When 17 people were killed in a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. on Feb. 14, it was the eighth school shooting so far in 2018, according to CNN. The media once again set up camp outside a school to interview teachers, students and parents about the tragic event. I was prepared to hear the same news bites from TV anchors whenever a national tragedy like this occurs, but as we listened to the high school students who had survived the shooting recount what had happened to them, there was definitely a narrative shift in the air.
For the first time, it seemed like the public was learning more about the victims and survivors rather than the killer. Students like David Hogg, Cameron Kasky, Emma González, and Sarah Chadwick were making their names and faces known by appearing in television interviews, and even on talk shows with Bill Maher and Ellen DeGeneres. Hogg, who is a student journalist, was one of the first students to appear on national news broadcasts calling for tougher gun control. What’s even more incredible is how these students took to social media, putting politicians (and even the president) on notice, and creating the Never Again Movement and organizing gun control rallies around the country. In Parkland, we are seeing a generation that is plugged in to social media and their phones using these platforms in order to call attention to their voices
Over the last few years we’ve seen movements like Never Again, Black Lives Matter, Me Too, and Time’s Up create conversations on topics that otherwise would have been silenced if not for social media. And while the last presidential election saw a rise of disinformation and hate speech on these platforms, the students in Parkland are using Twitter to fearlessly push back against conspiracy theories and false information.
In a USA Today article published a week after the Parkland shooting, Marshall Ganz, a senior lecturer of public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, said that “public narrative” helped explain why the Parkland students were connecting with Americans in ways that politicians and advocacy groups could not.
“Human beings communicate through stories,” Ganz said in the article. “It’s how parents teach children, it’s how societies teach their moral content. These kids are articulate as hell. Their capacity to tell their story is amazing.”
The article pointed out that their youth was also one of their advantage points. When you are 17 or 18 years old, you still have a sense of hopefulness; you believe you can make a difference in the world. After losing friends and teachers, these students in Parkland are using their stories to make sure no one else has to go through the same horrifying ordeal as they did.
In this month’s issue, we also highlight young people—25 of them to be precise. These men and women working in newsrooms around the world are also filled with hope (and for our industry, hope is a very important attribute to bring to the newsroom). They want to make a difference; they want to see changes; and they all believe in the success of newspapers. We should all be excited about the young men and women working and creating movement at our newspapers, many of them creating bold ideas and filling our products with fresh energy and new enthusiasm.
Recently, the Pew Research Center released a report defining millennials as anyone born between 1981 and 1996—that includes the majority of those on our 25 Under 35 list. Like the Parkland students, this is also a generation that is shaping our news coverage and telling us what the future of news will look like for years to come. Not too long ago, the biggest concern for newspapers was how they were going to keep their millennial readers. I say, the biggest task now is how they are going keep their millennial employees.