Investigative reporter and Pulitzer prize finalist, Kelsey Ryan, came to speak to an audience of about 15 students and faculty about her journalism work after graduating from Emporia State in 2011.
She currently works as the outreach manager for the National Freedom of Information Coalition, as well as a board member on the Kansas Sunshine Coalition for Open Government. She was a Pulitzer prize finalist for her investigative work at the ‘Kansas City Star’ on the “Why so secret Kansas” stories, which highlighted the lack of transparency in the Kansas government.
“(Ryan) was a superstar,” said Kevin Rabas, chair of the English, modern languages and journalism department. "She did so many things and did so many things well, including investigative reporting."
Ryan graduated from ESU with a political science major and journalism minor, and was editor of The Bulletin for two years.
“Every day there was some new battle to fight,” Ryan said. “To be quite honest, when (McCoys) role as advisor was threatened over our editorials was probably one of the biggest red flags for me on the importance of what we were doing and the fact that we shouldn’t give up.”
According to McCoy, the department launched a staunch defense, and everything ended up alright.
“There was an editorial about parking fees going up that the administration didn’t like…it’s a revenue source for the university, but it shouldn’t be,” Ryan said. “We did a story about the foundation dollars paying for the president’s kitchen remodel twice because he didn’t like it the first time.”
Ryan said that each time The Bulletin staff was challenged it inspired staff to work even harder. She knew if The Bulletin had such a strong reaction from readers to accurate information, they were doing their jobs and doing them well.
“We definitely improved the reputation of the student newspaper over the years that we worked on it. Bringing various issues to light is important," said Ryan. “President Lane ended up resigning specifying that the coverage over that he was job hunting partly led to why he was resigning.”
After Ryan’s interview with McCoy concluded, she opened up to questions from the audience. Margaret Mellott, editor for The Bulletin asked Ryan what would happen if ‘The Gazette’ or The Bulletin vanished in Emporia.
“There’s increased political polarization, the cost of government goes up because there are no watchdogs to keep an eye on contracts and make sure they aren’t just giving contracts to their buddies,” Ryan said. “Even the bond rating can be affected. There are all these weird effects that can’t be attributed to anything else in these communities that they found.”
According to Ryan, journalism jobs are rapidly decreasing as print papers move to digital outlets.
“Go into it with eyes wide open, half the newspaper reporters in the country have lost their job in the last decade,” Ryan said.