A Pulitzer Prize winner and Temple alumnus said breaking into journalism shouldn’t be a fearful prospect for Temple students, as long as they market themselves in the right way.
Kurtis Lee, JOUR ’09, was part of The Denver Post team that won journalism’s biggest prize in 2013 for breaking news reporting for coverage of the July 2012 movie theater massacre in Aurora, Colo. The eighth School of Media and Communication alumnus to have won a Pulitzer returned to campus Nov. 14 and 15, speaking with five different classes along the way.
“Everyone should brand themselves as a multi-platform journalist,” Lee said in a session with Professor Chris Harper’s “Journalism and the Law” class. “The key to getting into the industry is having more than one skill.”
Lee’s ability to tap into a diverse skill set was called upon on that tragic night as he gathered information in the aftermath of the shooting.
The second Post journalist on the scene as people were still coming out of the theater, Lee sprang into action with his smartphone.
“Instead of grabbing a notebook, I grab my phone,” he said. “I’m tweeting the news right there.”
One student asked Lee if having his nose in his Twitter account all night was detrimental to conducting interviews. Lee admitted to focusing on his phone people recounted their experience, but said it’s just another skill that journalists need to have.
“When news happens, it happens on Twitter,” he said.
Twitter was the best way to break the news, since the next print edition of the Post was more than a day away.
Lee said he fully realized the importance of a diverse skill set on the day his colleagues were being taught how to use Final Cut Pro. He found a new confidence “when you’re in the newsroom and they’re bringing in people to teach skills I already know.”
‘We’re all humans’
His conversation with the students soon segued from technology to matters of covering life and death when one student asked about the human element in reporting tragedy.
“When you’re in the moment of reporting, adrenaline kicks in,” Lee said.
That doesn’t mean the weight of the event didn’t press on the minds of those covering the shooting.
“We’re all journalists, but we’re all humans,” he said, noting the Post offered counseling services to its staff.
In the months since the shooting, Lee has been covering gun legislation in Colorado. He was asked if witnessing Aurora’s aftermath first hand has affected his work.
“I have feelings on gun control, but I don’t put it out in my reporting,” he said.