After five police officers were killed at a protest in Dallas in 2016, the Houston Chronicle created a team ready to drop everything and cover disasters. They went to Sutherland Springs, Texas, after a mass shooting at a church. They went to Austin, Texas, after serial bombings began there.
The idea, Metro Editor Dianna Hunt said, was to have a team ready “to drop and go.”
On Friday morning, that team of six had to drop everything and stay in Houston.
SANTA FE, Texas – At least 9 people died Friday morning in gunfire at Santa Fe High School, law enforcement officials confirmed, while area hospitals reported at least a dozen others were injured.
Police arrested a student suspect and detained a second person, Santa Fe school officials confirmed.
The dead are expected to include students and staff, according to a senior law enforcement official who was not authorized to speak about the investigation.
The disaster team includes St. John Barned-Smith, Keri Blakinger, Dug Begley, Mark Collette and Andrea Zelinski.
More than a dozen reporters are currently out reporting the story, Hunt said, with more in the newsroom following all the threads, including background on the school itself, how locals are responding on social media and what reporters know so far.
The disaster team is prepared with cars gassed up, bags packed, bottled water and food.
"I think people are just ready," Hunt said. "They know."
The Chronicle was recently a finalist for a Pulitzer for its breaking news coverage of Hurricane Harvey and the flood waters that filled Houston after. From that coverage, the newsroom has also learned that, in any disaster, you need people in as many places as you can get them, Hunt said.
Earlier this year, two journalists who covered mass shootings in Texas and Florida started a Facebook group offering tips and support for others who have to do the same.
Hunt said that in Houston for now, editors are “wary and watching, but letting people get out and do their work. If they need a break, then we do that.”
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- In Houston, journalists are sorting rumors from fact live on TV
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- Best practices for covering mass shootings
Correction: An earlier version of this story noted that four police officers were killed in Dallas. That's incorrect. Five officers were killed. We apologize for the error.