Crowdfunding for Marjory Stoneman Douglas student newspaper hits halfway mark

In the two weeks since the shooting that claimed 17 lives at a high school in Parkland, Florida, hundreds across the ...

Posted: Mar 4, 2018 7:35 AM
Updated: Mar 4, 2018 7:35 AM

In the two weeks since the shooting that claimed 17 lives at a high school in Parkland, Florida, hundreds across the globe have come together to pledge funds and support to the students documenting the tragedy and its aftermath for the school's newspaper and yearbook.

A GoFundMe campaign created on the day of the shooting to benefit the student journalism program at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School has raised more than $15,000, half its $30,000 goal, as of Friday. The campaign is "trending" on GoFundMe and has been shared 1,300 times on social media.

Funds raised will go towards printing an ad-free commemorative issue of The Eagle Eye, the quarterly student newspaper, and an additional opener, closer, and memorial pages for The Aerie, the student yearbook. The publications do not receive funding from the state or the district, newspaper adviser Melissa Falkowski said. Leftover money will go towards buying new computers and cameras.

The campaign was started by a high school yearbook adviser several states away. Allison Miller said news of the shooting hit particularly hard, as her school in Flower Mound, Texas, shares similar demographics with Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. "It's not like a case of flooding, where they need money to replace things," she said. "What can we do to even help?"

Miller explained that both Marjory Stoneman Douglas and her high school, Marcus High School, are located in areas with similar socio-economic status and contain about the same numbers of students. (U.S. News & World Report lists Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School's total enrollment as 2,972 and Marcus High School's as 2,439.)

Miller originally wanted to finance a yearbook for every Marjory Stoneman Douglas student. Like The Aerie, her publication is printed by Walsworth Publishing Company. Miller reached out to Walsworth to coordinate the initiative, and the publisher served as the liaison between Miller and Marjory Stoneman Douglas. After some consideration, the campaign was expanded to benefit the newspaper as well.

"Journalism doesn't take a break in the face of tragedy, so they have to carry on," Miller said. "We decided to start this to help raise the funds for these students to pursue any avenue that they choose to pursue and to use their voices without the fear of the costs and the fear of the repercussions."

Rebecca Schneid, 16, a survivor of the February 14 shooting and one of the editors in chief of The Eagle Eye, said every issue of the paper costs about $3,800 to print, "but more for this one, obviously, because we want it to be in every single student and faculty member's hands." The GoFundMe has been amazing in helping to cover the costs, she said, and the support her paper has received has bolstered her drive to continue telling her high school's story.

"There's so much outreach from across the country, and I think that feeds my journalistic ambitions to want to continue to write, because there's so much support," Schneid told CNN over the phone. "Because even though this has strengthened my love for journalism, it could have easily squashed somebody else's. You never know how you're going to react to this kind of trauma, to this kind of change in your life, so I think that the support around the country has really, really helped me in that."

The show of support appears to be flooding in from all over the world, including many who are associated with media and journalism. "This donation is on behalf of the Colorado Student Media Association," reads one comment, while another pledges support from The Arrowhead, the newspaper of Souderton Area High School in Pennsylvania.

"Solidarity and love from someone who was a high school and college journalist and news editor. Stay strong," reads another comment.

Jake Palenske, an instructor with the Columbia Scholastic Press Association who teaches sessions on digital media and fake news, is among those who donated to the campaign.

"Every time I see a student organization that's a journalism organization doing great work and needing some financial support, I always try and chip in," Palenske told CNN in an interview. "But in this case, if there was ever a point where students needed to be able to have their own outlets to tell the story of the school and to tell the story of an event, it's this."

Sarah Lerner, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School's yearbook adviser, is taking her students to the Columbia Scholastic Press Association conference in the coming weeks. She said the trip was planned before the tragedy, but events that celebrate student journalism are even more important in light of recent events.

"Using your student voice, whether it's through pictures, through your words, through design, it means so much more now because they're seeing how much of a difference they can make," Lerner said.

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