From the beginning of the Orlando massacre, one person had a lot to say about the tragedy.
That person was the Orlando Sentinel’s editorial director, Chris Rolfe.
In an exclusive interview, Rolfenews reporter Josh Riggs sat down with the editor to discuss the scope of his work, the state of the media and why he’s glad the victims of the shooting aren’t getting their guns back.
“We didn’t get it,” Rolfesays, “I think we got it wrong.”
The first shot was fired on the Pulse Nightclub on June 12, 2016.
It killed 49 people and wounded more than 500.
The Orlando Sentinel was the first major newspaper to cover the event, with an exclusive report from the night of the attack.
The paper was criticized by many media outlets for its reporting, which was so weak that it barely covered the event.
“We’re very fortunate in that the paper had a big lead on what the massacre was going to look like,” Riggs says.
The first coverage, on June 14, featured a front-page headline: “A deadly massacre on the dance floor of Orlando’s Pulse.”
Rolfs article described the nightclub as a “slum of crime” that was filled with drug dealers, prostitutes and “young, often unattractive, mostly black men.”
The paper described a scene of chaos, with the club filled with people who had been shot at and then fleeing the scene.
“You don’t know what you’re going to see in the morning,” Rolphs wrote.
“At least two people have died and dozens more have been wounded, including a police officer.”
As the massacre unfolded, the paper’s coverage of the events became increasingly focused on the media, Rolph says.
“It’s not an easy thing to write about a shooting,” he says.
“‘The shooter is in custody, he’s in jail, the shooter has been killed.'”
Rolf is critical of the Sentinel’s coverage.
“They covered the whole event,” he said.
“I would say, ‘This is not good journalism.’
They covered the bad news and the bad guys, the bad police officers, the terrible media, but then the good news was the people that were killed.”
In the aftermath of the massacre, the newspaper made a series of edits to its coverage.
The newspaper’s editorial board decided to not use the word “murderer” in the title of a story about the Pulse nightclub.
Instead, it called the shooting “a mass shooting” that occurred because of “a failure to protect ourselves.”
The newspaper also took a more balanced approach in its coverage of other mass shootings, Riggs notes.
“When you go into a place and see the carnage, you don’t want to see an actual massacre,” he adds.
The Sentinel’s article was written at a time when a mass shooting had been taking place in Newtown, Connecticut.
Rolf explains the paper took a look at the facts of that shooting.
“The shooter had already killed his girlfriend, the boyfriend had killed his wife, so what they did was they did a background check on the people who were with the suspect and then they did the background check of the shooter and the other people,” he explains.
“So there was a background and a background checks on the whole thing.”
Rolf says the newspaper was trying to make the point that the media wasn’t covering the shooting accurately.
“If you have a shooter with a gun, it’s a real problem,” he asserts.
“But the media didn’t do their homework.
They were just trying to figure out, ‘Why was he shooting in the first place?'””
It was just a lot of BS,” Rivalesays.
“And it just really messed up the story.”
A new era of trustThe Orlando Sentinel has had some rocky times.
The company has experienced layoffs and has been embroiled in a class action lawsuit over a wrongful firing lawsuit that alleges the paper failed to disclose the contents of a wrongful termination lawsuit filed against it in 2015.
The lawsuit alleged the paper made false claims about the shooter’s background, claiming that the suspect’s father was a drug dealer.
The plaintiff’s lawyers also claimed that the Sentinel did not tell the public about the background checks.
The lawsuit also alleged the newspaper gave inaccurate information about the victims and falsely claimed that a gunman who opened fire on a crowd of people in a movie theater was a Muslim.
The lawsuits have been settled and a new ownership group bought the paper in 2016.
The Sentinel’s stock has been volatile since the shooting.
The stock dropped nearly 80% in 2016, when it was up more than 200% in 2015, according to FactSet.
The drop came amid mounting pressure to reform the newspaper’s approach to reporting on mass shootings.
In 2016, the Sentinel published a series detailing the way the paper covers mass shootings and gun violence.
“As a general rule, the more shootings that are reported in a paper, the better,” Ressler