This winter marked the beginning of the 40th season of “Indiana Lawmakers,” which takes viewers behind the closed doors of the statehouse to keep you in the know during legislative session. WFYI Vice President of Production Clayton Taylor sat down with the show’s long-time host and moderator, Jon Schwantes, to talk about the show’s unique tone and service to everyday Hoosiers.
How long have you been the host & moderator of Indiana Lawmakers?
JS: If memory serves, it has been 25 years. Now that’s what the calendar says. If you ask me what it feels, as if it has been, I’d say maybe a year or two. It’s a blink of the eye, as they say.
What do you hope the value of this show is to viewers?
JS: We live in a time when it’s easy to tune out. A lot of Hoosier voters, Hoosier taxpayers, Hoosier workers, are left wondering, “I’ve never had so much information, but I’ve never been so confused and never been so detached from what is going on at the statehouse.”
I think our role is to be the champion of Hoosiers, of listeners and viewers across the state,
somebody who is representing their interests.
Everybody else in the statehouse seems to have somebody representing their interests. What about average Hoosiers who supposedly this is all about? So I’d like to think in some small way, that we’re there to represent them.
How important is it to you to keep the civility, but also sometimes, let the lawmakers who represent opposing sides have a chance to work things out during the show?
JS: When I say civil, basically it’s from the moderator’s chair. And then in terms of the exchanges, they can be vigorous. I don’t think, though, that means necessarily that they’re not civil. There’s a difference between a good, healthy debate and calling each other names.
It’s cliché, but I want the lawmakers to feel as if we’re sitting around either a kitchen table or in the family room. That’s not to say we don’t ask tough questions because I think we do. We ask very tough questions, but again, we do them in a civil way.
A lot of times, because we’ve created an environment where people feel comfortable talking, there are some negotiations that are going on after we’re done with the taping. So that’s
fun, to have literally a front row seat on happenings at the statehouse.
What would you like to say to the WFYI viewer who has never watched ‘Lawmakers’?
JS: We understand you’re bombarded with incredible amounts of information, much of it very confusing, much of it intentionally misleading. We understand that.
Give us a half-hour each week, and we’re going to try to take the most important issues that are going to have the most significant impact longterm on you and your families, and we’re going to make sense of them for you or at least try.
And we’re going to do it as much by cutting out as much jargon and theatre as we can, and focus on information: Valid, actionable, accurate information. That’s what we’re all about.
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