As a senior producer for CNN, Ryan Struyk is always learning. He gets to write questions for guests and spends a lot of time researching and writing. His love for journalism was sparked at Calvin, where he served as the editor-in-chief of the student newspaper.
For alumnus Ryan Struyk ’14, journalism is an ongoing education. “I love learning something new, which is one of the reasons I love this gig,” he said.
Struyk’s “gig” is serving as a senior producer for CNN, a role that requires him to know a little bit about everything. “My job is specifically to write interview questions for our Sunday morning show State of the Union, so it’s a lot of research; it’s a lot of writing. One of the reasons I love my job is because you have to have an inch-deep knowledge of just about everything from infrastructure to immigration to foreign policy with China, Russia, and North Korea to, obviously, the pandemic.”
A SOLID FOUNDATION
Having a broad-based liberal arts education as a foundation has aided Struyk in this regard, particularly his double major in mathematics and political science.
“I came to Calvin wanting to be a high school math teacher,” he said. “I was going to major in math. Then I took a political science class and fell in love with it and decided that working in a classroom was not going to be my thing. At one point I told my (political science) adviser I was going to drop math, and he was like, ‘no, no you’re not.’
“That was just some tremendous advice that I got from Professor (Doug) Koopman, who was looking out for my best interest,” Struyk said. “That’s why I ended up working as a data reporter for several years right out of college.”
Struyk began work on a polling unit and the 2016 election for ABC News and then moved to CNN, where he has been for the past five years.
During his Calvin career, Struyk was also encouraged to pursue his interest in journalism, eventually finding himself as editor in chief for Chimes, Calvin’s student newspaper.
“That was an opportunity that I bring into work every day at CNN,” he said. “The experience I gained in how to navigate a team, how to lead other people, how to think about news judgment and what’s important and not important was all invaluable.”
HIGH PRESSURE, HIGH REWARD
Struyk spends his days catching up on the latest news and thinking about guests he may want to have on the show. Once the guests are booked, he focuses on writing interview questions.
“I’m reading everything the guest has said in the last several weeks, reading what legislation they are working on, continuing to stay up on the news of the day, and trying to figure out how we can conduct the best interview with this guest,” he said.
“It’s high pressure, but it’s also high reward,” he added. “It’s really satisfying at the end of the day to have put a show on the air and have this finished product. It’s also really exciting when your question makes news or your guest gives you an important answer that you feel like really furthered the conversation in Washington.”
Journalistic integrity is at the heart of Struyk’s work; the principles of truth and being a voice for the voiceless are fundamentals learned from his tenure at Chimes.
“Currently, we’re in a season where journalism is under a lot of scrutiny,” he said. “What’s important in these moments is to return to the fundamentals of journalism, verifying facts and reporting the truth.
“I see a lot of really important ways that the Christian faith maps into the work of journalism, that is speaking truth, embracing the image of God in all people, exposing injustice, amplifying the voices of marginalized people. These things run central throughout Scripture. It always surprises me when there are Christians who dismiss the work of journalism. The core goals of news overlap pretty clearly with our calling as Christians and believers in Jesus Christ.”