Public Affairs Reporting
Dr. Barry Hollander
What's public affairs? Affairs that happen in the public? And if so, is there video? No, though that'd make for a helluva good story. This class is about holding accountable such major institutions as government and business, and covering stuff that affects people's lives.
Because it's my class, we'll focus on documents and, in particular, data journalism. Also, math and good writing. Expect a lot of projects, a lot of work outside of class. This ain't 3410.
We'll learn several online tools along the way, just because. As there's only a small writing paperback as a text, I'll spend some days lecturing on stuff that, yes, you'll be tested on -- how government works, etc.
At the moment, I see Tuesdays focused on writing and my lectures on government stuff. Thursdays will focus on tools. This may all go out the window.
Writing Tools by Clark, a great little writing book, and cheap. You're welcome. There will be lots of readings from (free) sites instead of a traditional textbook. I assume you still have your AP Stylebook.
You will also need (free):
* A Google account for accessing documents and Fusion Tables.
* A Wordpress account, because you may need it.
* A Twitter account, set to public viewing, to practice tweets and see how journalism orgs use it.
* A bit.ly account to practice tweets and by using shortened URLs.
* And just for the hell of it, a Storify account.
* Others, as I invent them.
We will have a number of major and minor assignments throughout the semester. More to come, but here's a warning of some of the things we may be doing:
Tests. As I said above, I'll lecture about aspects of covering "public affairs" and you'll dutifully write these down in a notebook, memorize them, and spew them back on a few small tests.
Who Owns Downtown? A major data project in which you will investigate who owns properties downtown, who owns the businesses on those properties. The idea is to build a database and perhaps a map of this. Indeed, we'll probably pluck out some good ones and look at how they've changed hands over time. You may create a timeline using something like
Neighborhood Immersion. You'll be assigned, possibly as teams, a neighborhood to adopt. This is an example of bottom-up reporting. You'll meet actual living breathing people. Knock on doors. Do stories that matter to them. Create stories and multimedia project to put online, probably on Blogger or Wordpress.
Meetings. Yes, you'll attend two public meetings and do stories. More later. ACC, probably.
Dossier. You'll stalk, via public records, a public official. You'll create a dossier on that individual based on available records. More later.
Data out the Wazoo. You're going to learn how to analyze data via spreadsheets and we'll do some mapping, probably via Google Fusion Tables.
Aggregation. Pick a topic you love (please, not UGA sports). Create a blog that focuses on it. Feed it daily. In other words, you're going to aggregate what other people are doing and saying on the topic, adding your own info. I'll show you how later. My favorite big one is The Wire. Note how their writers sprinkle into their narrative various links, but add their own voices to the story.
Required. There are no excused or unexcused absences. You get three freebies. On the fourth absence you're dropped one letter grade, meaning the best you can do is a B. Next miss, a C is the best you can do, and if you're less than perfect that C is probably lower. We can keep going to Z-.
When are Meetings?
Previous ACC mtg agendas and videos, etc.
ACC commissioners main page with meeting times and other info. See here for list of meeting dates. Most recent agenda here.
ACC budget in brief. And all financial reports.
Google Fusion Tables
more to come
Check often because I add links for you to read as the week progresses. I'm cruel that way. No excuses for walking in and not having checked the web page for some late-breaking assignment.
Early in the semester we'll zoom through the writing text by Clark and I'll do a bunch of lecture stuff about covering government. Yes, there'll be a test on the lecture stuff. And just about every week there will be a day you are expected to bring in a story that illustrates something from the chapters of the writing text. More on this in class.
Again, watch this calendar carefully. A lot of small projects will be assigned throughout the semester, such as covering a meeting by a certain date, or doing a small project involving some online tool.
|Intro class. See what you remember from 3410, with writing in class and out. Keep in mind the dates to the left are the MONDAY of the week, but we meet Tuesdays/Thursdays. Also note the various accounts you are to create. Get it done.
Send your fact-sheet-based rewrites to my email (barry <at> uga <dot> edu). Due by 9 p.m. Thursday, 8/21. Best if pasted into body of email, but attachment is okay too.
|More 3410/writing remedial stuff all week, if needed. Also:
Tuesday: Read Tools 1-5. Bring in a news story (not an essay, not an editorial, but hard news story) for discussion that uses, or fails to use, one or more of the tools. Hard copy -- NOT printed off in lab at the last minute. Be prepared to discuss it in class.
Thursday: By now have all of the accounts set up listed to the left (Twitter, bit.ly, etc.). Yes, I'll be asking. We'll do stuff, like that article you were to write out of class.
|Tuesday: Read Tools 6-10. Bring in article as before. On all Tool readings below, you are expected to bring in an article. Save me typing it over and over. Also, bring in your one-page Twitter compare/constrast assignment. Be prepared to discuss. You should also, by now, have a topic idea for your personal blog.
Thursday: Have your idea for your blog. We'll discuss and may even set up in class via WordPress. Also I'll talk about other stuff. Also, by next Thursday (9/11) have two neighborhoods you'd like to cover for the rest of the semester.
|Tuesday: Tools 11-20. You know the routine. I'll talk a bit about covering public meetings. Also ... for Thursdday, do a brief story based on an ACC meeting from this summer. All meetings are available online. Go to the bottom, click on Archived videos, then Mayor and commission regualr meeting, and choose the June 3, 2014, meeting. Look at the agenda. Then watch the video and on the video click down to #15 (Text amendment -- livestock grazing as temporary use). Read the minutes as well. Look for any other supporting documentation where available from planning. View the video, do a brief story on what the ACC did. I'll show you how in class, but on the video page if you click on #15 it takes you straight to that part of the recording. Be careful of names, beware fact errors. Have fun with it.
Thursday: Neighborhoods you'd cover. Understand you may not actually get these, and I may do it by teams. Put a preference of first and second. And of course bring in your livestock meeting story, in print, and we'll look at them.
|Tuesday: Tools 21-30. Turn in the re-writes of the grazing story. About covering meetings.
Thursday: More on meetings and local government. We'll use this and this.
|Tuesday: Tools 31-40. Remember, identify in the story tools used (or not used).
Thursday: No class. You really do not want to be in the same room as me for a few days, unless of course you want to glow in the dark. Instead, a story-finding exercise. Go to the Athens-Clarke site (link on this page) and rummage through various departments, find one story idea. Bring it to class, written, on Tuesday.
|Tuesday: Tools 41-50. Finishing up Tools. Discuss story ideas from county web site. Oh, and neighborhood teams have been assigned. Look to the gray colum to the left, at bottom. You'll find them. We'll talk more in class.
Thursday: Math and Meetings
|Tuesday: Tools no more, but we'll talk about lessons learned from the writing tools text. Write a one-page, single-spaced 200-word piece on what tools worked best for you and why. Bring to class Tuesday. Be prepared to discuss.
WARNING: Tuesday, Oct. 7, 7 p.m., is an ACC full meeting. Remember, you have to advance a meeting and cover it. This is one of two, the other being in November. WARNING II: the November meeting can get mixed up with elections and may get postponed. Beware.
|Thanksgiving Break. Go break a turkey.
|No class for us. Tuesday is a Friday in UGA's grand yet confusing scheme of the academic universe.
* All academic work must meet the standards contained in "A Culture of Honesty." Each student is responsible for reading these lengthy, verbose, carefully crafted standards. Basically, know the rules and follow them -- or else.
* The syllabus is a general plan for the course; deviations announced to the class by the instructor may be necessary, which is a fancy way of saying the instructor reserves the right to change things whenever he damn well pleases. He's that kind of guy. The web page trumps the syllabus, either in a game of Spades, Rook, or in real life. Check here often. Make it your home page. Tell your friends.
* Cheating may be harmful to your health. Hollander ignores the official university process for cheaters and dreams up his own awful things to do to those he catches. Do not tempt his imagination. He is a sick man. Plus he was a cop reporter for years. He knows people who will kill people. For $20, or even a cheap bottle of wine.
* Any cell phones or laptops being used during class will be confiscated and Hollander will do terrible things with them behind the podium. Do you really want to touch it afterward? No, I didn't think so.
* Don't break the rules because we write them. You can't win. We own you.