Sometimes it's worth waiting for a story to play out and then examining what's been reported in the aftermath. The Florida school shooting, which happened three weeks ago, is one of those cases. At least 17 people were killed when a gunman opened fire on students and teachers at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. According to police, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz confessed to carrying out the shooting. He allegedly used an AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle.

Unlike some previous school shootings in the US, the survivors didn't shy away from the cameras - they went looking for them.

The teenagers used the plentiful airtime they got to push for tougher gun control laws. And they found themselves taking on not just politicians, but one of the most potent lobby groups around - the National Rifle Association. Their fight, and the NRA's pushback, took place online.

NRA TV wants more Americans to buy guns. It goes after those who stand in their way. And that, the channel would have you believe, includes the US mainstream news media.

An NRA video posted seven days after the Florida shooting didn't target politicians or activists advocating gun control. It was devoted, in its entirety, to the way the news media cover the issue. 

Part of the students' power is that they are young, that they experienced this first hand, it gives them a moral authority and the best way to undercut that is by undermining their credibility.

Emily Witt, writer and journalist

"Well, as a conservative who has spent much of my career condemning the liberal mainstream news media in this country, I think that philosophically the NRA is right to do it. Now, do they overdo it [with their online campaign]? Probably so. Mainly because when you don't like the message you attack the messenger," says John Ziegler, a columnist for Mediaite.

Unlike previous mass shootings, however, the surviving students drove the coverage through savvy communications skills and social media accounts, in a way that no one at Columbine could, back in the day.

"The kids nowadays have practice in performing to wider audiences," points out Alvin Chang, a reporter at Vox Media. "They are on social media constantly. They know exactly how to talk to wider audiences, exactly how to, how much they have to be informed in order to talk to wider audiences."

With NRA TV - and the conspiracy theorists selling their wares in the right-wing bubble - chipping away at the credibility of the liberal media, and a little help from Fox News and a few others - the story just fades away.

Their social media skills and powers of persuasion served the students well, extending the story's lifespan and likely changing the template of the coverage of such tragedies in the future but what they haven't changed is the outcome.

Contributors:
Jaclyn Schildkraut, assistant professor of public justice, State University of New York at Oswego
Alvin Chang, reporter, Vox Media
Emily Witt, writer and journalist
Melissa Ryan, visiting fellow, Media Matters for America
John Ziegler, columnist, Mediaite

Source: Al Jazeera