Homepage News Journalism Program News Student Work Television

First-Person: How the Parkland Shooting Spurred Powerful TV Journalism

By Chelsea Narvaez, Hunter Class of 2016

Chelsea Narvaez
Chelsea Narvaez

I was on the job just a few weeks, looking to make a great impression in my first experience in long-form TV news, slowly getting more work and responsibilities as colleagues grew to know me.

Then tragedy struck. 

Feb. 14, 2018. The shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., that left 17 dead, 17 wounded. 

At the CBS News program 48 Hours, where I worked as a production associate, it almost seemed business as usual at first, since it was our daily news programs, CBS This Morning and Evening News, that covered the breaking story.

“As the spotlight grew on student activitists who had survived the attack, we knew something unprecedented was beginning.”

But then, as the spotlight grew on student activitists who had survived the attack, we knew something unprecedented was beginning. And by the time those students started planning their nationwide “March for Our Lives,” we knew we had an opportunity to capture history in the making. 

My colleagues and I began working in collaboration with CBS This Morning to put together a documentary that followed some of the students and parents in the period between the shooting and their march to honor those who had lost their lives.

That march ultimately drew hundreds of thousands to Washington, D.C., with many others rallying at hundreds of sister events around the country. 

Time to show my worth

My job, while our producers and crew embedded with the student activists, was to organize the hard drives worth of video material they gathered every day, as well as to retroactively organize everything we had from the day of the shooting to the day we started working on the documentary.

It was an enormous amount of material, but my task to make sure our team in New York knew what we had. And it was my time, in my first full production there, with colleagues who were still getting to know me, to show my worth.

“For me, watching the producers and editors work day and night was a master class in the TV news business.”

For me, watching the producers and editors work day and night was a master class in the TV news business. I was in awe of what we managed to put together in just three weeks.

When our powerful documentary, “39 Days,” finally aired, we cried. We felt the weight of the awful tragedy that occurred and wished we never had had to make this record of it. But we also felt pride in telling the victims’ stories and the stories of their friends and family as best we could. 

Doing the story justice

Fast forward to 2019. 

Our moving report was fortunate to be nominated for a Peabody Award, and even more blessed to be recognized with two prestigious industry awards. We received an Edward R. Murrow award for best news documentary last June and an Emmy award for best news special just last month. 

“[W]e did our best to do this story justice and it’s an honor to be recognized for that.”

Of course, if we could trade these awards for the 17 lives horrifically taken away, we would. But we did our best to do this story justice and it’s an honor to be recognized for that. 

Looking back, when I graduated from Hunter College in 2016 with my BA in media studies and journalism, I had no idea what my future in the real world would look like. I still don’t. 

But I was lucky enough to have a job lined up and a decent amount of experience under my belt from great internships, classes and mentors (shout out to Hunter and to faculty member Coralie Carlson, who I interned for when she was at WNBC). 

What would that translate to? Now I know. To be part of the phenomenal 48 Hours team that produced this beautiful work and won these prestigious honors at the very start of my career is something I never could have imagined as a student at Hunter. 

Plus, read about the documentary’s Emmy award.

Our Journalism Concentration & Minor

The Hunter College journalism program is offered as a concentration or a minor within the Department of Film & Media Studies. Its curriculum is built around production courses in journalism and analytical courses in media studies. Learn more about our course requirements.

Follow us

Our Archives

Journalism Newsletter Signup

Subscribe to the journalism newsletter

* indicates required

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*