SPJ Florida responds to yet another mass shooting, gives tips to help reporters through tragedies


Jacksonville Landing

Florida journalists had to report on another shooting on Aug. 26 when a man shot and killed two and injured 11 others during a video game conference at the Jacksonville Landing in Jacksonville, Florida. Wiki photo


From SPJ Florida  “News About News”

Jacksonville, FLORIDA — The Florida Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists is saddened to hear about the recent violent attack that took place at the Jacksonville Landing on Sunday, Aug. 26. Reporters in Jacksonville have reported on three shootings in less than a week: a shooting of two women on Wednesday night; a Friday night shooting at a high school football game, with one killed and two injured; and the Sunday mass shooting at a video game tournament, with two killed in addition to the gunman killing himself and 11 injured.

SPJ Florida is committed to supporting local journalists through every day stories and in times of tragedy. We’re here to provide resources and tools to help our community of local reporters do their job the best they can.

How can you help?

Pizza stacked
Take out pizza is great and fast but also provide healthy food too.

People often rise to the occasion during tragedies, but sometimes we’re unsure how we can be helpful. 

  • Reporters on the scene told us that friends bringing them water and food was helpful.
  • Consider buying your local newsroom lunch, dinner, or snacks—they probably won’t have time to take a food break, or they may even forget to eat.

Reporters, don’t forget to take care of yourself

Dart Center for Journalism TraumaEven if you aren’t directly impacted by a tragedy, it can take a toll. The Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma is a good resource for journalists, both for covering tragedy as well as tips for self-care and peer support.

Helpful reminders on ethics while covering tragedies  

SPJ Florida board member Lulu Ramadan, a reporter for the Palm Beach Post, has reported on the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting in February, the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport shooting in January 2017, and the Pulse nightclub shooting in June 2016. 

Here are some tips on reporting on tragedy from Ramadan and other reporters she’s connected with: 

  • Reporter talking to family
    Always be careful to talk to family members with empathy

    When reporting on victims, survivors and their loved ones, approach them with empathy. Trauma manifests itself in many ways, and some victims may be resistant to media attention. “Maybe have a conversation before pulling out a camera,” Ramadan said.

  • Take time to verify facts, particularly names of victims and other identifying details, before turning to social media to report. It’s tempting to publish information quickly, but it’s better to get it right. “The last thing you want to do is risk the reputation of your publication,” Ramadan said.Capture of Twitter from SPJ Florida mass shooting article
  • Tired journalist
    Editors: Check in with your staff to see if they are coping with covering a tragic event.

    Editors, have a conversation with your reporters about whether a news event is weighing on them. Offer a break now, rather than to allow stress to pile on. Reporters, have a frank conversation with your supervisors about personal needs during consuming coverage. Take care of yourself and your family so you can jump into reporting with as little personal stress as possible.