Photo Editor at Florida State Student Newspaper Reflects on Campus Shooting

“A Facebook status reporting 12 gunshots heard outside of Strozier library is posted. Immediately I wake up my roommate. We turn on the TV looking for any news coverage we can find, with no results. My mind goes numb as my thoughts bounce around playing every possible situation through in my head. … I realize we need this covered. I have no choice but to turn off all emotions and get to work.”

Matthew Paskert, the photo editor of The FSView & Florida Flambeau at Florida State University, has penned a compelling personal essay describing his emotions and activities connected with this past Sunday’s campus shooting.

As I previously posted, early Sunday morning an FSU alumnus opened fire in the school library. The gunman injured three people and “sent hundreds of students who’d been studying for final exams running for their lives and cowering behind bookshelves” before being killed by university police.

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In his essay, Paskert outlines a roughly 21-hour period as intense as it was surreal. He describes the difficulty of balancing his basic humanity (such as worrying about a friend or focusing on his own emotional state) with his journalism instincts and responsibilities. He touches on the evermore common irony of student journalists being bombarded by media requests in the wake of a campus tragedy they simply want to cover. (“The next four hours would be spent live on CNN and BBC. My name, voice, words and photos are literally worldwide.”) And he mentions a few in-the-moment tough ethical calls, such as the staff’s decision about whether or not to name the gunman.

As Paskert shared about the latter, “We collectively and unanimously decided that we would not publish or share the identity of the gunman. Instead we would show how students would sympathize with the victims, their families and the entire Florida State community.”

Separately, the snippet below captures his state of mind at the end of that very long Sunday — more than 20 hours after the shooting took place:

“I headed home in the quiet of my car, no music, no talking, just silence. With sounds to hide behind, my humanity had returned; I broke down in tears as what had happened suddenly became real to me. It was personal. My home, shelter and campus had been violated. All I wanted was to be alone in a crowd.”

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