By Lesley Weidenbener
Lesley Weidenbener, executive editor, TheStatehouseFile.com
INDIANAPOLIS – The names may be familiar to especially careful readers.
Alec Gray, Jacob Rund, Adam Lee, Olivia Covington, Seth Morin, Hannah Troyer, Ellie Price, Chris Arnold and Emily Metheny.
They’ve all been writers, photographers, designers and videographers for TheStatehouseFile.com in just the past year. Their stories have run in newspapers and been posted on media websites across the Indiana.
They’ve covered the religious freedom debate, the state budget, tax policy, same-sex marriage and more. If lawmakers or Gov. Mike Pence did it in the past year, then one of these reporters probably wrote about it. And their coverage won awards, even as they competed against the largest media organizations in Indiana.
But these fine journalists aren’t pros. They are students.
At least they were. On Saturday, they graduated from Franklin College.
Like thousands of college students across the state this month, they moved their tassels from one side of their mortarboards to the other, a symbol of a move from student to professional.
Of course, those who’ve made the move before them know the transition is not always so simple. Their journeys are still in infancy. The challenges ahead will likely be as big or bigger than any they faced in the protective arms of the campus.
And yet, graduation is still a milestone to cherish. And it can be an important reminder to all of us about what’s possible if we look at our world with fresh eyes and new promise.
My students – my former students – are taking different paths. Some will start as reporters. Jacob is headed to Communications Daily in Washington D.C. Olivia will start soon as a reporter at the Columbus Republic.
Others will take on other forms of media. Alec and Emily are working in radio production. Seth is going into public relations. Ellie will be an editor and designer at a trade publication. And some – including Adam – are trying something completely different.
I can only hope the skills my colleagues at Franklin College have tried hard to instill – to be fair and honest, to be dogged and thorough, to be clear and concise – will help them in whatever career they choose.
But the amazing thing about working with college students is what great teachers they are as well. From this group, I have learned to be more open-minded and more empathetic. I’ve become a better listener. I’ve become a better editor.
As Jacob left the Statehouse for the last time as a student, he challenged me to be tougher and to raise my standards – advice the next group of students may not be so happy for me to heed.
But he was right.
And although I didn’t move a tassel or get a degree this weekend, I did receive a good dose of inspiration for change. That’s what the graduation season is all about.
Lesley Weidenbener is executive editor of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.