Date/s: 11/5/2016 – 1/1/17
Materials: Google Forms, Microsoft Word, iPhone Voice Recording
Objective/Purpose: In my original work article, I was attempting to answer the question of why Frisco ISD sticks with its many smaller high schools rather than fewer large ones, why we don’t take finals, why we have retakes, and how students feel about FISD’s success in creating a learning environment that encourages growth. I wanted to provide insight on why Frisco ISD has the policies that it does, what its goals are for students, and how it has maintained the benefits of a small-town feel in the midst of exponential growth. Beyond the subject matter, I was trying to apply all of the traits of good journalism I acquired through research; remaining objective, getting all points of view on the subject, and making good use of technology as a journalism aid.
Description of Process: I first researched popular topics in journalism today- things the journalism community is buzzing about, news that hasn’t been widely covered yet, or interesting stories that needed to be told. I eventually decided to write a story about Frisco ISD because I knew that it 1) had the potential to make an impact in my community, and 2) allow me to realistically gather quotes/data/comments from relevant sources. After deciding the topic for my article, I narrowed it down to a select few concepts within FISD: why we have so many small schools, the retake policy, the lack of final exams, and student opinion on the district.
I then had to start collecting quotes from students of Frisco ISD, as well as from adults currently or previously involved with Frisco ISD. I first created a survey asking what Frisco High School students thought about FISD’s policies and what they thought the district could improve upon. After I had collected ample responses, I analyzed them for similarities and differences and selected a few that represented the opinion of the majority. I embedded these into the article where fitting, and built body paragraphs around these responses by elaborating in my own words.
Next, I conducted an interview via email with long time school board member Buddy Minett asking about the origins of certain policies as well as the reasoning behind their establishment. I then inserted his responses and moved on to my last interview with Dr. Rick Reedy, former FISD superintendent. I used my iPhone to record Dr. Reedy’s incredibly detailed responses to my questions concerning FISD’s massive growth, then transcribed his quotes into my article. After I had all of the outside comments I needed, I finished my article with my own words, ensuring that it was as objective as possible while maintaining an engaging tone and unique voice.
Utilization of Higher-Level Thinking Skills: In the creation of my original work, I had to evaluate the student survey responses one by one, as they all differed in point of view. I then analyzed them heavily for similarities and differences, seeing if there were any overwhelming majorities in either direction on any subject. Lastly, I synthesized them to provide an accurate representation of the student body’s thoughts in my article. I had to make sure that the responses I chose to include were detailed enough, used proper language and grammar, and represented a diverse range of students from a number of grade levels and genders.
Results: From writing my article, I have learned many lessons about our local school district and how it affects its students. I’ve gained insight on Frisco ISD’s goals and purpose behind their policies. Perhaps the biggest question I had going into my original work has been answered; we have small high schools because the people of Frisco wanted them, and because it allows students to remain actively involved in their school. In addition, I learned that the lack of finals is due to the overabundance of standardized testing in the district, and that the retake policy was established to encourage mastery of material regardless of how long it may take.
Conclusions/Interpretations: In addition to lessons about Frisco ISD, I have also learned new things about my topic, print journalism. I have reached the conclusion that in order to write on particular subject matter, a journalist must first take time to become educated on the subject (or at least have background/context) in order to successfully write an insightful piece. Going into ISM, I was under the impression that journalists were simply told what to write about by a boss of some kind without any previous knowledge besides basic facts, but it is quite the opposite. Journalists, before even beginning to write, must first acquire facts from various sources about the people involved and events leading up to the one being focused on. If the writer knows nothing except for the details of the actual event being reported on, the only thing that they can possibly write is a news report- undetailed facts, vague statements, and promises of more information coming later. However, by taking the time to do research and familiarize themselves with the subject, a journalist can give a whole new level of depth to their writing.
Furthermore, I have learned that when acquiring sources, it is important to have a plan B, C, D, etc. Many of the adults that I reached out to when asking for comments never got back to me, and I had to reach out to far more adults to finally get an interview than I had originally anticipated. Even though somebody may be at the top of a journalist’s “to interview” list, they may not be the best choice. Creating a long list of possible sources along with a long list of possible questions to accompany it assures that a writer will not be left in a time crunch if requests for comments get turned down one after another.
Application/Meaning: In my future endeavors in journalism, I can apply my new knowledge by doing more prerequisite work when preparing to write articles. From now on, I can search for multiple sources who may have information on the story in the beginning stages of the process, so that I allow myself ample time to secure an interview with one of them if I get turned down multiple times. Additionally, I will ensure that I do anything in my power to make sure I am knowledgeable about anything that I may write about. More than anything, I want my writing to mean something to people; by providing unique insight, unheard details, and helpful context, I can set my writing apart.