by Hunter Hotulke
Dozens of journalists gathered Thursday just 40 miles from where a mass shooting happened close to five months ago for a panel about the ethics and integrity of media’s response.
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students spoke about victims’ perspectives at the National Association of Hispanic Journalists/Native American Journalists Association conference.
“Everyone experienced this differently. If a survivor says ‘no’ they shouldn’t persist and at times there are people willing to talk and times where there aren’t. I understand the need for journalists to be first, but that consideration should be taken for the victims and their families,” said survivor Rain Valladares.
The victims said the days after the shooting were a blur — describing the flurry of microphones and cameras as being disorienting. Carlitos Rodriguez recounted a story of seeing a fellow survivor on the street and after sharing a hug he looked up to see themselves surrounded by cameras.
The Stoneman Douglas panelists unanimously agreed that it was unfair to victims to use the name of the shooter. Rodriguez explained, “The name of the shooter is overshadowing the people we lost on that day.”
“How would you feel about trying to heal and come to terms and having cameras stuffed in your face,” said Rodriguez.
The high school students encouraged journalists to be mindful of the feelings and to approach these tragic events with a human perspective.
“Put yourself on their level and come with the idea that people have good days and bad and should be respectful of people’s feelings,” said Valladares.