Unfortunately, a UTA student lost his life last week. Cristian Cecilio, 21, was killed last week when a wrong-way driver hit him on his motorcycle on the George Bush Turnpike. Services were Monday evening, as the report states.
This is the type of story that, while sad, impacts the UTA community and therefore is a Shorthorn story. Not today, a week later, but immediately after we saw a 21-year-old had been killed in a wreck, it needed to trigger a response from The Shorthorn. It didn’t, and The Shorthorn got scooped.
Here are some pointers going forward:
- Pay attention to the news. Not only when you know something is going to happen, like the debates, but all the time. This is our business. The televisions in both the newsroom and break room are there to keep the news on. You should be reading local media and watching the daily morning, afternoon and evening news. You should have Google alerts related to UTA and your beats/areas of interest set.
- Initial reports on an accident or crime typically don’t identify the victim or alleged criminal. Followups, however, typically do. (To see the followup, you need to followup on stories of interest to college students and college-aged students – not just what you are interested in. You no longer represent yourself, but the news consumer.)
- You might get enough information – or in this case, the name of the deceased – to do an initial check against “find people” and your Shorthorn archives. If you have a match, you need to get the date of birth from the police or the medical examiner, then check in with UTA media relations to confirm the person’s student status.
- I strongly suggest reading the obituaries each day. Some identify community members with UTA ties, while other cues include the age of the deceased. If someone is between the ages of 18 and 35, you should check out if they were a UTA student.
- Anyone – whether deceased, injured, the alleged cause of an accident, or “making the news” in any way – who is about college age (I’d say between 18 and 35) should give you pause and be someone you check out against find people. If you find a tie to UTA report it … THAT DAY. The last thing you want is to get scooped by local news about UTA when The Shorthorn has consistently been named the No. 1 source of news and information about UTA. We can’t afford to let that slip.
Professional news outlets consistently look at what their competition is doing so that they do not miss a story. Moreover, watching the news and obits ensures that you don’t miss a tie to your specific community – UTA. This doesn’t fall on one person in the newsroom; it is everyone’s responsibility. If you see something of interest or that could have a tie to UTA, look it up. Don’t wait for an assignment. Check it out the minute you see it, and get going on it. It is OK to replace a planned/current assignment with a breaking assignment. It happens in newsrooms across the country daily.
For now, let’s get those monitors on the news and your eyes toward them.