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With some relief on my part, this Wednesday marks the end of my first semester of online classes toward my journalism master's degree through Ball State University.
I turned in my first master's "thesis" (I use this term lightly, because it truly is incomplete at this point) a week ago. On Monday, I submitted a project design for a website with the goal streamlining college research and applications which high school seniors stress about at this time. My last regular assignment was due at noon.
My proposed design was similar to the Naviance program used at Greencastle High School and South Putnam High School. However, I was able to identify some significant issues (or "problem spaces," as we call them) which could be improved.
My paper was different, because it was theoretical and, being frank with myself, not all that original. I had flashbacks to when Dr. Michelle Rhoades wore me down over my summary of the Volkswagen Beetle's Nazi origins for my history capstone at Wabash. I certainly say this with the utmost respect for her as a fierce and passionate academic.
The crux of the paper is that a news outlet, particularly one like the Banner Graphic which serves a relatively small audience, can obtain and then share more meaningful information, as well as gain more trust from an audience. I proposed that this is achieved through active participation by journalists in their respective communities.
I will provide that my concept is original in its purpose, because I based it on my own experiences as a reporter here at the Banner. The challenge I face, however, is that while these conclusions may be logical on their own, they are inherently subjective.
I need to determine how to methodically crunch the numbers on readers' trust and "meaningful" content. I've offered that I could conduct interviews and send out polls.
Still, my thesis is centered on the idea of journalists developing a positive rapport within their communities. What happens when we get out and dedicate ourselves? This question has become essential; one I've thought about since the very beginning.
I wrote on Facebook that my paper was "either a theoretical mess, or a worthy idea" which will be the center of my master's capstone. I'm hoping it will become the latter.
I recognize the value of different concepts, such as gatekeeping and media effects, which I learned about in this first semester. They have given me a basis in both the theoretical, as well as the practical, elements of journalism as a complex profession.
I'm looking forward to the next phase in my studies, which have proven to be a worthwhile investment thus far. Perhaps I'll elaborate on some of those concepts soon.