parts of the nation. The Eagle Eye staff also hung out in the Twitter offices as well as Elle Magazine.

“I’ve really come to realize what an interesting platform we have as journalists,” Schneid said. “We have this ability to talk about what we’ve experienced, not just as journalists but as survivors of this crazy and horrific situation. At CSPA, I get to see the way journalists maybe look to us as an example of how to address this kind of tragedy. It’s a really amazing thing because until we go and do things like the CSPA convention, we don’t quite see the impact we have on other schools and other journalists.”

It’s because of journalism that we’re able to elevate our voices and it’s because of the work of all these publications and news organizations that have allowed my classmates and I to speak our minds. It’s really shown me the power that journalism as a whole has to create a movement. I view journalism as an outlet to elevate the voices of people who don’t necessarily have one and give them a voice. — Rebecca Schneid, The Eagle Eye co-editor-in-chief

Schneid initially felt frustration with journalism after the shooting because of the way some professional journalists treated the subject. However, she remains thankful for the ability to voice her opinions.

“It’s because of journalism that we’re able to elevate our voices and it’s because of the work of all these publications and news organizations that have allowed my classmates and I to speak our minds,” Schneid said. “It’s really shown me the power that journalism as a whole has to create a movement. I view journalism as an outlet to elevate the voices of people who don’t necessarily have one and give them a voice and Twitter in it’s own right does that.”

After finding herself in an interesting position of both journalist and survivor, Schneid elaborates on what she has done to help recover.

“As a student journalist after what happened, I was looking for ways to have a purpose in it,” Schneid said. “I’m the kind of person that when something like this happens, I like to do stuff and keep my hands full to cope. To be able to memorialize the victims, write about what is going on in my school, give voices to those in my school and even voice my own opinions in what I do best, writing, has been extremely cathartic for me. It’s given me a purpose of sorts and has shown me the power of journalism and I know that when our memorial issue comes out people are going to see and feel that even more.

Kaylie Clem | The Feather Online

The Eagle Eye staff pose with a Gold Crown plaque after receiving the award from the Executive Director of the CSPA, Edmund J. Sullivan, following their session, March 16.

“It’s definitely a juggling act between being a survivor, someone who needs to grieve and keep myself healthy, but also be a journalist and try to write stories and work,” Schneid continued. “Personally, it’s a balancing act between being an activist as well because I have my own personal political views that I’ve been speaking out about as well. It’s all a balancing act and I think that you just have to work to make sure you’re taking care of yourself. But honestly, I don’t think that I have to separate the two as student and journalist.”

Over a month later, MSD students continue to receive coverage from major media outlets such as CNN, The Washington Post and Fox News particularly for the various movements they have initiated. These include the #NeverAgain movement as well as inspiring numerous marches around the country.

“As an activist survivor who wants to make sure it doesn’t happen again, we’re going to keep fighting for the coverage,” Schneid said. “Not for the fact that we want coverage, but for the fact that we don’t want them to forget about what happened. Until there’s actual policy change, I know that we’re going to keep sending people out to Tallahassee and we’re going to keep on going to Washington, D.C. and talk to our politicians and make sure they realize that this isn’t going away.

“They better realize that we’re not going away and the sooner they realize that the easier it’s going to be,” Schneid continued. “We’re going to keep voting them out in this election, then the next and the next until they realize that we’re not going to back down. I think the media coverage will start to fade away to other things, but we are going to make sure the world understands that we’re still there and still fighting. As a student journalist, I think we’re all going to work hard to make that happen.”

Kaylie Clem | The Feather Online

The Eagle Eye members shared their stories and experiences following the Feb. 14 tragedy. The staff taught how to cover horrific events.

Schneid explains her publications team aims to resume covering other activities and news as well. She also offers advice to student journalists to seek truth always even if it is difficult.

“We understand that there is no moving on until this fight is won,” Schneid said. “Our goal as a publication is to make sure that people see what we are doing, but at the same time we’re going to cover other things. We are going to move from this being our primary source as a publication to talking about it and making sure people know we’re still there, but still talking about other amazing things about our school that were there before this happened and will continue to be there after.

“It’s very important to utilize your duality as a student and also as a journalist,” Schneid continued. “You have a unique platform and it’s very important to use it because millions more people are listening to you, but at the same time balance that with the same kind of respect for the victims and their families. It’s important to make sure you address that and make sure the people you’re writing about are reflected in a positive way. I also think it’s really important to seek out the truth and not to stop before you get it. Don’t just take the first thing that you hear, make sure to look for the actual truth because it might be harder to find than you think.”

Students from MSD continue to show voices of high school students can be heard. If you want to get involved, there is a March for our Lives demonstration in Sacramento, March 24, as well as in many other major cities across America like Washington D.C., Boston, Chicago, Portland, New York City, Los Angeles and in Florida.

For more information, check out March For Our Lives’ Twitter and website.

For more articles, check out COLUMN: High School Musical, curiosity drives international AmeriStudent and EDITORIAL: Take advantage of traveling opportunities.

For articles from the CSPA Convention, read The Feather takes NYC 2018: CSPA Convention recap and Join the Discussion: 2018 CSPA Spring Convention.

This author can be reached via Twitter @alexrurik23 and via email: Alexander Rurik.

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