June 12, 2016

Editors at the Orlando Sentinel had a couple of options for Monday’s front page: Offer a traditional treatment with news of the death of 50 in a nightclub shooting early Sunday morning or go with full-page editorial?

When Todd Stewart, senior editor for multimedia and visuals, left a late afternoon meeting, he thought the answer was a compromise that included the news and some of the editorial. But, he thought, the compromise felt a little soft.

The front page some 30 hours after the nation’s worst mass shooting should make a statement.

“I actually never worked up the compromise.”


All day, people in Orlando and around the world saw images of the crime scene.

“It’s time for the newspaper to put a voice to what we’re all feeling,” said Stewart, who started working early this morning before coming into the newsroom at 7:30 a.m. For the first 10 hours of his day, no one talked about the print newspaper, he said.

“That’s a change, even in the last couple of years,” he said. “I’m proud of that.”

Unlike the profusion of cable news pundits and politicians who used the shooting as a jumping-off point to make a political point or further their own agendas, the Sentinel opted for a message of unity in its editorial:

Beyond offering our abundant prayers and sympathy, we must ensure that those who survive — who will forever carry the scars from the trauma — know that they are not alone today, tomorrow or in the months and years to come.

Let our community define itself by our unequivocal response: United.

Included in the Sentinel’s ongoing work on Sunday — 30 videos and 40 stories.

Avido Khahaifa, the Sentinel’s editor and publisher, isn’t sure there’s a right or wrong decision for Monday’s front page. He understands the impulse to take a traditional approach.

“I just think this called for something different from us,” he said. “What we’re doing kind of captures what the day has felt like.”

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Kristen Hare teaches local journalists the critical skills they need to serve and cover their communities as Poynter's local news faculty member. Before joining faculty…
Kristen Hare

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