The Trace is a small nonprofit newsroom covering a big issue: gun violence in America, which kills 100 people and injures another 200 every day. To maximize our impact, we collaborate widely with other media organizations. Following the school shooting, we combined strengths with the Miami Herald to produce “Since Parkland,” a project far more consequential than either of us could have pulled off alone.
From the outset, the project partners believed it was important that young people lead the reporting for “Since Parkland.” So project director Akoto-Ofori Atta, The Trace’s managing editor, recruited innovative journalism educators to assemble and manage a team of teen journalists who reported brief, moving profiles of 1,200 kids killed by guns during the 12 months that began with Parkland. The journalism educators created a digital training guide establishing professional standards for the students’ reporting and consistent parameters for the storytelling, then worked with Trace staff to build a training site that allowed us to onboard teen journalists as recruitment proceeded last summer and fall.
In all, 214 student reporters completed at least one victim profile. Participant surveys indicate that half of the teen journalists are from populations underrepresented in media.
The Miami Herald took the lead on fact-checking and supplemental reporting. Data reporter Caitlin Ostroff wrote a computer script to automate the process for requesting police reports for each case, dramatically cutting the time we spent on record collection. The Herald also coordinated with other McClatchy papers to dispatch reporters to communities from Modesto, California, to Rock Hill, North Carolina, to Wilmington, Delaware, to report stories on the patterns and policy failures revealed by the information the student reporters had collected.
Together, the McClatchy journalists produced an additional 25 multimedia stories highlighting the disproportionate toll that gun violence imposes on black and Latinx children, the young collateral victims of domestic violence, and the dangers adults create when they store guns unsecurely.
By Slack, Google Docs, AirTable, conference calls, and in-person summits, editors from The Trace and the Herald collaborated nearly every day for 10 months to find creative solutions to the challenges inherent to a project this ambitious. We negotiated on the design a microsite presenting the young victims of gun violence as the people they had been: siblings, musicians, athletes, gamers, college-bound seniors, dancers, and jokers. As new cases came in right up through launch day, text and photos flowed through a quality control process involving staffers from both publications. Meanwhile, the teen reporters shared reporting and writing tips with their counterparts from across the country and organized their own writing marathons to hit key deadlines.
In all, nearly 300 professional and student journalists from more than 25 states came together to produce the package, racing to launch it on the anniversary of the shooting. Their collective efforts yielded an unprecedented record of how gun violence affects America’s children, and forced a national reckoning with the everyday shootings that are too quickly forgotten.