Friday, November 15, 2013

Kurtis Lee: "We Should All Call Ourselves Multi-platform Journalists."

Kurtis Lee was ready for bed just after midnight on July 20, 2012 when he received a call about a shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado.

Lee, a political reporter for the Denver Post, rushed to the scene and immediately started tweeting details.

"Twitter is how I get my news," said the 2009 TU journalism grad. "It's how I break news."

There were helicopters buzzing overhead and police and medical crews all around. Stunned people stood around with blood all over them, their shirts ripped open. Twelve people had been killed by a lone gunman and 71 others were shot.

"You're in the moment and the adrenaline kicks in," Kurtis said.

The next print edition of the newspaper wouldn't hit the streets for more than 30 hours. The Internet was the way to get information to people as quickly as possible. Kurtis recorded interviews and typed notes on his Blackberry, later dictating information to a rewrite person back at the office. Information was posted as quickly as it came in.

He was on scene from about 12:30 am until 8 pm - meaning he did not sleep for two full days.

"I saw so much grief and violence," he said, "that it was almost like I was in the theater that day."

Many of his colleagues sought counseling after witnessing the horror and some are still dealing with issues today.

For their coverage of the tragedy, the staff at the Denver Post won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Reporting.

"It was bittersweet," Kurtis said, and then he recalled what a friend told him: "You don't celebrate the incident. You celebrate the journalism."

Here are a few other things that stood out to me from his visit to class yesterday:

• He's from Colorado and he came to Temple because of the journalism program and the diversity of the student body.
• After he graduated, he applied for numerous jobs and suffered six months of rejection.
• He networked at events, like the National Association of Black Journalists convention and the Online News Association conference.
• He finally landed an internship with PBS Newshour, which later became his first real journalism job - writing stories for the Newshour website.
• He was one of a handful of people - on a staff of more than 30 - who knew how to use Final Cut Pro. That made him valuable.
• "We should all call ourselves multi-platform journalists," Kurtis said. "You're not going to survive as a single-skilled journalist."
• When he began covering politics for the Denver Post, he also started a web video show. And he sold ads to sponsor the shows.
• He keeps a DSLR camera in the trunk of his car in case news happens.

• When the movie theater shooting occurred, it was all hands on deck. Even the Broncos beat reporter arrived on scene to interview victims.
• You try to be as sensitive as you can while doing the job of journalism. "You want to break news," he said. "If we're not getting it first, it's because we're trying to get as accurate information as possible."
• He and other Post staffers were sent to Newtown, Connecticut last December to assist a sister news organization that had to report on the mass shooting there.

• He's had a few job offers but he wants to cover politics, so he's holding out for a good fit.
• He continues to cover the statehouse, where he is the junior reporter working alongside a veteran journalist with a huge pool of sources.
• "I've only been doing this a few years," Kurtis said. "I still have a lot to learn."

What stood out for you?

35 comments:

Chris Abruzzo said...

I really enjoyed listening to Kurtis Lee talk about his time at Temple and his experiences leading up to this point in his career. As a journalism major, I found it very comforting knowing that there was someone who sat in our room just a couple of years ago and is now having a successful start to his career. What stood out to me was how he was from Colorado and came to Temple University because he was impressed with the program. Temple does a great job of getting its name out nationally of its journalism school brand. I also found it interesting that when he reported to the movie theatre scene in Aurora, he tweeted details and information instinctually. One last thing that I took from his visit was when he recommended to brand yourself, create a website or blog. It's never too early to get your name out there and reach out to an audience.

Steven Bohnel said...

Kurtis Lee's body of work and work ethic speaks for itself. Covering something like the Colorado theater shooting is tough because of the emotions that must have been flying around, but like Lee said, getting the news out is his job. It was also clear that networking is huge, as he already has a huge pool of sources that he can rely on for stories. It's a team effort in this profession, "all hands on deck" seems to sum that idea up in a nutshell. But the best thing was how humble he was: "I've only been doing this a few years. I still have a lot to learn." Humility is huge in this profession, and the fact that each day is different in the journalism world means that you have to be on your toes. There's literally no time to be cocky, which I find awesome.

Tom Dougherty said...

I was in two classes in which he spoke, and what stood out to me was just how humble he was. I thought it was really cool how calm and collected he was, knowing he's still growing as a journalist.

Mark McCormick said...

Lee gave very informative and honest answers to each of our questions during class. Since he's apart of the new social media journalists, he can relate to aspiring journalists today and how to adapt and use social media to our advantage and get our names out there. I thought it was pretty cool that he is a political science journalist and minored in political science because I just did the same thing. It was really cool to see that a minor in political science helped give him an advantage to that.

Jeanie Davey said...

Having Kurtis Lee speak to our Journalism class was very eye-opening. Dealing with such a tragic event really challenged Kurtis as a journalist, but he handled the situation of the Aurora movie theater shooting in a very professional manner. He discussed emotional attachment vs. writing, saying how you have a job to do and still need to be sensitive to the victims. He also talked about how sometimes you have to take mental breaks, and that we're still human even when we're Journalists. During the tragic event, Kurtis brought up how journalists supported other journalists. I feel that many times people forget that Journalists encounter very tragic events and how those situations take a toll on them as not only a journalist, but a human being. The emotional aspect of Journalism very much stood out for me. I was also encouraged by Kurtis talking about how we need to be multimedia Journalists in today's society. For the job market, we as Journalists need to be well-rounded, not only being in front of the camera, but behind it with filming, editing, etc. Overall, I was very inspired and intrigued by Kurtis Lee, a former Temple student.

Valerie Vaincoeur said...

I thought it was awesome that it didn't take him long to get where he is at. It shows aspiring journalism students that your dreams can come true within a year or 2 of just graduating. He seemed very humble and the fact that he was so young but accomplished a big feat like that was awesome. Another thing that I connected to our own lesson in class was one of the journalist's obligations which was having a conscience. You could tell Kurtis wanted to get the public the truth about the aurora shooting but that he still had a conscience and that he sympathized with the families and the victims.

Timi Jones said...

It really stood out for me that he was literally in our shoes 4 years ago and has already made so many great accomplishments. This gives hope to us other journalism majors. It also gives us something to look forward to. He has experienced being one of the first reporters on the scene, breaking live news, and receiving a Pulitzer so it makes you wonder what out journey's will be.

Savannah Blake said...

I thought that Kurits Lee was an amazing and inspiring person and I learned a lot from listening to him the other day. it's amazing that he was where we are just a few years ago, and now his career has sky rocketed. I thought he made some great points, especially that when a tragic event story gets awarded you should look at it as your work being celebrated, not the tragedy. I also appreciated his input on taking as many internships as you can, even if they don't exactly fit the criteria for the job you want to end up with in the future. Everything is a learning experience. I also thought it was great advice to "brand" yourself so you stand out to employers. I am definitely taking his words to heart!

Lauren Brown said...

What stood out to me was his personal story of success, and its attribution to his calling himself a multi-platform journalist. He made a good point in saying the we all have to start calling ourselves that in order to stand out, but we also need the skills to back it up. Journalism has evolved and will continue to evolve, and Lee made it clear that we need to be evolving as journalists as well.

Kurtis Lee said...

Thank you all so much for the kind words. It was great to speak with Temple students last week. Everyone asked great questions. Many thanks to you all!

Andrew Vanech said...

Glad to know he was Broncos fan. I thought what he had to say was interesting, and couldn't imagine what was going through his mind while he was covering the terrible shootings in Aurora. He also gave some helpful advice as far as branded myself entering the field of sports journalism. Overall, he was a great guest to have in class and hope he returns soon.

gabivino said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gabi Vinogradov said...

Kurtis was so interesting to listen to. His stories about covering the Aurora shooting really gave me some perspective on handling events like shootings and bombings. I had previously never really known how journalists could handle it because it just seemed like such a traumatic experience that no one could focus or compose themselves long enough to write about it. It's also definitely inspiring to see how young he is and how involved he already is in the journalism field. It's a little reassuring considering the constant "you'll never get a job in journalism" I get thrown at me on a regular basis. Kurtis reminded me that finding work in journalism is not and never will be impossible, you just have to dig. I am now also definitely thinking about expanding my platforms and learning a bit about photography, etc.

Fletcher Jones said...

It was really inspiring and reassuring to know that he was able to land a job in his field after only 6 months. Such a good, real-life example of where perseverance can get you. Also, him telling us how his colleagues are from all different academic backgrounds, some economics and poli-sci majors, is also encouraging. Our options are never as limited as we think!

Greg Frank said...

The biggest thing that stood out to me while listening to Kurtis Lee was the poise with which he carried himself during the Colorado movie theater shooting. He acknowledged he had emotions too but as a journalist was acting just to get as much information as possible and gain access as fast as possible. For someone who's still very young and has probably never handled anything like that as a journalist, and may never again in his career, I was very impressed with the poise with which Lee carried himself.

Grace Maiorano said...

Kurtis Lee's presentation was very moving on a few levels. Hearing his story about the coverage of the Colorado movie theatre shooting truly gave me an even deeper appreciation and understanding for the ethical aspects of journalism, because he did such an outstanding job reporting the story, which is evident in his winning of a Pulitzer Prize. Hearing his story was especially inspiring, knowing that just four short years ago he was a student himself. His successful career, which was launched not long after his graduation, is evidence of Temple's amazing ability to transform its students into working, "multi-platform" journalists.

Jenna Herman said...

What stood out to me the most about Kurtis Lee was his ability to relate to the students in the class. So many Temple University students choose TU because of it's diverse student body. Also, as someone who is graduating in May, it was great to hear someone speak about the reality of job hunting, internships, and possible job rejection.
I was also impressed with his admission of "still having a lot to learn." I truly believe that by continuing to learn, you have the ability to better yourself.

Zach Roumaya said...

I think Kurtis is doing and has done exactly what every aspiring journalist should be doing. During college he networked and went to events so that he could connect with working journalists and media professionals. He knows the software, he knows the ethical side of reporting and he is a hard worker. Even at his job at the Denver Post he is constantly working to learn and become a better reporter. He should be someone that we all look to for inspiration in the field.

Jordan said...

I found Kurtis Lee to be an excellent speaker. He is a man who is very aware of his surroundings and he knows how to succeed in the journalism field. He emphasized the importance of connections in the journalism field. He said things like "how smart you are is just as important as who you know". This is how he received the opportunity to be on television. I also liked that Kurtis was humble when he admitted that he "still had a lot too learn". All in all I was very glad that he came to speak to the class.

Jordan Mayo said...

I found Kurtis Lee to be an excellent speaker. He is a man who is very aware of his surroundings and he knows how to succeed in the journalism field. He emphasized the importance of connections in the journalism field. He said things like "how smart you are is just as important as who you know". This is how he received the opportunity to be on television. I also liked that Kurtis was humble when he admitted that he "still had a lot too learn". All in all I was very glad that he came to speak to the class.

Logan Beck said...

I think that Kurtis Lee is an excellent representation of someone that goes after what he wants. As a journalism student myself, I am inspired by the insight Lee provided to us all in class, and it gives me hope to pursue my goals in the field as well. I like that he uses Twitter as a news source as well as an outlet to break news, it shows how the industry truly is evolving with the increasing use of social media.

Vincent Bevivino said...

I think Kurtis is a perfect example of a new-age journalist. He grew up in an era where technology has already been engrained in society, so all of his multi-platform skills come natural. I also think Kurtis was a great speaker and it seemed like he truly enjoyed speaking to us. Even by the way he moved further into the audience in order to answer people asking questions towards the back. Overall, I was entertained and impressed with his prolific come-up as a young journalist. He most definitely has a bright future ahead of him.

Casey Yoos said...

I thought Kurtis was an excellent guest speaker because he is still so young and fresh in his career. He is a recent graduate of Temple University therefore he can really connect to the concerns and questions we have as technology continues to change journalism. He was so humble and willing to tell us about how he got to where he is now. I really enjoyed his presentation. I enjoy guest speakers who were literally sitting in the same seats in the same classrooms that we are today. It gives you a sense of pride and encouragement that we can achieve similar goals.

Hoai-Quoc Vinh said...

It really stood out to me that Curtis is a person that went for everything that he wanted to do. He actively pursued journalism and kept his ears open for opportunity. He al is extremely active in using all forms of media. I enjoyed his statement about branding yourself. I think it is very important to brand yourself because many times now you only get a quick glance before getting moved past for employment. If people can find out who you are quickly and learn more later theres a good chance of getting the attention for a job.

Meghan Rosko said...

I really enjoyed Kurtis Lee's presentation in our class. He touched on very important issues, inlcuding internships and how to keep evolving in the digital age. Learning about the the massive shooting in Colorado from a first hand source was very interesting. I also thought it was neat that Kurtis was live updating during the trategy by using Twitter. It is always nice to have guest speakers come in to talk about their experiences at Temple, internships, and job experiences. Kurtis Lee seemed to have a great grasp on the new age of journalism and he was very inspiring.

Don McDermott said...

I thought Kurtis Lee was great. It's hard to believe he just graduated four years ago. He's done so much already, and it's a testament to his work ethic. Kurtis was definitely an inspiring person to hear talk.

Ashlee Mericle said...

I think Kurtis Lee was probably the best speaker we've had all semester. He was so down-to-earth and willing to talk to us students about anything and everything. His experience with the movie theatre shooting in Colorado was so surreal. It's crazy to think that just four years ago he was here, at Temple, sitting in classes and now he's covered one of the most devastating events in the news of recent. Personally, when the shooting occurred, I was glued to the TV watching as much news coverage as I could. I was tearing up just watching and listening to what the people, on air, had to say. I cannot imagine if I was in Kurtis's position and actually on the scene. Kurtis Lee gave some good advice to our class. He is really an inspiring person.

Melonie Collado said...

I had the privilege of being able to see Kurtis Lee on more than one occasion, the other being in my Writing for Journalism class the following day (it was a more intimate setting of about 15 people so the class was able to interact a bit more.) I think it's phenomenal that he was in the same position as all of us only a couple of years ago and had accomplished so much- yet admits that he still has so much to learn. He's a really down to earth guy and gave us his business card, telling us that he was willing to help us out with any questions we had or any other thing of the sort. And his tweets are a fun read. I think that is what struck my the most; he uses Twitter to break news a lot and I think it's insane that's where we are as a society. Things really have become so quick and instant and it proves that journalism is and always will be an evolving field which is why we must all continue to learn and grow along with it. It was awesome speaking to someone so young in the business and it got me really excited to continue on the path I'm on!

Janice Austin said...

AMAZING MAN! Humble spirit and let's not forget he was an alumni of Temple University.

Janice Austin said...

AMAZING MAN! Humble spirit and let's not forget he was an alumni of Temple University.

bspause said...

It was great to hear from Kurtis when he came to visit our class. What made his visit so great was realizing the future that may lay ahead for me. Kurtis had his head in the game, and made connections while he was here in order to advance his career. Six months without a job? That sounds a little rough, but you could say that its good to know that you'll get there eventually.

The thing that had stood out to me the most was how humble Kurtis was. He graduated in 2009 and has a Pulitzer Prize under his belt, and seemed greatful for every opportunity he had.

chengyang yu said...

I can't imagine one of our alumni won the Pulitzer Prize!!!It's AMAZING!

What had stood out to me was his modesty!!! A journalist is supposed to know his obligations and principles like Kurtis.

Jon Weaver said...

What stood out the most for me is that he said you need to know every area of journalism and communications. I also see this as an important part of getting a job and already have taken the steps to learn every area, from TV to radio to print.

Suchi Parikh said...

First thing to note was that a Temple University alum had gotten a Pulitzer Prize, its something to definitely be proud about. When I talked to Kurtis after class, he definitely was one of the nicest and polite individuals I have ever met. His story on the Connecticut shooting was definitely commendable. Kurtis was a journalist who knew and followed the principles of journalism. He is a journalistic role model, if that makes sense. His talk definitely has got me excited for whatever future I have ahead

Mariama Mansaray said...

I like he fact that Kurtis choose Temple University out of all other colleges, even though it was far away from home. what stood out to me more when he talked to us, was how humble he was when speaking of his job. i like the fact that when he speaks of his achievements to us, he didn't get a big head about it. it makes me feel as if i can accomplish the same thing also. one statement i liked that he said was "I've only been doing this a few years,I still have a lot to learn." it just goes to prove how awesome he is.lol