DO CLASS EVALS (if the link didn't work, you know it:


We focus here on the skills of investigative reporting, of finding stuff out, and creating a compelling set of stories about what we learned through text and multimedia. There's a brief, formal syllabus available but really you want to check here often for updates, assignments, and general musings. We're also likely to use eLC and, probably, Slack. More on that later. A class calendar should be at the bottom of this page for those of you who like to keep up with things or, you know, do the actual readings.

2 - 3:15 p.m., Tuesdays and Thursdays, Room 241 of Journalism (a room pretty much like every other room, only more so)



Texts and Materials

There is no big, fat, expensive textbook that costs 150 bucks that you can't sell back to the bookstore when you're finished. You're welcome. Instead, you must join as a student Investigative Reporters & Editors, and, once a member, buy this $10 book that comes in e-format. We'll also use the IRE site for lots of material and I'll take care of the rest through lectures and generally making stuff up. Early on we'll focus on the skills of investigative reporting and exploring how other investigative reporters did their work. After that, we do our own stories.



You will get a grade at the end of the semester, somewhere between A and Z. It will come from small assignments, your major assignment, and a random letter generator. The last one is much easier on me. I also reserve the right to grade on whether you did the readings for a given day, via pop quiz or telephathy. Expect lots of small assignments early on as we practice skills to use later in our stories.



There are a lot of policies, such as don't cheat, don't plagiarize, don't spit into the wind, don't drink light beer, and never make stuff up. The university has its own rules you should read, but if a problem arises I tend to use my own special judicial hearing in which I act as judge, jury, and executioner. I love the executioner role. Hey, we all have our hobbies.



Early on we'll meet every day, and hopefully as you work on stories we won't meet as often. That said, this class is scheduled for twice a week, so you get two free misses. There are no excused or unexcused absences, so don't tell me why you missed. You get two free misses to spend as you choose (though they don't exempt you from assignments due on the day you miss). On the third miss, you lose a letter grade. On the fourth, another letter grade, and so on and so on until we run out of letters. So miss three classes, you start with a B as the best grade you can get. Good news is, I know there are a couple of days I'll be out of town early on.


Other Stuff

  • There is a theme to our investigative class -- Downtown Athens. We'll cover it from all kinds of angles. More later.
  • Also on our theme, we may use teams. I hate teams. I also hate spunk. But teams are often the most efficient way to handle this kind of class. In the team approach, you'll have a broad topic and generate a main longish story and sidebars, as well as visuals such as photos, video, graphics. And data. We want data.
  • More stuff to come, I'm sure. Or maybe not. We'll see. Definitely probably.



    Helpful Links

    IRE (vital for this class,see above)
    IRE Extra Extra (latest investigative stories, note categores to left)
    Journalist's Toolbox (lots of great stuff we will shamelessly steal)
    Links to Georgia's records law (just because)





    We're gonna squeeze a lot of stuff early in the semester so we can focus on stories later in the semester. Expect a high reading load and lots of small exercises to ensure you're absorbing and able to use what you've read. Check here often as I will add stuff for you to read or do. Keep in mind eLC will be used for uploading any assignments.



    Week 1 (8/14): Before class, see eLC for a reading you are to have done. On Tuesday I'll intro the class, discuss the reading, hopefully we're out quickly because I hate first days. Plus there's a good chance I'll ask you about takeaways from the reading.

    By Thursday you must be a card-carrying member of IRE. Also, get the e-book for ten bucks or so. We continue and talk about sourcing and ethical investigative reporting and I'll get a sense of where you are and talk about where we're going. Hell, I may even -- out of meanness -- give you a brief writing assignment to judge your skills. Oh, and read this AJC story done by a couple of students in last semester's investigative reporting class.



    Week 2 (8/21): Open records and FOIA

    For Tuesday, read this and this. Also, backgrounding people, places and things. There's this on backgrounding candidates, for example, and this for more general folks. I'm also a big fan of this list of verification tools. In other words, stalking for beginners. I'll try to wear my trench coat. Yes, that's all for Tuesday except this -- using all your new knowledge, background a local public official (ACC commissioner, school board member, etc.). Upload this to eLC in a Folder called Background1. Deadline is Tuesday (8/22) noon. No late work accepted. PDF only, all other forms will be deleted and not counted as having been done. Just create a Word file, fill it full of interesting stuff you found about your person online, and turn that into a PDF file for upload.

    On Thursday, anything we didn't finish a coupla days ago, plus more stuff, especially on Georgia's open records/meetings law, which you should all be experts on from my previous class. Also, find a news story that used its state (or federal) open records laws and be prepared to talk about that story in class. You do not have to give me a copy, but be prepared to talk about it when asked.



    Week 3 (8/28): Interviewing and sourcing. For Tuesday, there's this to look over, and this audio file to listen to. Yeah, it's a bit long. Listen anyway, we'll discuss in class and if I sense I'm the only one who listened, I'll pop quiz that sucker. You will do an outside-of-class interview exercise that you are to bring in, printed on actual paper, to class on Thursday.



    Week 4 (9/4): Data Journalism. I may make this two weeks. Because I can. For Tuesday, warm up with these simple exercises from IRE. Go to this page, which has a long list of stuff. Feel free to play around with any of these, but for Tuesday you are to download budget1.xls and crime2xls (both Excel files, if you're using Google sheets instead you'll need to upload these to your Google drive). Also you will need the guide that is across from the crime2.xls file. It walks you through messing with the data. I hotlinked them here but if I messed up, just go to the page and get them. And then, do the moviebus.xls exercise (Q&A is next to it). This will teach you the basics of my favorite tool, pivot tables. Do this before class because I will assume you have and start from there. Finally, the single best journalism-oriented cheat sheet for Excel is this one by Mary Jo Webster. I steal shamelessly from it. Download it, make it your friend.

    On Thursday, bring in a written (before class) memo on two story ideas you found in these data. The memo will have the idea, some notion of your angle, and a source or two to start with. So you'll have to analyze the data some. Be prepared to discuss in class and, of course, turn it in (no late work accepted). On that Excel file, the tab Data is just that, the data. The tab Codes explains what some of this stuff means. I strongly encourage you to learn the =RANK and a few other Excel commands to make real sense of the data.



    Week 5 (9/11): Crime and punishment, cops & courts, etc. For Tuesday, compare and contrast (one page, single spaced) two different investigative stories that involve in some way crime and/or punishment. One way is to search Extra Extra on IRE. There's a column to the left with various categories. Another is to look at Pulitzer-winning stories for any involving cops or crime or courts, etc. There isn't a crime category, but you'll find good ones in some of the various categories like Explanatory, etc. Compare and contrast their methods, storytelling techniques, etc. Bring to class, typed, ready to turn in. Do not depend on the classroom's printer.

    For Thursday, more on crime and punishment.



    Week 6 (9/18): Local and state government, from city hall to schools to, well, all this stuff, including how to read budgets and audits. For Tuesday, find one of these kinds of stories on IRE or elsewhere, so a good one, and be prepared to break it down in class for us. I don't need anything in print, just be prepared to talk. Also you'll want to look at some IRE tipsheets that help understand this kind of coverage, here, (more to come).

    For Thursday, we'll talk about that "how we did it" piece I handed out, but mostly you are to write and bring to class (printed, please, not handwritten) a brief memo outlining one story idea you found in the report about downtown Athens. In your memo identify the information most useful for your story idea and the angle you'd take, a couple of possible sources.



    Week 7 (9/25): No class on Tuesday as I'm out of town.

    On Thursday, a visit from Google. Not the site itself, one of its people and how to use their resources to find stuff out.



    Week 8 (10/2): Businesses and non-profits. Yes, I'm still alive. More or less.

    Read this and this on backgrounding companies. It'll help. For Tuesday using your new knowledge, identify a local company or company with a local franchise and background it. Write up a report, a memo if you will, noting the basics and anything interesting or newsworthy you may have found. Bring to class already typed, already printed.

    For Thursday, a visit from photojournalism Professor Mark Johnson on how to plan and do visuals as part of an investigative project. I won't be here today, so he's da man in charge.



    Week 9 (10/9): For Tuesday, identify a local non-profit and like the earlier assignment on companies, background it using the skils you should already have from fact-finding and tipsheets from IRE like this one, or this one, or this one. Actually you can find lots of other tipsheets on non-profits on the site, if you look around. Report the basic info, plus anything interesting or curious you found that might deserve a closer look. Bring to class already typed, already printed.

    Thursday, energy, utilities, environment, transportation, and other special topics. In class I'll just run through some IRE tipsheets on a few of these. No need to read in advance unless you want to. Putting them here so I can retrieve them in class. Environment1 and Environment2 (kinda the same) and the complete list of environment stuff via IRE. Via the site we'll just look at some of the others, talk about how you cover them. I could add education in here.


      We turn to the ebook now that you should have purchased via IRE. We'll read half by Tuesday (chapters 1-9), the other half by Thursday (chapters 10-18) For each day, write a brief, one-page (single-spaced) response discussing what you learned that was helpful in future reporting and why. Be prepared to discuss.  



    On Tuesday, 11/7, your group will pitch story ideas before the class. Have several, be prepared to defend them from snarky attacks from fellow students and a doubting professor who just stands there and mutters "I hate spunk."

    OH, and remember the email from last week? You have until 5 p.m. Monday to sign up with Slack based on the invitation you should have received at your UGA Mail account. Check your damn email, people, or change majors


    (based on those who actually responded and some random assignment)


    E. Williams

    Bars (alcohol, broadly defined, some overlap with crime)




    Biz (everything but bars)


    Transportation (infrastructure, etc., broadly defined, be creative)

    C. Williams







    My Contact Info

    P: 706-542-5027
    Twitter: @barryhollander
















































    Stuff we'll eventually use, parked here

    Web and social media search (IRE)

    Art of the Interview (IRE)

    More Interviewing (IRE)

    Data State of Mind (IRE)

    Google Fusion Tables for Beginners (IRE)

    Too Many Useful Storytelling Tools (IRE, via Medium)

    Negotiating for Records (IRE)


    Stories we may read/watch

    Waycross Georgia

    Houston Chronicle -- Denied series

    Where's the Party At? (Daily Wildcat)

    Turnpike vendors, by Action News Pittsburgh

    Seabreeze (LA Times)

    Black Drivers (Minnesota NPR)

    NBC stuff on campus. Three links, listed below

    State Sanctioned Loan Sharking for student loans (Propulica and NYT)