jour 5300
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 or at least something likely to go viral. 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.



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 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. 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 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.

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-.


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


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
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,, etc.). Yes, I'll be asking. We'll do stuff, like that article you were to write out of class.

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. You should also, by now, have a topic idea for your personal blog.


Week 4
Tuesday: Tools 11-20. You know the routine. I'll talk a bit about covering public meetings. Also ... for Thursday, 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 regular 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.

Week 5
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.

Week 6
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.

Week 7
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 column to the left, at bottom. You'll find them. We'll talk more in class.

Thursday: Math and Meetings

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. Be prepared to discuss. Also, an advance due today in class if you're covering that night's ACC meeting (see below).

Thursday: Prescribed grazing. It never ends. Today we look at the meeting stories from Tuesday. And I begin, gently, with your Excel training.



Week 9

Tuesday: Using these parking ticket data, write a brief story pitch based on what you find. Remember, pword is grady. By the way, I found the version with parking lot sizes. There's a coupla sheets with details on lot size with the main data. Enjoy.

Thursday: More on data. Do these data for practice. And this PDF explains (more or less) the steps to take. PW for both is, as always, grady. I'll assume you know this stuff.

Also in class Thursday, I'll introduce you to some simple UGA data. We'll work a little with it in class.

Week 10
Tuesday: No class. Work on neighborhood stories (I'll set a deadline for these, but expect it to be in early November). ALSO, do this tutorial on how to make a Google Fusion map, get it to me by the end of Tuesday. Also, figure out how to make it public and email me the link (you may have to Google this to find out how). It may take you a time or two, but work through it. Why? Because on Thursday we're going to do one in class based on UGA county data.

Thursday: We'll upload the county data from above into Fusion Tables, create a map. Also, I introduce you to a way to find interesting stats.

Week 11
Tuesday: For today, use the data linked to at the left, the Georgia Stats System. Mess around until you find a solid story idea, write me a brief pitch that includes what the story is about, what the data show, and how you'd go about reporting it.

Thursday: No class. Work on blogs, neighborhood stories, etc.

Week 12
Tuesday: There is, probably, an ACC meeting this night for those of you who have to cover one. Also we meet, you give me (in writing) two story pitches for the rest of the semester. Then we go as a group downstairs for a WSJ visitor.

Thursday: Post election, how ya do it.

Week 13

Tuesday: Email to me by midnight Monday a much more fleshed out story idea, especially compared to the stuff you turned in last week and I returned. Let's face it, some of them were thin. Remember, an idea is not a story. I want something more complete -- fresh, interesting, and with a few folks you'd talk to. Keep in mind all that I talked about in class last Thursday. This story will have to be of publishable quality. We will discuss them in class Tuesday, plus I may have a "challenge" assignment for you to have finished by Thursday. Remember "parking" is not a story idea.

Challenge for Thursday. Analyze these data, which are all the freshman first names at UGA over the past few years. What's the story? And create one or two good dataviz to accompany the story. Let's see how good you are. Do not be afraid to use Google to find out how to do some Excel tricks, like pivot tables and rank.

Thursday: You show off your dataviz.

Week 14
Tuesday: Stuff.

Thursday: No class. BUT ... remember you have to report your neighborhood stuff on the Tuesday we return. ALSO, if you received a graded meeting story you may rewrite that story for an improved grade. Return the rewrite and the original to me by the Thursday we return from T'giving break.

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

Tuesday: you will report, as teams, your neighborhood stories. They should all be "up" and online, and you'll stand up, call up the site, and walk us through why they are superior to all others.


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.














































  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