Media-Savvy Parkland Students On What They've Sworn Off In Wake Of Shooting
PARKLAND, Florida - When you're on lockdown, like they were at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, teacher Eric Garner says it's a little disconcerting having your students videotape you. "I'm like, I don't know how to feel right now," he said.
I pointed out that's what he taught them. "I know, I know," he replied. "They know what they're doing behind the camera. They know what they're doing in front of the camera and it's impressive."
Eric is the broadcast journalism teacher at Stoneman Douglas and one of the people responsible for making students at the school as media savvy as they are.
In fact, many of the kids you've seen on television over the past two weeks are his reporters. Much of the footage from inside the school came from his photographers.
"When you see that video proof, it lasts a lot longer in people's minds than just a simple statement," said student Delaney Tarr.
"If you weren't in Parkland, Florida, that day you can still connect with that anywhere around the world in any language," said another student, Ryan Deitsch.
The school has always had a strong broadcast journalism department. I've known about it for years. They win national awards all the time, which is why it came as no surprise that on the very first day back at school after everyone else went home, the student reporters stayed behind – to start telling their story, their way.
"Because we are the story, that just makes everything so much more powerful and more genuine," said student Nicholas Gargaro.
"That's the power that we have as student journalists," said Delaney. "We get to see all the little things that make Stoneman Douglas special."
Their first project will be a documentary. It will focus mainly on the activism that sprouted from the shooting. Of course, a lot of these kids are the activists –- pushing for change, like gun control, which poses an ethical dilemma right out of the textbook.
"Their passion has run into their journalism," said Eric. "But they're going to have to divorce themselves from that."
When I asked him how, Eric admits it will be tough.
"There's no black and white, it's just a lot of gray," said Ryan.
One thing is crystal clear, however. If the kids do grow up to be journalists, they won't be the kind that sticks a camera in the face of a grieving person. They say that after this experience, they've sworn that off for good.
"When you're looking into the face of a friend you know, and they're crying and you want to take a picture of them because you know it's this amazing shot to get but you know, you see the recognition in their eyes, it's so much harder to do it then," said Delaney. "I think that's something that every journalist should recognize that."
I told Delaney that if she brings her empathy to the profession, I -- for one -- would be grateful.
"We've been trying to treat everyone like we know them," she said.
Treat everyone like you know them. At Stoneman Douglas, that's now journalism.