One of the major media stories from the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland last week was the way students used technology to cover the story as it unfolded and are now using social media to play a major role in shaping the national conversation about it.
They are also showing the kind of moral leadership on gun control and school safety that could shame Congress and the administration for offering only platitudes and little or no action.
News of the students’ march on Washington had all the public affairs showing buzzing Sunday morning.
Host Brian Stelter and I agreed on CNN’s “Reliable Sources” that students live-tweeting from inside the school during the attack and then using social media to join in and shape the conversation about the shooting that left 17 dead are important developments in how such tragic events are covered.
While live-tweeting and streaming aren’t new, the extent to which the students led the coverage during the event and then took control of the conversation afterward are.
Carly Novell, a student at the high school, used social media to shut down Tomi Lahren, a Fox News contributor, who had tried to politicize the tragedy.
At 10:29 on the night of the shooting, Lahren tweeted: “Can the Left let the families grieve for even 24 hours before they push their anti-gun and anti-gunowner agenda? My goodness. This isn’t about a gun it’s about another lunatic. #FloridaShooting.”
The next morning Novell tweeted back: “I was hiding in a closet for two hours. It was about guns. You weren’t there, you don't know how it felt. Guns give these disgusting people the ability to kill other human beings. This IS about guns and this is about all the people who had their life abruptly ended because of guns.”
Another student from the school tweeted: “A gun has killed 17 of my fellow classmates. A gun has traumatized my friends. My entire school, traumatized from this tragedy. This could have been prevented. Please stfu tomi.”
This is the same Tomi Lahren who called Black Lives Matter the “new KKK” in a tweet in the wake of five Dallas police officers being shot and killed following a peaceful rally in 2016.
Her tweet at the time: “Meet the new KKK, they call themselves ‘Black Lives Matter’ but make no mistake their goals are far from equality. #Dallas #bluelivesmatter.”
I was on “Reliable Sources” with her the following Sunday and had a chance to tell her how reckless, reprehensible and ignorant that tweet was.
But this time, some of the survivors told her in the vocabulary of Twitter, and I believe it was far more powerful.
And the students’ pain is so raw they are not afraid to challenge even the president. Over the weekend,
Students angrily tweeted back at President Trump after he linked the FBI's failure to follow up on a report about the school shooter and the resources expended on the Russia investigation.
Here’s what Trump tweeted, “Very sad that the FBI missed all of the many signals sent out by the Florida school shooter. This is not acceptable. They are spending too much time trying to prove Russian collusion with the Trump campaign - there is no collusion. Get back to the basics and make us all proud!"
A flood of anger on Twitter flowed among apparent survivors of the shooting:
“17 innocent people were brutally murdered at my school, a place where they should have felt safe. Their lives were gone in an instant. You are the President of the United States and you have the audacity to put this on Russia as an excuse. I guess I should expect that from you."
There was more: “...my friends were brutally murdered and you have the nerve to make this about Russia. I can not believe this.”
“17 of my classmates and friends are gone and you have the audacity to make this about russia???!!
Several of the student’s responses went viral, getting thousands of retweets.
Many students who survived the Parkland shooting have been vocal about what they experienced, and about the action they want to see from those in power.
The medias willingness to allow such young teens to express their pain is also new. CNN’s Stelter and I also talked about the need to be careful in protecting minors who are involved in these horrible events, and always seeking parental permission before interviewing or making their words and identities public.
And Stelter did something I had not seen anywhere else in national media. He took a moment to tell viewers who Marjory Stoneman Douglas was. She was a Florida journalist and activist who led an exemplary life.
A perfect fact for the discussion about journalists as activists.