Information Gathering (spring 2018)

11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m., Tuesdays and Thursdays
in some room in some building, probably MLC.


Known officially as jour3090, this is a Grady College class on how to find stuff out and how to verify information. In other words, this is a class on fact finding  -- with an emphasis on developing in you "a document state of mind." Fake news is our enemy. Well, that and light beer. We'll cover the ethical uses of interviewing, observation, documents and data to cover news stories for production across all media. Again, this is a class on reporting, not writing or producing stories. Other classes take care of that. Also, there's no textbook to buy (you're welcome), except what's avalable online and free.

Check this page for updates. Also monitor the ELC page as some readings will magically appear there, plus I reserve the right to give a pop quiz on any reading you were to have done before class. That's also where you'll upload assignments. Finally, some semesters I include pop news quizzes to ensure you're keeping up with the news. I'll let you know early on if this is one of those semesters.


For this class, grades will come from exams, quizzes, random events and the whims of your professor. Expect two tests to make up the bulk of your grade, right now 80 percent, with 20 percent reserved for quizzes, out-of-class exercises, and other mundania. DO NOT at the end of the semester email me whining about your grade. This is not high school or a private school where you can intimidate an underpaid teacher into changing a grade because mumsy and dadsy paid loads of money for their precious overindulged BMW-driving yuppie larvae to hang out with other precious overindulged BMW-driving yuppie larvae. I am indifferent to your grade plight. I get paid regardless.


If you miss an exam you may make it up only if you contact me before the end of the testing period via email or a message left on my office phone. One minute after the class period ends, with no communication, and no makeup is allowed. No exceptions, so don't ask. ALSO, if you're taking the exam at disability services you may not also take it with me. Attempting to do so will get you thrown out of the class for academic dishonesty.

All makeups are short answer or essay questions, even those arranged in advance. The normal tests, given the size of this class, are true/false and multiple choice with, perhaps, a short essay question (depending on my mood). For outside assignments, a deadline is just that, a deadline. Late work not accepted. Period. This is a journalism class. We embrace deadlines.


The out-of-class exercises matter (see class weights above). In a typical semester there are four, perhaps more, and not turning them in on time, or in the correct format, equals a zero for that assignment. It can be the difference between an A and a B+. Think about it. If you do three out of four assignments, that's a 75 score for 20 percent of your total grade. Do not ask to turn it in late, do not tell me cLC ate your homework. Waiting until the last minute to upload on deadline and the system crashing on you is not my fault, it's yours for cutting it that close.


The observant among you may notice attendance is not a weight in your grade. Simply put, you're not rewarded for doing what you're supposed to do -- which is show up for class.

There are no excused absences, there are no unexcused absences. DO NOT TELL ME WHY YOU MISSED CLASS. You have three absences to spend as you choose (sickness, deaths in the family, boredom, trips, rain, clouds, lack of coffee, etc.). Three classes = over one week. On your fourth absence I chop five points off your final numeric class average. On the next, another five points gone (that's me, laughing as I wield the +3 Axe of Grade Reduction). I can do this until we hit F- or even lower if UGA will let me. Again, there are no excused absences, so spend them wisely. If tardiness becomes an issue I break out the dreaded Tardy Hat, which insults you as you wear it as well as sorting you into a House you don't want to belong to, and, let's face it, most of you are Slytherin.

Never ever ask me if I did a roll the previous class or how many classes you've missed. I don't compute this until the end of the semester. You're in college. Do your own math.

Laptops and Mobile Devices

See below, after the class calendar, for the policy on these. Basically don't have them out once class begins. The only exception of for someone who is an official notetaker for another student via approved University guidelines.

CLASS CALENDAR (still under major construction)

Below is a calendar of what we'll do during the semester, though I may shuffle topics around as we have guest speakers or snow days or we're slow to get through some material. Check here often as often there will be links to stuff you should read for that day. AND NO, my slides ARE NOT online (though if I use someone else's slides or other material, links will be here). This is part of why you attend class as learning to quickly take accurate notes is part of journalism. In some places, and on some stories, electronic devices are not even allowed. Thus, note taking, pen meeting paper.

Week 1 (1/1 -- the date here is always for the Monday of that week, classes start 1/4)

Tuesday: There is no Tuesday for us as classes begin, in someone's infinite wisdom, on a friggin Thursday. Don't blame me, blame the UGA administration.

Thursday: It's 1/4 and the first day, so we meet and I intro the class, go over the syllabus. and drink coffee while amusing myself at your expense.

Week 2 (1/8)

Tuesday: What is journalism? Why we do what we do and what makes us different from our cousins in PR or advertising. We'll talk about the Elements of Journalism, and yeah I know you've read it before. Also, evidence that public records matter. More stuff likely to come.

Thursday: Law & Ethics and the tension between the two (what we legally can do, versus what we professionally should do). Open records, open meetings, the Georgia law. Also, online slides about Georgia law. A rare time when I put slides online. Enjoy.

Week 3 (1/15 -- Note, MLK is Monday but does not affect us).

Tuesday: More on law & ethics, catch up anything not covered last week. Reporters Committee open government guide. Maybe also the SPJ Code of Ethics. Other codes of ethics. Be ethical. It's what separates us from fake news, well that and being truthful.

Thursday: More law and ethics or other stuff I find interesting. Or perhaps just me doing interpretative dance.

Week 4 (1/22)

Tuesday: A return to the basics: Observation, Interviewing, Documents and Data. These are the four core ways journalists find and report the news, and we'll return to them again and again when talking about covering various kinds of stories, from crime to schools to sports to, well, everything. It's all about seeing stuff, talking to people, getting documents and finding data to support your story. Too often people rely just on interviews. It's not enough, especially bad interviews. Oh, and listen out of class to this audio on how to interview liars. The ID and password to listen are both grady. Just the word, nothing else.

Thursday: More on the basics above, including story idea generation. Backgrounding people. Your assignment, due via ELC upload to the appropriate folder, is to background a UGA professor (not me, otherwise everyone does it) using only online, digital sources. Be creative in what you find, but remember -- online only. Put the info in a single PDF (not a Word file, so remember that anything other than a PDF will not count for credit). Give me five facts you found on that prof that might be useful should that faculty member find him or herself thrust into the news. Upload to folder called Professor Backgrounder. This is due by noon Monday, 9/11. (I recommend doing it sooner as ELC can be persnickety and if it crashes as you upload at the last minute, that's your fault). The dropbox should be under "tools" on your ELC page for our class. Oh, by the way, this site has some stuff that goes beyond Googling someone. I don't if the links are live, and it's overkill for this project. Put here to help.

Week 5 (1/29)

Tuesday: Where story ideas come from. Maybe more on backgrounding people, talk about your backgrounding adventures.

Thursday: We begin with the Verification Handbook (free, online). For today, read chapters 1-5 in the basic text. Also, check out VerificationJunkie for tools. We'll talk about some of them in class as we go along. WARNING: Sometimes the handbook seems garbled on your browser. Just zoom out a bit (Cntrl-minus) and it should straighten up and read right.

Week 6 (2/5)

Tuesday: More verification. Online text chapters 6-8 from the link above. Also I want to step back and cover this graphic on plagiarism. Also, back on verification, we'll look at this. Also, for fun, the most quoted man in news.

Thursday: Verification chapters 9-10. More stuff, just like the previous stuff, only more so. Maybe covering speeches. Also make sure you understand the difference between On The Record and Off The Record and so on. We may have already covered this, just put here to remind me in case I missed it.

Week 7 (2/12)

Tuesday: Covering speeches and rallies and the like.

Thursday: More on speeches, rallies, etc.

Week 8 (2/19)

Tuesday: Review for first exam.

Thursday: Exam 1: I love lists, I love questions that ask what's not on a list. A lot of material comes from the slides shown in lecture or linked above, or stuff a guest speaker said, and a lot of stuff on this first exam comes from Georgia open records/meetings law. And by that I mean a lot lot. Bring a pencil. I'll supply scantron forms. Expect 50 questions, about half multiple choice, half true-false, and half something else.

Week 9 (2/26)

Tuesday: Crime and Punishment week, maybe even a week and a half. Due 10/15 (pushed back a bit), 5 p.m., use this site for Crime Exercise 1. Essentially use the map site of crimes, find the one nearest where you live, and report the info mentioned on the ELC dropbox (that's under tools on our class page, I believe). Helps if you allow the site to geolocate you first. Be patient. Remember this is journalism. Ya know, deadlines and such. No late work accepted. Must be in PDF format or it won't count, uploaded to the correct folder.

Thursday: More crime, more punishment.

Week 10 (3/5)

Tuesday: More cops and courts and stuff, because I like cops and courts stuff.

Thursday: something, just not sure what yet. Covering disasters and tragedies, maybe.

Week 11 (3/12) Spring Break Week. Go break something.


Thursday: More on local government, perhaps some on covering politics and political campaigns.

Fall Football Break is this Friday, because being UGA, we break for football as it takes Georgia fans an extra day to make a half-day drive. If you go, have fun -- and be careful.

Week 12 (3/19)

Tuesday: Local government stuff this week. I'll talk about covering meetings and such, using the ACC agenda site for examples, or the ACC overall site. ALSO ... your assignment is use the Tax Assessor site above to look up where you live (by owner, by address, whatever works, play with it until you get it right), get the owner name and current value, create a PDF and provide me with that owner, the value, and of course the actual address (no Word docs allowed, just PDF, otherwise it's marked as not done). Upload that to a dropbox folder on our ELC page called Tax Assignment or something close to that. You'll find the dropbox under "tools" on our class ELC page. If for some reason you can't find your own address (live outside Clarke, for example), you may be able to get it via the qpublic database for that county, or you can choose some other address in Clarke County like a friend's place. Do not wait until the last minute and tell me the system screwed up. Get it done early to make )sure. Due by 5 p.m. Friday. As always, no late work accepted. This is journalism. We have deadlines. Get it done early.

Thursday: Guest speaker, Eliza Borne, editor of the Oxford American.

Week 13 (3/26)

Tuesday: More local government.

Thursday: Still more local government.

Week 14 (4/2)

Tuesday: Data journalism, writing with numbers, stuff like that.

Thursday: More data, more journalism.

Week 15 (4/9)

Tuesday: Covering non-profits, in which I'll talk a bit about the outside assignment. Due Sunday at 5 p.m. via ELC to a Folder named Nonprofit Exercise, assuming I reset everything correctly. Many of you have already done it. You will need to go to GuideStar, create an account. Once done, I'd go to the Advanced Search. Your task, to find an interesting nonprofit in your hometown (or where you live now if you're from outside the U.S.) and as we've done in other exercises, put information and upload it in a PDF to the correct folder by deadline. What info? Find the latest 990 available and report back the name of the nonprofit (or foundation), its EIN (employer identification number), its total assets for that one year, and the top salary paid (if any) to an individual. You can also get some good non-profit stuff via ProPublica. Feel free to use it instead.

Thursday: stuff.

Week 16 (4/16)

Tuesday: Review for second exam.

Thursday: Second exam. It's on the schedule. Plan your life around it. It'll be just like the first test except with, hopefully, completely different questions. I recommend you give different answers as well. Just a suggestion.

Week 17 (4/23) -- NOTE, classes end Wednesday, 4/25.

Boilerplate Nonsense

* All academic work must meet the standards contained in "A Culture of Honesty." Each student is responsible for reading these lengthy bureaucratic and carefully crafted standards. Basically, know the rules and follow them -- or else. And remember, we write the rules. You can't win.

* The syllabus is a general plan for the course; deviations announced to the class by the instructor may be necessary. This 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 can be harmful to your health. Hollander may turn you in or he may ignore the official university process for cheaters and dream 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. Let me make this clear -- no open laptops and no mobile devices once class begins. The only laptop exception is for someone taking notes for someone with a university-approved note-taking disability that both I and UGA have approved.

* What's an overall A? 93 and up. 90-92 is A-. 87-89 is B+. 83-86 is B. And so on. UGA doesn't have an F- but, dammit, it ought to.

Contact Info

Dr. Barry Hollander
barry <at> (best way to reach me)
706-542-5027 (office number)
Room 229 Journalism Building
(or, often, Jittery Joe's in MLC)




























quick video on Tin Eye

quick video on Google Reverse Image

quick video check social media account

Facebook live, looking for videos

Lists on Twitter

Tweetdeck for Twitter


last graf

brief trump on fake news

Some maps

Income inequality in Georgia

States to UGA

Motorcycles in Ga map



CNN charity video on non-profits


Case studies: print and vid of verification

Verification Checklist video, 27 minutes

Video on behind the story, animal euthanasia and one on real estate scheme

Ethics of Eyewitness Video

Interviewing Sources

Google search tips

Verification tools on a budget

Five sources of fake news to watch for

Audio on documents state of mind

Where journalists get news

How to write good

Stuff I may Show

FirstDraftNews (essential tools for newsgathering and verification)

Ethics and verification via YouTube, about 15 minutes long

Melissa Click's emails


Poynter videos on ethics


Trump doc via Guardian

Seven election hoaxes, via FirstDraft

Vid on Twitter Lists

FB Mosque story

Fact Check Unit

TED talk on fact vs fiction online, better later in talk.

Most Quoted Man in News video

Social Media policy database


Meetings gone bad

Goats. Go here, look for 2014 tab, June 3 meeting, watch video and click on #15.



Press availability in Baltimore


on Crime reporting talk 40 minutes long


ACLU rights of a photographer

Gizmodo on pix of cops

Good on photographing police

Cop rules on photo police


IRE Podcasts AJC


ALL IRE Podcasts



Golden opportunity, via Colbert

and good graph on the dangers, via Slate


maybe use this Poynter course?