Austin Ross barricaded himself inside a house on the 100 block of Stenner Street for several hours. He came out wearing a mask and was taken into custody by officials. | Morgan Butler/Mustang News

Sean McMinn

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For those of you who have been following along this year, you might have noticed some of the times our new, converged newsroom has done well — and not so well — integrating print, broadcast and multimedia coverage.

But this past week, we finally nailed it.

Not to pat ourselves on the back too much, but I’d like to give a quick rundown of our coverage of what became known as the Stenner Street Standoff, and how a group of student journalists took it to the next level on doing the kind of reporting we need in the 21st century.

It was just before 2 p.m. when the call about a suspect who had barricaded himself in an apartment came in to our editor-in-chief. Minutes later, students received a PolyAlert advising them to avoid the area.

Dutifully disregarding the safety advisory to avoid the area, the first reporter who left for the scene wasn’t a writer, as would have almost always been the case in the past. Instead, it was a broadcast reporter, armed with a camera instead of a pen. She later would grab video of the suspect being arrested, which went semi-viral with 1,000-plus views that evening.

[toggle title=”How we covered the standoff” state=”close” ]

  • Reporter leaves for the scene, starts filming
  • Five more reporters arrive at scene, start tweeting out information and photos
  • Reporter calls back information to editor, who writes brief for the web
  • More Twitter/Facebook coverage from the scene, updates to editors writing in the newsroom online
  • Reporter runs SD cards of photos back to newsroom, editors create Facebook album and photo post
  • Final updates filed to the web from scene
  • Reporter runs SD card of video to newsroom, cuts the arrest and publishes to Youtube and website
  • Final reporter returns from scene, begins writing front-page newspaper story
  • Broadcast reporter edits package for MNTV newscast being filmed that night
  • Editors write quick post on identity, criminal history of suspect
  • Final story and package edited, posted online together and in newscast/newspaper [/toggle]

    Meanwhile, five more reporters arrived at the hub of police activity on Stenner Street, which included Sheriff and San Luis Obispo Police Department officers carrying rifles and in full combat gear. Unafraid of the potentially armed man inside the apartment, our reporters did what they’ve been trained to: ask questions, take photos and stay aware of the situation.

    As the situation developed, those reporters got the information online in exactly the right order — starting with Twitter, then moving to brief posts on our website. The photos they took circulated on Twitter and Facebook, and they called in reports to editors in the newsroom who typed them up and posted online.

    After the arrest, a reporter ran back memory cards with photos to the newsroom, which went onto a Facebook album and photo post on our website. Video came next, and the raw footage of the suspect leaving the house went online just as local news outlet KSBY began airing its same footage.

    The writers who were there came back and started working on a longer story for the next day’s newspaper, and that first broadcast reporter cut a package for the show that night. Those two pieces are now online together in the same post.

    OK, I know I said I wouldn’t brag that much.

    But after that Wednesday, there’s a lot to brag about. Our photos of the police takedown looked like something out of a movie, and they were online within minutes. The breaking news story kept campus in-the-know about every development, and the front-page story the next day gave additional context and perspective from Cal Poly students.

    A few things we could have done better: We knew about the situation being cleared before the second campus-wide alert was sent saying the area was safe, and we could have sent our own Mustang News alert via our app to get that information out quickly. We also ran into problems quickly exporting a high-definition raw video of the arrest, and if we could do it again, I’d trade quality of the video for speed of getting it online, then update with a better one later.

    It’s difficult to make changes, and converging our student media platforms this year has brought its share of late nights and in-fighting. But work like this makes it worth it, and leaves me optimistic for the future.

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