jour 5300
Public Affairs Reporting

Dr. Barry Hollander



What's public affairs? Affairs that happen in the public? And if so, is there video that'll go viral? 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 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.



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 account to practice tweets and by using shortened URLs.

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

* Others, as I decide. Maybe Slack, which a lot of journalists are using lately.


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. To be clear, I'm still mulling this over:

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.

Beats. I may have you choose a beat to work on throughout the semester. Or I may not. We'll see.

Writing Tools assignments. I'll explain these.

Small exercises. Lots of these, such as analyzing Twitter use by journalists, etc. Expect lots of these. Busy work with a purpose.

Neighborhood Immersion. You'll be assigned, possibly as teams, a neighborhood to adopt. Again, I've done this before and may skip it this semester. 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 a public meeting and do a story. More later. ACC, probably, and I'll expect an ADVANCE and then a MEETING story.

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.

Major Story. You'll work on one major story over the course of the semester, something with some meat to it. You'll turn in drafts, and then a final version. At least that's the plan.



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-. IMPORTANT: I have on ELC recorded your P (present) or A (absent).


When are Meetings?

ACC Government

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.

University Council

Apps We'll
Play With

Google Fusion Tables
more to come

Neighborhood Teams

tba, if used at all


Other Links

Georgia Stats System

ACC Property

ACC civil/criminal

Other ACC




Class Schedule

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.

If in GRAY, we've done that week.


Week 1
Intro class. See what you remember from 3410, with writing in class and out. Keep in mind the dates to the left are the TUESDAY of the week as we meet Tuesdays/Thursdays. Also note the various accounts you are to create. Get it done.


Week 2
Tuesday: More 3410/writing remedial stuff all week, if needed. I'm hoping not so we can get right to work. For Tuesday, read Tools 1-5. (that's the Clark book). 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 as to why it fits one or mor of the tools mentioned. Make sure you put your name on it for credit.

Thursday: By now have all of the accounts set up listed to the left (Twitter,, etc.). Yes, I'll be asking. Identify three working journalists with Twitter accounts, write a one-page single-spaced compare and contrast (for next Tuesday) of how they use Twitter.

Week 3

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/contrast assignment. Be prepared to discuss.

Thursday: I'll talk a bit about covering public meetings. And we'll talk about the tools stuff from Tuesday.

Week 4
Tuesday: Tools 11-20. You know the routine. Plus I'll talk more about covering local government. Also ... do OUT OF CLASS a brief story based on an ACC meeting from this summer (assume you were there covering it). All meetings are available online. Click the 2014 tab, go to the June 3 meeting, click video. 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. Be careful of names, beware fact errors. Have fun with it. This story due to me by the time listed on ELC. Upload story to ELC in the time window it says you can. If that fails, email me a Word attachment. Oh, here's a brief advance of the meeting.

Thursday: No Class. That story above you'll work on, get to me via ELC according to the deadline listed on, yes, ELC.

Week 5
Tuesday: Tools 21-30.

Thursday: Long detailed talk (and slides) on public records/meetings laws. Yes, good stuff for quiz/test.

Week 6
Tuesday: Tools 31-40. Some more on records, dossiers.

Thursday: We'll finish a little local government coverage stuff, talk a bit about dossiers, and get into your major story. As part of this, we'll focus on where good story ideas come from. You do not have to have a story idea for today, but think of a few anyway because it can't hurt. Dossier List is below on who is assigned to whom.

Week 7
Tuesday: Tools 41-50. Finishing up Tools.

Thursday: More on story ideas from those we didn't finish with. Maybe tools too.

Week 8
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. We'll also talk about that night's ACC meeting. ALSO, I will set up a folder on ELC for you to upload your story pitch. Include in it the story topic and at least three people, broadly defined, who you'd talk to. Also identify a likely outlet (i.e., R&B, etc.) for your idea, which helps me answer the question of whether you're addressing your aidience.

Thursday: Today I start getting into data journalism. Watch here for any links, especially to an Excel tutorial if I find one I like. I'll also, before class, put a link here to data we'll work on in class.



Week 9

Tuesday: More data journalism.

Thursday: And yet more data journalism, perhaps by now we'll do some mapping, but may take next week to get there.

Week 10


Week 11


Week 12


Week 13




Week 14
Tuesday: Stuff.


Week 15
Thanksgiving Break. Go break a turkey.
Week 16



Week 17
No class for us. Tuesday is a Friday in UGA's grand yet confusing scheme of the academic universe.

Other Stuff

* 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.


Dossier List

Atkinson - Sharyn Dickerson
Belk - Harry Sims
Burke - Andy Herod
Dean - Linda E. Davis
Dorsey - Carl Parks
Funke - Sarah F. Ellis
Hensley - Kelly Girtz
Laudick - Diane Bell
Masters - Greg Davis
Michael - Jerry NeSmith
Mullee - Melissa Link
Palermo - Allison Wright
Pillay - Jared Bailey
Plummer - Charles Worthy
Pyon - Vernon Payne
Stott - Mike Hamby







































































  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