Mid-Semester Check-In: Thesis Thesis Thesis

Mid-Semester Check-In: Thesis Thesis Thesis

Journals from my students–taking a break from thesis work really just means doing other work.

Wow. Wow. Wow.

Here I am smack in the middle of the last semester of graduate Journalism. I haven’t lost much of my hair (that I can tell), I’m fairly healthy (to my knowledge), and the only major ‘L’ I can recall taking is losing super small morsels of my sanity over time. No big deal, right?

This is what the middle of the last semester of graduate Journalism looks like:

  • unfolded laundry all over the closet
  • wearing jeans and hoodies whenever you have to leave the house
  • getting mad points as a Panera member only because you know you need some kind of vegetable in your life
  • speaking of food, odd combinations of food items in the kitchen because you binge eat weird things
  • sticky notes. everywhere.
  • students’ assignments all over the coffee table waiting to be graded

So the reality of it is, thesis work is not exactly the big ugly monster I thought it would be. In essence, we each chose a public affairs question that needs to be answered. For us, it has the potential to be an excellent lesson in “slow journalism.” In contrast, we’ve mostly only worked on stories either due in a day or a week or two at most until now. With our thesis work, we have just about an entire semester to report: to talk to real people and families, to talk to authorities and experts, to talk to those on both sides of whatever issues we choose. The name of this game is building trust with the people involved in the public affairs issues we choose.

I chose to report on how families and communities react after shootings and the activists who show up to gather these families. For me, this semester is about sitting and listening to the families of victims of gun violence. It’s about talking to the activists who want to make these grieving folks the faces of their causes. I’ll be seeking out the motives of the politicians, preachers, and protesters who surround these families and hold marches, vigils, and press conferences for them. I want to know more about these relationships, specifically whether or not any of them are predatory or self-serving. I’ll have to listen to families recount the most terrible moments of their lives and ask the hard questions. Everything thus far has led to work like this.

This semester’s been quite a ride, to say the least so, of course, I have to plug a bit of self-care here. I had the pleasure of dropping everything to attend a Chicago Ideas Week talk about the intersection of streetwear and high fashion in the city. The talk featured Dapper Dan,  Joe Freshgoods and Jason Mayden.

Being able to listen in on conversations about other creative fields gave me a much-needed break, but also gave me a few nuggets to apply to my own writing and creative ventures.

So, a nugget for you: do things often that seemingly have nothing to do with journalism. Your brain will absolutely need the break, but it will still pick up bits and pieces that can refresh your outlook on your work.

Dapper Dan, Joe Freshgoods and Jason Mayden speak with Teen Vogue fashion director Rajni Jacques.