Pulse in the Media, the Good and the Bad: How We Handle Representation and Notoriety

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President Barack Obama walks away from the lectern with Vice President Joe Biden after making a statement about the mass shooting in Orlando, Fla., June 16, 2016. Official White House photo by Pete Souza.

We will never forget the events that took place in the early hours of June 12 at Pulse nightclub in Orlando Florida. Breaking news reports were broadcast and re-broadcast as new details emerged about the shooting, those we lost, and those who survived.

Yet within those same hours we saw Orlando come together. We heard stories of heroics, of club goers acting to save lives, and to offer each other comfort during and after the events at Pulse. People donated blood to OneBlood, faith leaders shared messages of unity, and organizers and activists repeated the call for improved gun legislation.

The Orlando Sentinel won a Pulitzer prize for its coverage of the events which took place on and around Pulse and the Orlando community. 

“Without question, it was one of the toughest situations to see a staff in,” said Orlando Sentinel Publisher and Editor-in-Chief Avido Khahaifa told a fellow Sentinel reporter after receiving the award. 

Khahaifa said the reporters, editors, and photographers in the Orlando newsroom that Sunday were checking in on their own loved ones. “It was the first time in my career as an editor that I worked with HR to remind people we have an employee assistance program if anybody needs to talk.”

As the story broke, the Sentinel began its reports at 3:21 am. In the first day, the Sentinel published 40 articles and 31 videos online as well as eight extra pages of coverage in print. And as details were first revealed about the nightclub shooter, the shooter’s history, background, and alleged affiliations, the Sentinel shared those details. 

But after the initial reports, and in the weeks after the Sentinel’s coverage took notoriety away from the shooter, and focus the story on the lives of the victims and those affected. 

The BBC produced a documentary including interviews with Pulse survivors, it does not name the shooter, and focuses instead on first person accounts, using animated renderings of the club interior.

Florida’s Governor Rick Scott, addressed the community of Orlando in his State of the State address in March of this year:

Since I last stood here to address you, Florida has endured many heartbreaks. I have prayed for families around our state who have been impacted by tragedy, and my own heart has been broken for their losses. Our state has been rocked by the gruesome terrorist attack at the Pulse Nightclub, in Orlando Nothing could have prepared me for the horror we saw on June 12, 2016 when a terrorist inspired by ISIS stormed into Pulse and senselessly killed 49 innocent people.  This was a terrorist attack and 49 brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, friends and spouses were murdered. The days I spent in Orlando following the shooting will always be with me. I talked to many parents who lost their children…”  

Equality Florida, the civil rights advocacy and action group, criticized Scott for not acknowledging the victims of Pulse as LGBTQ. 

"While we are glad the governor spotlighted the Pulse tragedy, we are deeply disappointed that when talking about the worst anti-LGBTQ attack in our nation's history, our governor failed to acknowledge the LGBTQ community in any way," Equality Florida public policy director Hannah Willard said in a statement. 

"Gov. Scott spoke about the horror our state experienced in the wake of the attack, the heroism of Orlando's first responders, and the pain of families who lost loved ones. What we didn't hear was any mention of the LGBTQ community targeted in this murderous rampage which occurred on Latin night."

While Equality Florida took the opportunity to rally around efforts to pass HB 623/SB 666, which add sexual orientation and gender identity as a protected class in Florida's civil rights law, some have taken the argument for representation in another direction. 

In January the Orlando Sentinel reported that local Aleksander Sagrav, had plans to produce a 13-episode Spanish-language drama called “Pulso 360” to be filmed entirely in Orlando and air on Telemundo over the summer. Sagrav said the series would combine true events and fiction, using actors playing characters inspired by people whose lives were affected by the Pulse shooting. The series was never confirmed by Telemundo.

In February, the Sentinel reported that Spanish-language station Univision made the controversial choice of airing a re-enactment of the June 12th events during a weekend news show "Crónicas De Sábado" (Saturday Chronicles) the segment, titled “Baño De Sangre" (Blood Bath) was heavily criticized for its sensationalism and graphic content. 

 


 

 

The Newsroom Pizza Chain

As journalists continue to cover terrorism, violence and other local stories they wish they didn’t have to, fellow journos show their support with small gestures, like food.

newsroom pizza chain recently made its way to Manchester. 

-- Boston (Globe) to Baltimore (Sun), Freddie Gray Protests, April 2015

-- Baltimore (Sun) to Charleston (Post and Courier), Charleston Church Shootings, June 2015

-- the country to Orlando(Sentinel), Pulse Shootings, June 2016

-- Orlando and the country to Dallas (Morning News), Dallas Sniper Attack, July 2016

-- Dallas (Morning News) to Miami(Herald), Death of Fidel Castro, December 2016

-- Boston (Globe) to Manchester (Evening News) – Manchester Bombing, May 2017

 


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