A year has passed since 14 students and three adults were shot and killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. Since then, nearly 1,200 young lives have also been lost to gun violence, according to “Since Parkland,” a collaboration between the Miami Herald, McClatchy and The Trace, an independent, nonprofit news organization dedicated to expanding coverage of guns in the U.S.
“Parkland had particular meaning to readers of the Miami Herald and to south Florida,” said Casey Frank, Herald investigations editor and project editor for “Since Parkland.” “(The Trace) had an interest in gun violence, and we had an intense interest in Parkland and its aftermath and those things kind of converged.”
Work began last summer, and by August 2018, data reporter Caitlin Ostroff had joined the Herald and took the reins in fact-checking data already collected by both news organizations from the Gun Violence Archive. She also categorized the incidents by accidental, domestic, school shooting, drive-by, homicide, self-defense, murder-suicide and undetermined.
“I think the thing that surprised me the most (about the data) was the accidental deaths. We saw a decent amount—more than a hundred instances,” Ostroff said.
Ostroff worked with the data for four months, and by the beginning of this year, the Herald held a meeting with the regional editors throughout McClatchy to present the data and ask for help in writing articles.
The project includes several articles written by Herald reporters dealing with national gun issues and gun-related topics (such as the penalty for parents of children who accidentally shoot themselves). Several other McClatchy newspapers contributed with gun activity in their own area as well, and The Trace also completed a story and developed the sinceparkland.org website that remembers the young victims. According to Frank and Ostroff, The Trace recruited student reporters to write short portraits of each one.
“Getting those (portraits) all put together and from different sources was a monumental achievement and they deserve a whole lot of credit for getting that done,” Frank said.
McClatchy newspapers have the project in its entirety linked online, and some of them ran different portions of the project in their print edition.
“I was really impressed with how willing they were to do that,” Frank said. “The newspapers jumped right in and did a fabulous job.”
Frank said the reaction to “Since Parkland” has seen an even divide between those saying “Thank you for shedding some light on that” and those saying “McClatchy and the Miami Herald want to seize everyone’s guns.”
Yet regardless of how readers felt about the project, Ostroff understood the significance of their work. “The fact that 1,200 people 18 years and younger died from gun violence—I think it’s important to show people that number—(and to) actually look into what happened and why that number exists.”