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.
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?
1 year ago