A group of student journalists were traveling to New York City on Monday to receive recognition for an assignment they never wanted — filling the school newspaper with obituaries.
The Pulitzer Prize Board will honor the staff of The Eagle Eye newspaper at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School during a luncheon Tuesday.
The newspaper memorialized the 17 students and staff killed in the Feb. 14, 2018, massacre at the school. The paper also chronicled the student activists who rose to national prominence after the shooting.
Students worked through their own grief to document how the school responded to the tragedy.
“English class doesn’t teach you how to write obituaries when you are in high school,” said Hannah Kapoor, 18, a senior and one of The Eagle Eye’s co-editors-in-chief. “It showed me the work of a journalist is very important, but in times of tragedies like these, there is only so much words can do.”
The Eagle Eye submitted its work for the Pulitzer Prize in local reporting and public service, the most prestigious honor in journalism. The student paper didn’t win, but Pulitzer Prize Administrator Dana Canedy praised the young journalists before she announced the winners.
“These budding journalists remind us of the media’s unwavering commitment to bearing witness even in the most wrenching of circumstances in service to a nation whose very existence depends on a free and dedicated press,” she said before announcing the winners.
Rebecca Schneid, 17, a senior and co-editor-in-chief at the paper, said she was in journalism class when the gunman opened fire at her school.
Working on the paper helped her cope with her grief by putting her feelings into words, she said.
“It was the hardest thing I ever had to do,” Schneid said. “It was so taxing to have to walk into class every day and relive the worst day of my life, but it was cathartic.”
The paper’s journalists have tackled other difficult stories, including sexual assault and climate change. During the luncheon, the South Florida Sun Sentinel will receive the Public Service Pulitzer.
The Sun Sentinel donated $5,000 for the student journalists to attend the luncheon. Spirit Airlines is providing free flights for The Eagle Eye staffers.
Eight students who worked on the stories submitted to the Pulitzer Prize Board and the paper’s faculty adviser Melissa Falkowski will attend the event.
“We were really excited to be invited to the ceremony,” Falkowski said. “It is a really great networking opportunity. A lot of them are planning to be journalists, and they get to be in a room with the best of the best.”
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