“Behind the South” – Covering the Tragic Phenomenon of School Shootings in the South

NASHVILLE, TN - APRIL 01: People visit a makeshift memorial at the entrance of The Covenant School on April 1, 2023 in Nashville, Tennessee. Three students and three adults were killed by the 28-year-old shooter on Monday. (Photo by Seth Herald/Getty Images)

School shootings have unfortunately become a recurring nightmare in many parts of the United States. In particular, southern states have seen a significant number of these incidents over the years, from the 2018 shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, to the 2023 Covenant School Shooting in Nashville, Tennessee. The South has witnessed several deadly attacks that have left a lasting impact on the affected communities.

In this three-part Q&A, The Overby Center interviewed journalists who have covered school shootings in the South to get a closer look into what it’s like reporting on these horrible tragedies and better understand their lasting impact on communities.

To read each interview, click on the reporter’s name.

Kirsten Fiscus

Kirsten Fiscus covers breaking news for the Tennessean. She previously covered breaking news for the Montgomery Advertiser and the Anniston Star. Fiscus recently covered The Covenant School shooting in Nashville, Tennessee on March 27.

Tony Plohetski

Tony Plohetski is a national award-winning investigative journalist, writer and broadcaster whose work spans print, television and digital mediums. In his more than two decades of reporting in Austin, he has chronicled the region’s biggest stories, and his investigative and accountability reporting has led to indictments and prompted new state laws and other government reform. In 2022, Plohetski won August’s Sidney Award for his coverage of exclusive video depicting police response to the May 24 Uvalde Robb Elementary School shooting that left 19 students and two teachers dead. We sat down with Plohetski to learn more about his reporting of the tragic event. Plohetski and his Austin American-Statesman teammates are one of two finalists for the Pulitzer Prize Gold Medal in Meritorious Public Service, the nation’s most prestigious journalism honor, for their reporting on the Uvalde mass shooting. The honor marks the first time in the Austin American-Statesman’s 152-year history that it has been a Pulitzer finalist for news reporting. (Editorial cartoonist Ben Sargent won the Pulitzer in 1982 and was a finalist in 2001 and 2002 while at the Statesman.)

Terry Spencer

Terry Spencer is an Associated Press reporter for Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and has been with the AP since 1999. He covered the U.S. government’s seizure of Cuban boy Elian Gonzalez, the 2000 Florida presidential recount, numerous hurricanes and about President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club. Spencer regularly reports on environmental issues in his region of Florida. Spencer also covered the tragic 2018 Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida. In the shooting, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz opened fire and killed 17 people at Stoneman Douglas High School. In 2022, Cruz was sentenced to life in prison.