2020 Grad Transforms Journalism Degree into Political Communications Career

When Caty Payette, ’20, began working for Student Media, she didn’t imagine she’d one day work for a member of Congress. Yet since graduation, the journalism major has worked for three different U.S. Representatives, representing Ohio, Wisconsin and Alabama.  

She is currently the communications director for U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH), whose term is set to expire Jan. 3, 2023.

“Because I am so opinionated and so vocal, I wanted to operate within the communication sphere, where I get to directly talk to people and help people in a way that allowed me to shape the difference that I wanted to make,” Payette said.

Ohio’s 13th District, which Rep. Ryan has represented since 2003, includes Kent State University; because of this, Payette attributes the opportunity to work in the district as another great experience she obtained because of her undergraduate experience.

Payette became interested in journalism when she was a sophomore in high school. She hadn’t heard of Kent State and was set on going to the Ohio State University before meeting her mentor at WBNS-TV in Columbus: Karina Nova, a fellow Golden Flash.

“That caused me to look into the (School of Media and Journalism) and then actually visit campus and from there, I fell in love,” Payette said. “Especially all of the extracurricular activities you can really get into.”

Student Media played a large role in preparing her for her current career — even though she doesn’t work in journalism.

“For me, it was TV2 and KentWired and the student news publications that really were the things to prepare me for my job now,” Payette said.

In TV2, she rose through the leadership ranks, starting as an anchor, then moving up to a multimedia journalist, then news director and finally, general manager.

“All of that went hand in hand with the phenomenal, incredible teachers and educators I had there,” Payette said. “They were my professors and my teachers at the time, but now they’re people who I can call friends.”

It was an advantage having professors who have been in the field, she said, and that they were able to speak about overcoming challenges firsthand in the journalism world.

Payette’s first encounter with political communications came when she interned with C-SPAN during summer 2019.

“I was an intern on the program called Washington Journal,” she said. “I was able to help book members of Congress, national reporters and a large swath of people in the Washington sphere.”

This internship ignited Payette’s interest in politics, and she said she wouldn’t be in the position she’s in today without it. Her journalistic background gave her an insight to the political spectrum that was unusual in the field.

“Had I not had the experience of being a journalist and understanding how assignments work … just having that inherent knowledge, I don’t think I could have been as successful as I am today,” Payette said.

Developing connections and relationships with people is what makes Washington work, she says. The crossover of journalism and politics, and her time at Kent, led Payette to see how important developing these connections are.

“The journalism program (at Kent) was able to connect me to my internship and provide me that real-life, hands-on experience that I needed to be successful where I am today,” Payette said.

POSTED: Tuesday, November 15, 2022 04:40 PM
Updated: Wednesday, December 14, 2022 08:54 AM
Kaitlyn Finchler, '23