Information Gathering (spring 2017)

11 a.m. - 12:15 p.m., Tuesdays and Thursdays, MLC Room 150

PLEASE do the course evaluation. Really. Do it. Vote early and often.
As I said in class repeatedly, there is no final exam. Just that second test.
Grades for Exams 1 and 2 are on ELC for your enjoyment. I have also
calculated outside assignment grades and the few of you who missed too
many classes and get points off your final average (one person, 10 points
off ... congratulations in a letter grade drop). Oh, to explain, I have not
put on ELC the outside assignment stuff. Life's too short. Plus how hard
can it be for you to know whether you did the four assignments? You're in
college, after all.



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 use 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. 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 and I reserve the right to give a pop quiz on them. That's also where you'll upload assignments.


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 and no makeup is allowed. No exceptions, so don't ask. All makeups are short answer or essay questions. 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 live deadlines. Deal.


The out-of-class exercises matter. In a typical semester there are four, perhaps more, and not turning it in on time equals a 0 for that assignment. It can be the difference between an A and a B+. Do not ask to turn it in late. Most are uploaded to ELC. Waiting to 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. 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. Snapchat and Yik Yak will still be there when class ends. I promise. Though face it, Yik Yak is kinda dumb.

CLASS CALENDAR (still under 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.

Week 1 (1/2)
Thursday: Yes, we start class on a Thursday. And yes, it's dumb. So we'll meet, intro class. go over the syllabus, mock fake news, wonder why we're in a classroom instead of at lunch. Then leave.

Week 2 (1/9)
Tuesday: What is journalism? Why we do what we do and what makes us different. Elements of Journalism. Yes, public records matter.
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.

Week 3 (1/16): MLK is Monday. We're unaffected.
Tuesday: More on law & ethics, catch up anything not covered last week. Reporters Committee open government guide. Some recent stories that involve public records: here, here, here, here, here, and here. Understand I grabbed these five examples at 4:43 p.m. Friday before leaving and the list could go on and on and on. 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: Our guest today is David Clinch of Storyful.

Week 4 (1/23)
Tuesday: A return to the basics: Observation, Interviewing, Documents and Data. May change. Depends on how far we got above.
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). 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, 1/30. (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 do not know if the links are live, and it's overkill for this project. Put here to help.

Week 5 (1/30)
Tuesday: Where story ideas come from. Maybe more on backgrounding people, talk about your backgrounding adventures.
Thursday: Guest speaker today, Mickey Osterreicher of NPPA (which, did you know this? is based here at Grady College).

Week 6 (2/6)
Tuesday: 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.

Thursday: More verification. Online text chapters 6-8 from the link above. Also I want to step back and cover this page, with this image. Also, back on verification, we'll look at this.

Week 7 (2/13)
Tuesday: And yet more verification, because it matters. So verify it. Text chapters 9-10.
Thursday: 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.

Week 8 (2/20)
Tuesday: Review for first exam.
Thursday: Exam 1 (tentative, but save the date). I love lists, I love questions that ask what isn't on a list. A lot of material comes from the slides, linked above, that discuss in detail the Georgia open records/meetings law, because you really need to know this stuff. Bring a pencil. I'll supply scantron forms. Expect 40 or 50 questions, about half multiple choice, half true-false -- and about half with even numbers and half with odd numbers.

Week 9 (2/27)

Tuesday: Crime and Punishment week. Read this recent piece about publishing mugshots because we all love a good mugshot. ALSO, due 3/2, 5 p.m., use this site and follow the directions on ELC 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. Remember this is journalism. Ya know, deadlines. No late work accepted. Must be in PDF format or it won't count.

Thursday: No class today. You're welcome.

Week 10 (3/6)


Week 11 (3/13)

Tuesday: Welcome back. Guests in class today. More info to come.

Thursday: Cops and courts and tragedies and disasters and all that kind of stuff, because after Spring Break there's a good chance many of you are now experts on the judicial process.

Week 12 (3/20)

Tuesday: Guest speaker, David Mattingly, who has been a journalist for almost 40 years with local, national and international reporting experience. He worked for 23 years as a CNN National Correspondent.

Thursday: Today we finish with cops & courts, crime and punishment. I walk you through a story I covered step-by-step to illustrate various important terms like subpoena or deposition or discovery.

Week 13 (3/27)

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, 3/31. As always, no late work accepted. This is journalism. We have deadlines. I shouldn't have to stress this.

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

I may discuss this in class. Put here so I have the link available.

Week 14 (4/3)

Tuesday: Special topics, likely to be covering non-profits, in which I'll talk a bit about the outside assignment. Due Friday, 4/7, at 5 p.m. via ELC to a Folder named Nonprofit Exercise. You will need to go to GuideStar, create an account (no cost, I'll walk you through this on Tuesday). 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: No class. Gotta be out of town. You're welcome.

Week 15 (4/10)

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

Week 16 (4/17)

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 (4/24)

As far as I am concerned, Week 17 is a myth and does not exist.

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)








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?