By Amani Channel
My father always told us (the Channel siblings) to make sure we finish what we start, and I really know what he means now. On Saturday, May 8, 2010, I’m graduating from the University of South Florida with a Master’s in Mass Communications.
I don’t even have time to go into everything that I experienced since my first semester in 2004. The start of my graduate academic career was trying. While working full-time at Fox 13 in Tampa, Florida I had the pleasure of covering four back-to-back hurricanes while taking two classes. I seriously don’t know how I managed, and decided to nickel-and-dime it, one class at a time after that.
Then, in 2006 I moved from Tampa to Atlanta. Since I had already completed a good portion of required classes, I decided to stay at USF and not transfer. I took 3 classes at Georgia State University and transferred the credits back to USF. Then it was time to start working on my thesis.
Most of my research at USF focused on some form of interactive media, from Web TV to blogging. As I looked at the research landscape and my current interests, it seemed that citizen journalism would be a great area to study. On a personal level, I briefly worked on developing a citizen journalism show for Black Family Channel. I was already blogging, and producing my own independent news-ish content online via my blog.
The more and more I thought about it, CNN’s iReport seemed like a great area to study. It was accessible since I live in Atlanta. It hadn’t been studied before, and of the prior studies that focused on citizen journalism most did not examine how gatekeeping models may be changing .
I went about contacting some of my colleagues at CNN, starting with the PR department. It wasn’t a fast process, but I finally got approval, and as it turns out my main point person at the network went to the University of Florida (undergrad) with me.
Writing it up, and defending was the fun part. Then I had to get the format right. That mean headings, table of contents, page numbers, chapter titles, sub-titles… yadda, yadda, yadda.
Six years later, I’m on the verge of graduation. It is a great feeling, and I hope that my research will provide some valuable context to the media shift that is occurring.
Special thanks: to Jennifer Dargan, Jennifer Martin, and April Andrews with CNN PR. Also thanks to Lila King, and the entire CNN iReport department. I thank my thesis committee, dad Charlie for helping me get the format right, and my wife for her patience during this process.