J-School alums named Washington Post’s “Best State Capitol Reporters”

Four alumni of the School of Journalism made the Washington Post’s recently released list of the country’s best state capitol reporters. The list recognizes Marnee Banks (2010), Tom Lutey (1995), Mike Dennison (1981) and Chuck Johnson (1970) for their social media presence in the world of state political reporting.

Banks is the news director for KRTV and KLHX, Great Falls and Helena CBS television affiliates. Prior to working at news director, Banks was a day-to-day political reporter, creating content for seven CBS affiliate stations in Montana. During that time, she covered the Montana legislature, campaigns, federal delegates and federal legislation like the farm bill and highway bill.

“(The ranking) is based on your social media presence, which is something that I take very seriously as a journalist,” Banks said.

Banks said one of the best things about the University of Montana School of Journalism was that she felt qualified to enter the journalism world. “I was absolutely 100 percent prepared to walk into my first job and cut a story the first day I started. I had a story on the evening news that night, and that’s because the R/TV Department prepared me to write video, shoot video and prepare a script, and do it on a deadline.”

She said political reporting, “Can be intimidating, but it can be so rewarding.”

Banks’s mentor, Chuck Johnson, also encourages J-School students to take political reporting by the horns and find an internship in the field. Johnson, a veteran newspaper reporter who graduated from in 1970, credits his public affairs reporting class with helping him realize his love for political reporting. He currently works for Lee Enterprises covering elections, state government and legislature.

In his junior year, Johnson was accepted to a congressional internship for journalists. This program allowed interns to report on hearings and cover various senators and congressmen.

“Then I worked a summer for Associated Press and was asked to cover the Montana Constitutional Convention in 1972, and that’s what got it going. That’s what I’ve been doing ever since.”

Billings Gazette reporter, Tom Lutey, got his start at the Kaimin and now reports on the agricultural beat in Montana. He got his start at political reporting working for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.

Lutey genuinely enjoys being a journalist, because he says the education never stops. “You’re learning things, it’s something new every day. That’s more than a cliché, you never stop learning,” he said.

Lutey stresses the importance of taking courses in other subjects in order for stories to be well rounded. “As important as your core classes are, the other things you take are just as important. You need that econ course. You need that higher math course. You need that science course, J-School Alums Washington Post’s “Best State Capitol Reporters”because you will be much more prepared as you walk out the door.”

- posted 01/18/14 -