jour 5300
Public Affairs Reporting

Dr. Barry Hollander


IMPORTANT: Some of you are struggling to finish your stories. New deadline is noon Monday, hard copy only, my office. That's 12/10 for the date-challenged.


A class devoted to accountability journalism, to holding governmental and other instutituions accountable to the public, to focusing on hyperlocal and hyperinterest. We'll also spend a lot of time on reporting & writing, even some on data crunching and maps because, what the hell, I like maps. Also expect this Fall some local (maybe national) election coverage.

What's accountability? How about this.



An Introduction to News Reporting by Yopp and Haller (no other stuff needed, just the textbook, available used). This is our main text.

Writing Tools by Clark, a great little writing book.

You will also need (free):

* A Google account for accessing documents and Fusion Tables.

* A Twitter account, set to public viewing, to practice tweets and see how journalism orgs use it.

* A account to practice tweets and by using shortened URLs.

* And just for the hell of it, a Storify account.


We will have quizzes on the main text chapters just to ensure you read them, possibly a bigger test when we're finished with the book. Also expect a lot of busy work assignments, stuff not graded but you get checks for, and a failure to have a lot of these "checked" will hurt your grade. These will include compare/constrast assignments, bringing in stories to analyze, etc.

Of course there'll be lots of reporting and writing assignments -- both in class stuff and out-of-class stuff, from mundane in-class fact sheets to coverage of real governmental meetings. There'll be some computer-assisted reporting assignments. And you'll have a major story or two over the course of the semester. The bulk of your grade will come from writing and my mood at the time of final grade assignments.


Required. There are no excused or unexcused absences. You get three freebies. On the fourth miss, it's a 5-point drop on your final average. Fifth miss, 10 points. Sixth miss, 15 points. And so on until we hit negative numbers.

Base Expectations

1. You are expected to cover three public meetings. A failure to cover all three will result in an Incomplete for the class. More to come.

* An ACC commission meeting or agenda-setting meeting (not committees, not work sessions).

* An ACC school board meeting or agenda-setting meeting (not work sessions or committees).

* A UGA Council meeting (once a month, I think Thursday afternoons). You may replace a Council meeting with one of the two meetings above.

When are Meetings?

ACC Government | Meeting stuff
ACC Schools | Board Meetings

University Council

2. Storify

We'll talk about this later, but you'll use your Storify account to gather tweets and to create a story (of sorts) about an event or incident. don't do this until we talk about it.

3. Dossier

You'll be required to do a complete public records scoop about an assigned local politician. Best if an ACC commissioner or ACC school board member.

4. A semester-ending enterprise public affairs story. We'll discuss this later. Something interesting and original.

5. New media stuff. There are some required videos and required workshops for you to do and attend, plus gear you have to own. More on this to come, but see the link in this graf for details.

6. A bunch of other stuff. I'ill dribble it out as necessary, but stuff ranging from regular news to social media to mapping.


Storify and dossier due by 5 p.m. Monday, Nov. 5.

What are good public records on the dossier assignment beyond general "Googling" them? Voting, property, civil and criminal cases, all are good starting points (some online, some requiring actual walking and talking to people at the courthouse). Salaries are good. Hunt 'em up in Georgia's own open gov site (Google it). Be creative but remember to not approach them in any way. Do not physically stalk them.

Clean County Data


Class Schedule

Check often because I add links for you to read as the week progresses. I'm cruel that way. My plan is to zoom through the main text in the first few weeks.

Tue, 8/13: Intro class, yourselves. Review of what you forgot from jour3410. Perhaps some writing as a skills check. Coffee consumption (by me, while you write), then you go away, get your texts, come back in a coupla days. I'll show this chart.

Thursday, 8/15: Still here? More 3410 review, just to be sure of where we are. By today, have already set up all your various accounts (see to the left). Also, read Chapter 1 in the Yopp and Haller (Y&H from now on) text. Also read this on he said-she said journalism. We'll discuss. And just so a couple of folks don't think I made it up ...

Tuesday, 8/21: WARNING: I may be late this day (kid has a small medical procedure, could be over soon, could take longer. On Twitter, follow the basic feed of two news orgs. Also pick from each news org one journalist to follow. Compare and contrast (one page, single spaced) how the journalists and orgs differ in their use of Twitter, if indeed they do. We'll discuss first thing in class. Also read Chapter 2 of Y&H. If I'm late, just hold your papers till Thursday's class.

Thursday, 8/23: SEE the 8/28 assignment below so you're not surprised and start too late. For this day, read chapters 4 & 5 of Y&H for discussion. Based on this, we'll discuss the tension between what we can get away with versus what we should get away with? Also for this day, bring to class one bad local government story for discussion. Be prepared to say why it's bad. Oh, and it can't be from the Athens area. Also, read this about declining news credibility. Oh, as per our conversation on Tuesday, how to get in journalism trouble on Twitter.

Tuesday, 8/28: Read chapter 3 of Y&H. Time to check out your chops. DUE TODAY, report and write a localized news story that includes a minimum of three interviews (the chapter is on interviewing). Find a national or international issue and localize it in some way. You have complete freedom here on the topic, as long as it arguably is public affairs in nature. This is to be brought in this day, so start working on it before. How you interview people is up to you (f2f, carrier pigeon, Twitter, etc.). But ... and this is important, when it's not f2f or phone, you're kinda obgligated to say how you did it in a story.

Thursday, 8/30: All about Chapter 6 in Y&H, covering local government. Nitty gritty stuff. Read it.

On the he said-she said front.
On the multi-media front.
On the AMA front.

Tuesday, 9/4: Read chapter 7 in Y&H. Due today, scour the Athens-Clarke web site (it's big) and bring to class two solid story ideas based on what you find. Something doable, as in you may be doing it. Won't necessarily be breaking news.

On the social media as news front.

Thursday, 9/6: We write in class, just for the hell of it, to push you on a tight deadline and see what you've got.

Don't forget the new media stuff.

Tuesday, 9/11: More on local government, including schools. In which I talk in detail about covering local governing bodies to the point where you scream: "Please! Stop!" Oh, and read this. Tell me what you think.

Thursday, 9/13: The stuff above.

Also, for fun, a graphic I quickly made on the calendar creek, ever earlier, of UGA's Fall start time.

Tuesday, 9/18: More stuff. Budget stuff. Oh yeah, here's the 2013 budget for ACC. Here's the ACC basic budget page. And best of all, all the previous budgets back to 2003 are here. Why am I pointing this out? Because, ya know, you'll be getting into them of course. You need to be able to make sense of this stuff.

Thursday, 9/20: Cops. Read Y&H, chapter 10. Due today, budget exercise from above. Will discuss in class.

Tuesday, 9/25: Courts. Read Y&H chapter 11. Due today, a cop blotter of four brief cop stories based on incident reports found at the Lexington Road ACC police office.

Places I'll visit in class: the campus crime site, UGA crime log page and ACC police and Sheriff's Office. The ACC court docket and related info. Other useful ACC sites? Property records, for one.

Oh, and this R&B map.

Tuesday, 10/2: We shift gears some. I'll assign you a local politician to do a public records dossier on. You are not to approach the official, just collect as many public records as you can to create a dossier about that person. I'll bring a list to class and you'll select one. I'm going to want a digital dossier. We'll talk about how. This will be due by the end of October. ALSO, starting now you are to find a major event (Wednesday's prez debate, for example) to create a Storify using various Tweets and other material. I'll try to show you a few. Also due by end of October. Email me the link when done.

By Thursday, do this spreadsheet tutorial. It'll take a while to work through, but I'm going to start Thursday assuming you know it. So, do it. Oh, I forgot ... it's not Excel, it's through Google docs. Make sure you've created a Google ID (same as gmail) and then go to your Google docs page (usually, if you're logged in to Google). It's not complicated. A couple of other notes. I did this exercise between our class and lunch with only a couple of hitches. First, there are a few differences in the screenshots and how Google spreadsheets look. You'll figure that out. Also, at the beginning when you go to (assuming you've logged in), the red CREATE button on the left is what you want to click, then drag down to Spreadsheet, then file->import. Browse to find the Excel file you downloaded to start. then when it says done, click the blue Import button. Then click on the Open Now. btw, late in the process you have to go back to this data. The link on the web page is not right. I had to go to the first page or two to get the right URL. Also, the search via Google for the data (later on) isn't quite right on the screenshots. I just entered the URL from the screenshot myself.

Tuesday, 10/9. We'll work some last Thursday on these data (password or ID is always grady), but for Tuesday your challenge is to analyze the data over the weekend on your own, come back Tuesday morning with story ideas/angles you found. Write me up a single page that says what you found, what the story angles would be. We'll work again with the data in class this day, a somewhat different and more challenging version, as I try to make it more and more complex.

Thursday, 10/11: Using the data linked above, combine the raw data with the poverty and population growth data into a single Excel file. Note that not all the counties are represented in the UGA county of origin data, so this exercise takes some skill. Email this dataset to yourself to work with on Thursday. We start Thursday morning assuming you did it. It's tough, but data often comes dirty. Watch out for Mcduffie County, for example. Here's how I did it: create a blank workbook, copy the poverty and population data into a new one, line 'em up, then cut and paste together. I had to insert rows and cut/past stuff to get it to work. Took me about 15 minutes. Warning #2: the poverty data has a weird A/B column thing going. Good luck because it's a bit of a challenge. I have a final, polished version for you to see.

Tuesday, 10/16. Read the first 10 tools from the Clark book. Find one news story that needs help on at least a couple, of not more, of these writing hints. Be prepared to discuss. Bring article to class that violates a couple (at least) of these tips. Also mess with the data (in column to left, called Clean County Data, yes it works now). This has poverty and population growth, all nice and neat, for you to fool with. Look at the tab for hints, try some different ways to look at the data for story ideas.

Oh, remember that table I showed you of why people don't vote? Had some time Friday and chased down the raw data, selected out college kids, and cranked out this Excel summary. Kinda what we guessed.

Thursday, 10/18: I'll show you in class, but you're to create useful pivot tables from the county origin data. Take the table or a few tables, tell me the likely story based on your anslysis. I want emailed to (BEFORE CLASS) your pivot table and write-up. So this will be due by 9 a.m. this day so at 9:30 we can talk about 'em. Also today, more on how to analyze data using other kinds of stuff.

In class this day, more data challenges. I'll load soon all parking tickets written on campus last academic year. Fun with pivot tables to find the stories.

Tuesday, 10/23: Do Tools 11-20, find a news article like before that fails to do one or more of them. Also, a bit of a challenge. Data here that has the first name of all freshman at UGA over the last five years. Come into class having analyzed it for discussion. Also, find me the best way to VISUALIZE these data. Bring to class your best shot.

Thursday, 10/25: No class. Remember, though, dossiers and Storifies due by Nov. 5. Also, less and less time to get meetings done. Tick tock tick tock...

Tuesday, 10/30: Discuss meetings, dossiers, and Storifies. Then we're going to get into messing with data to make fusion tables maps (overall here). We'll watch the video in class, but you are to work through their tutorial found at the "here" link in this graf. DO THE TUTORIAL because on Thursday you're going to work in class on some data and I'm going to assume you know what you're doing. DO ALL of the "Import the Data" and "Map the Data" links, including the optional stuff to customize the box. It's really not hard. When you are done:

1. Look in the top right corner for the "Share" button. Click it.

2. Then click on the "change" button on the "who has access" row. Make it Public on the web, anyone can find and view. Click "Done"

3. Click the "share" button again. See the "Link to share?" Copy that, paste it into an email, and send it to to demonstrate you did it, including the optional new customizing of the info box. That way I'll know you changed the file.

Thursday, 11/1: I bring in some harder data for you to map. Also for this day, read the next 10 "tips" from the Clark book (21-30) and bring in a story that DOES demonstrate one or more of the tips. Underline the section, write the tip off in the margin, put your name on it and bring to class.

In class we're tackling a merge of these data that list counties and UGA students with these data with polygons of each county. I'll walk you through it in class, then you'll do it. Basically you'll upload each Excel file to Google Docs, turn 'em into Fusion Tables. Merge them. And make map magic.

Wanna learn more? This is the basic "how to" page for Fusion Tables. You might want to glance at this before Thursday. We'll be merging stuff. I'll show ya how in class, a very simple exercise. Below is a map I threw together Wednesday morning as an example.

Tuesday, 11/6: Election Day! Except I've already voted. Do the "tips" book, tools 31-40. Again, find a story that uses one or more of the tips, print and bring in, signed with your name, underlines of what seems to fit. Also we shift gears here, talk about a final story for the class. I'm gonna stop teaching maps and spreadsheets because, frankly, it's causing me pain to watch. May change my mind, if I can stop sobbing.

Thursday, 11/8: Debrief the election, perhaps.

No class 11/13 and 11/15. You are to send me your story idea for a final public affairs story. See you when we return.

Tuesday, 11/27: Yes, we meet.

Thursday, 11/29: No class. But ... as payment, do the class evaluations.

Deadline for finished story: NEW DATE and TIME! Due noon Monday (12/10), as in 12:00:00. Accompanying your final story I want a brief description of which of the tools from the Clark book you found useful in writing your story. Name the tools, point in your descrition where in your story they helped.










  Math Test for Journalists    

STDs in Georgia (sometimes this works, sometimes not).
Did it in a hurry Wednesday morning. Click a county to see stats.




















using photos






How to really search via google





Fusion map examples



evac zones

gay couples

$ by zipcode

pop change

how voted

deep sea vents

Examples Gallery

grafs in a map

find geocode of any address



Good How to on maps

another good how to




















And then there's this bit of wisdom I'll discuss briefly in class -- words journalists use, but people don't.


why we like lists