Savannah State shooting; how the student media covered the crisis

Editor’s Note: With thousands of students protesting against guns on high school campuses this month, one SPJ student member and The Tiger’s Roar reporter shares how his university covered a shooting on his own campus in February 2018. 

Xavier McKnight, NABJ president, collaborated with The Tiger’s Roar on this video covering the February 2018 shooting on Savannah State University. Credit also goes to Ashia Manning and Kofi Parrish

By Isaiah Singleton, reporter, The Tigers Roar newspaper, Savannah State University, 2018 SPJ Region 3 Summer Intern

According to WSAV, the shooter was found on the scene and arrested

Tragedy struck Savannah State University’s campus on Saturday February 24, 2018, when a fatal shooting occurred in the University Commons residential apartment building 35. The incident left one dead. Police confirmed that the victim suffered multiple gunshot wounds. According to the University, the shooting occurred around 2:45 p.m.

“Speculated by Savannah State Public Safety, it was said that the shooter nor the victim were students/faculty at SSU. It was later confirmed by local news station, WSAV, that the victim was a former student at the university”.

Speculated by Savannah State Public Safety, it was said that the victim was a former Savannah State University student. It was later confirmed by local news station, WSAV, that the victim was a former student at Savannah State University.

WSAV Savannah

At first, public safety tightened up security by checking IDs for safety measures and the school issued an immediate lock-down at 4:00 p.m. It was lifted at around 4:45 p.m. when law enforcement stated that there was no threat to students on campus.

SSU shooting 3

Local law enforcement officials discuss the shooting at the University Commons, a residential facility, at Savannah State University where one person was found dead from multiple gun shot wounds in February 2018. Photo by Ashia Manning.

According to the information on the The Tiger’s Roar website and Chatham County Sheriff’s Office Booking website, “the suspect was arrested on suspicion of carrying a weapon in a school safety zone or a school function as a licensed holder, a misdemeanor, and possession of a firearm or knife during commission or attempt to commit certain felonies.”

Tigers Roar nameplate

As a student-run newspaper, chaotic situations like this may not always be covered immediately and thoroughly since students are still journalist-in-training. However, The Tiger’s Roar news team was the first news outlet to cover and report on the incident as the team was scattered on and off the University’s campus at the time.

Asia Manning

Ashia Manning

Although this occurred on a weekend, Co-News Editor Ashia Manning, discussed what it was like as one of the first people on the scene covering and reporting on the incident.

“I quickly responded while communicating with my Tiger’s Roar team. I immediately started getting documentation and started questioning people who were already at the scene to find out what happened,” she said.

Manning continued, “Multiple news stations were calling for permission to use our photos, some just went ahead and used them. My adviser called and said she wanted a story on our website as soon as possible. After a while, a second reporter met with me and was able to get a stand-up. It was intense.”

Many of the local media outlets such as WSAV and Savannah Now Morning News reported on the scene and had their teams cover the shooting via their website.  

Xavier McKnight

Xavier McKnight

Not only did Tiger’s Roar cover the story, but The Savannah State University Chapter President, National Association of Black JournalistsXavier McKnight, also discussed how he and his team reported on the shooting and kept the public updated with each new piece of information that was uncovered. McKnight, a former reporter for the The Tiger’s Roar, left the newspaper to take the leadership position for the NABJ.

“This wasn’t my first time covering a shooting on campus unfortunately. I covered the 2015 murder that took place in the Student Union, so I knew the steps that immediately had to be taken to get something successfully shot, edited, and published,” said McKnight.

With his experience in covering campus shootings McKnight knew that he had to finda place to film, he said he knew that he had to find a place to film and in order to get the information on social media as quickly as possible.

“It wasn’t about doing this for NABJ or helping The Tiger’s Roar. For me, it was about getting this out and posted on social media to let people know what was going on and to be aware of his or her surroundings,” McKnight said.

Furthermore, he discussed the challenges his team faced trying to cover the incident.

Bonita Baily SSU

Bonita Bradley

“The challenge in all of this was choosing a proper destination to film the breaking news stand-up after being told to leave the crime scene by Bonita Bradley, SSU’s assistant vice president, Office of Dean of Students.

We came to the University Village and were able to get the stand up filmed. Ashia Manning of The Tiger’s Roar was the first reporter on the scene and that was followed up by Kofi Parrish, the camera man of our breaking news package and myself”, he said.

After the shooting, The Tiger’s Roar advisor had individuals cover various topics regarding the aftermath such as a “Twitter Reaction.” This is where I was assigned to log-in to twitter and go through the SSU hashtag (#SSU), and pick out several tweets that stood out to me about how students were reacting to the shooting. Additionally, many students were either blaming the campus security and others were blaming the company people kept around them. Other students heavily expressed their concern for safety.

Other student media members were tasked on how public safety on campus would increase their security measures to ensure that this would not happen again.

At first, public safety tightened up security by checking ID’s at the front gate and if the individual[s] were not an SSU student, they were not be allowed on campus.

To take it even further, law enforcement began checking ID’s at the University Commons’ gate and implemented barriers all around the area. They stopped cars, students, and any other people from coming in and out of the residential apartments. 

Within a week after the shooting,  the barriers were lifted and they stopped checking ID’s at the University Commons.

 

Isaiah Singleton 2

Isaiah Singleton

Isaiah Singleton will be the Summer Intern for SPJ Region 3. He is a junior at Savannah State University majoring in Mass Communications with a concentration in online print journalism. Singleton is a contributing writer for the University’s student-ran newspaper, The Tiger’s Roar. Raised in Stockbridge, Georgia, writing has always been his passion. During childhood, he wrote numerous fictional stories about his life and what he wanted it to be. 

“Coming to SPJ Region 3, I want to bring my passion for writing and ability to think on my feet to the table. My goals for interning here are to establish multiple networking relationships, learn more about the media industry with hands-on experience, and to enjoy the opportunity that SPJ’s “Sizing Up the South” has in-store for me. When it comes to long-term goals, I want to become an editor and eventually I want to own my own magazine/newspaper or publishing company. I want to make change in the world via my writing whether that is hard news or more personal/ controversial topics in the world.” – Isaiah Singleton

“To succeed, jump as quickly at opportunities as you do at conclusions.” – Benjamin Franklin

 

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