Tuesday, May 3, 2016

UGA Policy

If the governor signed into law the "campus carry" bill, that means anyone 21 years or older with a gun carry permit can be packing on campus (except dorms, and frat/sorority houses, and of course the always-protected athletic events). Where can they carry a gun if they have a permit? Everywhere else, including classrooms. And faculty offices. My faculty office.

Okay, if some students are packing, shouldn't I be able to get a permit and carry as well?

Nope. At least not as I understand it.

As I write this, we're still waiting on the governor to sign or veto the bill. I'm finishing this while waiting, but I have a meeting later in the afternoon when he's likely to announce this decision. So hang in there with me and let's assume he's signed it. This is the what next column.

There is a UGA policy that states you cannot: "Possess, use, or threaten to use an unauthorized weapon as defined by the Policy." So, what's a weapon? Later on the page you'll find a set of definitions and we learn that:
Weapons are any objects that may be used to intimidate, attack, or injure another person or to damage property.  http://www.police.uga.edu/weapons.html
Intimidate? Hell, that would include my biting wit. Click on the link, though, and in UGA's typically sophisticated fashion when it comes to digital, you get the magic 404 error (see below, and my scribblings continue below the image).

Don't panic. If you visit the UGA police site and dig around you will find this definition of weapons, which is hardly surprising, and yes guns are a weapon. For fun I provide you with the list below. It does not include my biting wit, but it does ban bats. Doesn't the baseball team continuously violate the law here? Or anyone playing intramural softball? And how about the golf team and a club? You can bludgeon the hell out of someone with a 4 iron.

  • Pistol, revolver, or any weapon designed or intended to propel a missile of any kind (this includes air soft, paintball, BB or pellet guns, potato guns and other such homemade devices)
  • Knife having a blade of two or more inches
  • Straight-edge razor or razor blade
  • Spring stick
  • Bat, club, or other bludgeon-type weapon
  • Nun chahka, nun chuck, nunchaku, shuriken
  • Throwing star or oriental dart
  • Stun gun or taser

So it really comes down to
authorized in UGA's policy. What is authorized? Who decides? I suspect this will have to be amended to include language for faculty or staff who have a carry permit, otherwise the policy runs smack dab into state law. Who amends such policies? No idea. Maybe the University Council, maybe not.

So now we wait to see what the governor does, and then how UGA handles it.

(hat tip to Mark Johnson for following through on my comments about hearing of such a policy and finding the stuff you see above and pointing me toward it)

Friday, April 29, 2016

Why a Journalism Major?

A study in the latest Journalism Educator (yes, there is such an academic journal) tests a scale designed to explain "the underlying reasons why undergraduate students seek a degree in journalism," what the authors call the Journalism Degree Motivations scale.

Keep in mind this scale is not a done deal. It's a first shot at validating what they think may be a good measure of the motivations behind signing up as a journalism major. Read the article if you're into methodological details. They look reasonable to me.

Essentially the authors use factor analysis to examine a bejillion questions to see which ones fall together as factors. This is a common statistical technique and eventually can lead to reducing the number of questions to measure the factors that seem to emerge from such validation testing.

Okay, let's get to the good stuff. Why do students decide to major in journalism? What makes 'em tick?  Factor 1 -- they couldn't get into business school (just kidding). The authors found eight factors, none of which include business school. They are, in order of explanatory power:

  • Social Responsibility -- made up of questions like "I want to hold public officials accountable," this one doesn't really surprise you now that it's presented. J-students should be driven by this.
  • Reporting Skills -- This has more to do with enjoying the chase of the story, interviewing, and the like. It doesn't mean they have those skills, it means they enjoy learning them and using them.
  • Social Prestige -- Sigh, students grossly overestimate this one.
  • Sports Media -- This is interesting. An interest in sports is a major factor in becoming a journalist. This bodes well for my school, UGA, where we have two faculty devoted to just teaching sports journalism and a popular certificate program in the discipline.
  • Visual -- Mostly photojournalism and video, this one has to do with folks interested in such visual skills.
  • Writing -- No surprise here, except that I would have expected it to be higher.
  • Varied Career -- This one is interesting enough to revisit on another post. That last thing millennials want is to be bored, and journalism can be boring, but it's definitely varied as well.
  • Science & Numbers Anxiety -- Another one that deserves its own post. Basically a few questions on this found students majored in journalism because they don't want to learn numbers or science. Sorry, darlings, but never have such skills been so necessary in journalism. You should have been j-majors in the 1950s.
For the statistically interested, I recommend going to the article and checking out the Eigenvalues and other methodological notes. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Measuring Media Consumption

Ah, we return to the blog's original purpose -- discussing research. In this case, research on how to measure people's media consumption, a kinda important thing if you happen to be in the media business (academic, or otherwise).

This new study examines one technique. I provide the abstract below because, dammit, even on my university computer I can't access the entire article. Yeah, BS. But still, let's look at what we have and I'll try to break it down for you best I can.
How to measure exposure to information in the media is highly disputed, primarily due to the difficulties of obtaining accurate self-reports. The growing supply of outlets and proliferation of information sources have added an additional level of complexity to these problems. Reflecting on old and new approaches for measuring exposure to political information, it is argued that both the specific source and the frequency of exposure must be taken into account. The validity of this so-called “list-frequency technique” is tested using a two-wave panel survey as well as a split sample experiment from the survey pre-test to enable comparison with the “list technique.” The results support the list-frequency technique in being a good solution, since it provides the same aggregate estimates of media use as the already validated list technique, and may give more detailed effect estimates and increase the explained variance when predicting political knowledge.
Let's do it this way, by taking key concepts one at a time.

  • Self-reports. Most of our survey work depends on self-reports of news consumption. You know, questions like how many days a week do you watch television news. Or how often do you watch Fox News. Or something like that. But as House often tells us: "People lie." They lie about how often they vote, how often they attend religious services, and they lie about the media they consume and how often they consume it. Or if they don't lie, they misreport in a fashion that makes them look better. In other words, these measures are full of error.
  • List-Frequency is just what it sounds like, a technique in which people tell us what media they consume and then how often. Often this is more specific than our apriori questions that focus on a generic term, like television news, or even specific networks or programs.
  • The down side? It adds time and complexity to a survey instrument. But the method, according to the abstract, provides more explanatory power when predicting what people know.

For $41 I could read the whole article. Yeah, right.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Christian-like Correction

So there was an odd story I came across Thursday, one that kinda threw me because I'd heard nothing about it. See the screen grab below. Note the hed: University of Georgia. Same in the lede. But the dateline is all wrong, and later the story it suggests it's University of North Georgia.

Confusing, right? I commented below the story asking for a clarification because if this happened at UGA, the local news media missed it. I also sent an email to the editor. I never received a response to my email and, interestingly, my comment on the story was removed. BUT ... the story was corrected, with no notice of a correction being made. Here's what you see today. Note the change in hed and lede.

Apparently it's not Christian to acknowledge corrections and tell your audience you screwed up. C'mon, folks, it's Journalism 101 to put a correction notice. You know, confess.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

UGA Open Records Requests

I've written on this earlier, but I now have cleaner and more comprehensive data on the kinds of open records requests UGA receives and how many -- as seen by a new law in Georgia -- involve athletics. Below I discuss not only how many requests were made, and not only how many of those involve sports, but also who made the most requests from UGA.

As we all know, the governor signed into law a 90-day (versus the usual 3-day) time period for athletics departments in Georgia universities to respond to the public's right to know. Yes, the public can know ... eventually. In 90 days. Or longer, really, a law written mainly because sports journalists wanted to know how much money the coach was using to fly here and there recruiting.

What I'm presenting here are all open records requests made since August 1, 2015, to late last week. Below are the basic results. As you can see, sports-related requests make up over half of the requests (54.7 percent).

205 (54.7%)
170 (45.3%)

To be honest, the proportion of sports-related open records requests would be even higher if not for a controversy involving an employee on campus and how UGA bungled her case. There were quite a number of requests on that and, taken out of the mix, sports would dominate even more.

I didn't take the time to break down the non-athletics requests. A lot are routine stuff, like the number of bee keepers in Clinch County (yes, really). A lot are from lawyers niffing around for info for their clients (some interesting stories there, budding journalists, if you just take a closer look). There's even a helicopter mom asking why her kid didn't get accepted into UGA.

Top Requesters

The news media make far more requests than anyone else and especially in sports. Below you'll see the Top 10 Requesters from UGa in the last eight or so months.

# Requests
Marc Weiszer
Robbie Burton
Seth Emerson
Chip Towers
Lee Shearer
Jason Butt
Kevin Kelley
Kale Duffell
Rebecca Burns
Dan Eveloff

By the way, I'm #11 with four requests. Fear me.

Most of the folks above are sports or news, with Weiszer by far leading the pack. Indeed, 17.3 percent of all requests were made by him. Maybe they should have named the new 90-day law after him?

Monday, April 18, 2016

Learning from Shared News

We all realize by now that many people get their news via social networks, largely Facebook. This study looks at how sharing is related to two types of knowledge: factual and structural. First, the definitions. By factual knowledge, the authors mean exactly what you think they mean, the ability to correctly identify bits of information. "Structural knowledge, on the other hand, is conceptualized as being able to see the connections that exist between related concepts."

The first is easy to measure, the second a bit more of a challenge.

By knowledge structure density, they asked respondents how related they see two concepts on a seven-point scale until all possible combinations of the five items had been used -- Medicare, taxes, politics, economy, and debt.

Viewing news online, they found, is related to factual knowledge but not structural knowledge. But sharing is just the opposite, more related to structural as opposed to factual knowledge.

Interesting. Still trying to figure out exactly what this means in both a theoretical and practical sense.

Friday, April 15, 2016

UGA's PR Problem

I've noticed since the hiring of UGA's new vice president in charge of marketing and some such, all we see in news stories these days is an email response to journalists' questions.

What utter bullshit. I'll explain why below. First, and most recently, this story on faculty salaries is a good example. Near the bottom, we get this tripe (sorry for its length, this is how my local paper ran it online):
Michelle Garfield Cook, UGA’s associate provost for institutional diversity, defended the ERS study in an email.

“The university selected an independent consulting firm with more than 30 years of experience working with universities. Using a qualified, third-party consultant prevents potential conflicts of interest,” she wrote. “ERS Group applies an industry-standard methodology and has prepared pay equity studies at research institutions including Stanford University, Virginia Tech, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Auburn University and the University of Kentucky. The study took into account factors that legitimately impact compensation, including academic discipline and rank as well as tenure status. Other factors that legitimately impact compensation include education level, work experience and administrative assignments, among other factors. The university is committed to gender equity and intends to review faculty salaries on a regular basis, at least every five years.”
Oh Hollander, you say, this is just one case, so stop making a big deal out of nothing. A couple of days earlier, more and similar tripe in this story. Sorry, again this is how the paper has it online. It doesn't say it's an email, but it certainly reads like one:
Karri Hobson-Pape, UGA’s vice president for markeint and communications, had this comment on the pay numbers:

“The trends you note are simply due to the recession period when our longer-term UGA faculty members could not receive merit raises,” she wrote in an email. “This is a challenge we are now addressing through three consecutive annual faculty raises generously permitted through the Board of Regents. In addition, we are also now in a position to hire incoming faculty at more competitive market rates. President Morehead and Provost Whitten share a strong commitment to increasing faculty salaries; it has been and will continue to be one of their top priorities.”
It's a basic journalism rule that you don't give sources the questions in advance. That's what an email does, gives academic bureaucrats the questions in advance, allows them to craft meaningless, stiff, bullshit responses, and there's then no opportunity for a follow-up question to point or quiz them on inconsistencies or to challenge the statements.

It's a PR flak's wet dream. It's a journalist's nightmare. And the public loses in the process.

So either UGA has decided its people cannot handle telephone or face-to-face conversations, or the local paper is not willing to challenge the administrators. Here's how I would handle this. I'd have a sit-down with the VP of Whatever and explain this is unacceptable, that either you respond to questions in a live setting or we'll simply run the stories without your carefully crafted crap, because we're not gonna put up with this bullshit email thing. And I'd put in every story that the university refused to respond to questions unless provided in advance. I'd put it in a friggin box. In bold face. Like this.

Yeah, that's how I'd handle it.