Balancing Act: Student Journalists Reflect on the NIU Shooting

Five years after a gunman opened fire on a classroom of 120 at Northern Illinois University, killing five people and wounding 21 others, former student journalists reflected on their experiences covering the tragedy in an article for the Rockford Register Star.

“We were being pulled in a lot of different directions emotionally and professionally,” said Justin Smith, who was the web editor for the campus newspaper, the Northern Star, at the time. “On one hand, we were student journalists trying to do our job of covering the story. But on the other, we were part of the story and we were being interviewed by other media about covering the story. And another part of it was we were students and colleagues of people lost in the tragedy. So it was tough to figure out at times what role to play.”

Dart Center Academic Fellow Jim Killiam was the faculty adviser for the Northern Star during the crisis, and put together the Dart Center’s campus shooting resource package drawn from his experience at Northern Illinois, and from lessons learned following the 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech.