In celebration of the 15th anniversary of the Franklin College Statehouse Bureau and the 10th anniversary of TheStatehouseFile.com, the site hosted a Q & A panel with alumni.
The discussion was led by TheStatehouseFile.com publisher and Franklin College Pulliam School of Journalism director John Krull. Joining him were current Franklin College senior Carolina Puga Mendoza and alumni Abrahm Hurt, Shelby Thomas, Emily Ketterer and Lauren Casey.
Puga Mendoza and the graduates spoke about how their time at TheStatehouseFile.com has prepared them for their future or current careers in government and media.
Two of the alumni, Casey and Ketterer, currently work journalism jobs.
Casey, a morning and midday anchor at WRTV Indianapolis, said working at TheStatehouseFile.com led to her first internship at a TV station, then an internship at WRTV that turned into a career.
When she first started at the online publication, she received feedback from then-Sen. Richard Lugar about a column she wrote on tax cuts that was picked up by a few political websites.
"I just thought it was an incredible experience, and being in the media now, at a television station, we do not have the resources on any given day to cover the Statehouse the way that TheStatehouseFile.com does," Casey said.
Now her days start at 2 a.m. at WRTV, and she returns home to her 2-year-old at 12:45 p.m. after a full schedule of anchoring and shooting, editing and writing her own enterprise stories.
Ketterer, now a Statehouse and economic development reporter for the Indianapolis Business Journal, said the program prepared her well for her current job.
“I got this job and I didn't feel like I was super lost trying to navigate and learn the state legislature and Indiana state government,” she said. “I kind of already had a good handle on what to do, who were the lawmakers I needed to contact about certain issues, and things like that.”
Prior to working at the Indianapolis Business Journal, Ketterer said her experience helped her land a job at The Daily Journal, a newspaper covering Johnson County, Indiana, and an internship in Washington, D.C.
Thomas and Hurt now work in the Statehouse in a different way. They both hold roles as communications professionals.
Thomas works in the Indiana governor’s office as a special assistant to the executive director for drug prevention, treatment and enforcement, which she joked is the longest title in state government. In this role, she works under the state’s drug czar in communications and operations and plays an integral part in the governor’s communication team.
TheStatehouseFile.com sparked Thomas’ interest in politics and led her to get a job at The Republic, a newspaper in Columbus, Indiana, covering government and education, she said. When she wanted to try something different, she applied for a position at the governor’s office.
“I really think [The Statehouse File] kind of shaped my understanding of state government now,” Thomas said.
Hurt, a press secretary for the Indiana House Republican Caucus, got to spend a lot of time in the House prior to his career due to his work with The Statehouse File. It helped prepare him for the pace of passing a bill into a law and for how hectic a session can get, he said.
“Those experiences that I got interacting with the legislators while I was in college have definitely prepared me to come alongside all these different folks and actually have a baseline knowledge of what I'm doing,” Hurt said.
Current student Puga Mendoza did not get to experience her semester at the Statehouse in person due to the COVID-19 pandemic but said the most important thing she took from the experience was to be adaptable.
“I had to become expert in multiple things within a week, sometimes within hours,” she said.
In the end, Krull summed up the evening by saying TheStatehouseFile.com creates a sense of camaraderie. He thanked the five guests and all current and former students in the program, whom he said took on challenges with the self-confidence of professionals. Also receiving a thanks from the publisher were current and former editors of the publication.
“What success TheStatehouseFile.com has experienced in that time is all a product of the fact that they stepped up and did things that were remarkable,” he said.