Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Inching ever closer ...

I'm on two different Grady College (at UGA) committees examining how (not if, really, but how) to restructure the college both administratively and in terms of curriculum. As I've mentioned here before, the provost has accelerated the process some -- not necessarily a bad thing given how slow academe can creak and grind its way to a decision.

So both committees met this week. We mostly talked at the conceptual level, not at the nitty-gritty course level. That said, here's how I sense things are going (keeping in mind I could be completely wrong):
  • Journalism and Digital and Broadcast Journalism (the old Broadcast News but now with fancy modifiers) will merge.
  • That merger will likely include a mix of 1-hour skills-based classes at first so students are more multimedia savvy before walking into journalism-oriented classes.
  • Something will replace WUGA-TV. What? Still so far up in the air you can't even see it. The odds? I'd put it at 30 percent some kind of big teaching hospital newsroom thingie, 70 percent a more innovation lab thingie.
  • We'll have three departments but with the potential for faculty to be associated with more than one department. Call 'em, for now, Ad/PR, Journalism, and Media Studies.
  • While we'll remain administratively vertical, we're inching toward a more horizontal approach when it comes to areas of interest. What's this mean in English? I'll write more on this later.
  • "Yes," you ask, "but what's media studies?" All the stuff that doesn't fit in the other two, largely entertainment or documentary oriented but also critical studies. The name will probably reflect this "critical" aspect as well, so it might be Media and Critical Studies. I dunno.

Again let me stress the information above is merely my sense of where things seem to be headed after only two meetings (one for each committee). The faculty will of course have to approve any changes, and we haven't even begun to address the zillion little issues that will crop up in merging faculty and coming up with a more (ugh, c-word warning) converged curriculum.

Also it's unclear now the New Media Institute fits in whatever happens downstairs in that TV space. Hell, a lot is unclear. There's a college-wide meeting next week to discuss the results of focus groups all the faculty participated in, or were invited to participate in. They make for a fun read. While there are no names attached, I can easily spot some people who have been singing the same song for years and years. That meeting next Friday (3/7) will hopefully bring into focus some of the expectations and plans.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Writing with Numbers: This Week's R&B

I don't normally publicly critique the local papers unless they do stories that involve public opinion polls or, in this case, write with numbers. Lemme take a couple of minutes to look hard at two stories.
  • UGA students don't finish in four years. This is a longish story and my main concern is that the main reason, by far the main reason, that UGA lags here is the Hope Scholarship. The Hope makes it possible to linger in college compared to other universities. The numbers here are right, only 62.4 percent of freshman in the latest cohort graduated in four years. In fairness to UGA, 10 years ago that number was 44.2 percent. So when making comparisons, also look at how improvement rates compare.
  • College of Engineering grows into competition for Ga. Tech. This reads like a PR piece for the Engineering school. Don't get me wrong, I'm excited as hell at the success this program is having. It can only mean good things for the university. But the third graf of this story is too long, out of place, and that 70 percent job number is so out of context as to need a critical eye. Yes, maybe 70 percent of UGA engineering grads get jobs, like Tech, but I can promise you they're very different jobs. Tech is world class in engineering and computer science. We're not there yet. Be critical of every number, and especially don't let the flack write your story for you -- as this one seems.
I don't want to sound overly harsh. I'm glad to see numbers in stories, but you've got to be careful to make sure they are apples to apples, oranges to oranges.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Curricular Excitement, Grady-style

We're involved in a long -- as in really long -- set of discussions on how to restructure Grady College at UGA. A careful, deliberate process.

The new provost just slammed down the accelerator.
(important -- see added comments below)

All along we kinda sorta expected the Department of Journalism would combine with the Digital and Broadcast Journalism sequence of the Department of Telecommunications. We both do journalism, after all, even if there are huge differences in how we approach it.

Long and short of it, broadcast and journalism will combine, and instead of having a couple of years to work out exactly how this will work, the provost wants it done by the end of Spring semester. That does not mean in Fall we're combined. That only means we have until the end of Spring to work out the curriculum and then the administrators will spend their summer ironing out more mundane but important details like faculty loads, etc. And it's not done then. It has to go "up the hill" through the bureaucratic maze that is UGA and the Board of Regents. It'd go into effect Fall 2015.

So the lede is this: the provost doesn't want us to talk about whether it's a good idea, she wants us to do it, and now, not later.

I agree it's time. But here in a plantation model university about the only thing faculty control is curriculum, so the provost and Grady administrators have to ease this along, finesse it, because all it takes is a handful of pissed-off faculty to gum up the works. I don't see that happening, but ham-handedness is a keenly developed UGA skillset.

That overall discussion of restructuring Grady? That will continue, but we're apparently carving out the journalism curriculum thing to speed it along.

CORRECTION (or amplification): We're not told to merge, just told to complete our curriculum review by the end of the semester.  To me this is more or less the same thing, as most of us knew where this was going and support a merger. I don't see any likely scenario in which our curriculum review leads to anywhere but combining journalism with broadcast news, but I could be wrong. It's possible, I suppose, we could all sit down to meet and end up in a melee. If that happens, I'm going for Hazinski first, just for the hell of it (muahahahah). Also, the speedy discussion is tied, in some small part, to a decision needing to be made about the TV station.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Belief in Astrology

Who is more likely to believe that astrology is scientific? The scientifically challenged, obviously, but that's too easy. No, thanks to this paper let's depress ourselves (or elate ourselves) further by breaking it down via party identification and political ideology.

Most Likely to Believe
Astrology is Scientific
  1. Conservative Democrats
  2. Moderate Democrats
  3. Moderate Independents
Least Likely to Believe
Astrology is Scientific
  1. Conservative Republicans
  2. Moderate Republicans
  3. Liberal Republicans
In other words, thank God for Republicans.Younger adults are more likely to see it as scientific than older adults, and the more education you have, the less you see it as scientific. No surprise in either of those. There's even a fun table that ranks people by professions and their belief in such kookiness.

So what's driving this? Are Democrats just too kooky to know any better? It's driven more by education and age than it is by political partisanship and ideology. Still, conservative Republicans were more likely to know the Earth revolves around the Sun (67.3 percent) while only 27.1 percent of conservative Democrats (all 6 of them left in the world) answered this question correctly, so if you want to call the Dems a bit kooky, go right ahead.

Friday, February 14, 2014

"Going around Congress ..."

I was skimming a few polls and especially this Fox News poll and came across this question:
Regardless of what you think about how things are supposed to work, do you approve or disapprove of Barack Obama going around Congress and using executive orders?
My gut reaction is the "going around Congress" is a bit loaded, a bit biased, in terms of question wording. Let's at least agree it paints Obama in a negative light. Here's my real point. This question come right before the next one, the real story:
Thinking about the 2010 health care law, are you glad the health care law passed or do you wish it hadn’t passed and we still had the system that was in place in 2009?

See the problem? The first question primes a negative attitude about Obama and the second is the real "news" question, that more people wish it hadn't been passed than are glad it was. How much of a prime? Damn little, I suspect, but some, maybe worth a few percentage points.

Saturday, February 8, 2014


I've always had a weakness for typologies in which you categorize people by names of your own choosing. What a sense of power, and if others cite you, what a sense of academic prestige.

Here's a study that examines "news media repertoires" and categorizes people as:
  • News Avoiders (name is self explanatory)
  • Emerging News Seekers (use largely new media)
  • Traditional News Seekers (old farts, like me)
There's nothing groundbreaking in the typology above, nothing surprising. but the real reason I'm mentioning the study is, of course, its focus on political knowledge. According to the abstract:
Moreover, traditional news seekers outperformed emerging seekers as well as avoiders in the acquisition of political knowledge, and the high education group possessed more political knowledge than the low education group. Finally, the magnitude of the knowledge gap between the high and low education groups was statistically significant for both the news avoiders and traditional seekers, but not for the emerging seekers.
Education is traditionally the most powerful predictor of what people know. What the study adds is the interaction of education with the typology. For the news avoiders and traditional seekers, education matters. For the emerging seekers, it doesn't.  What the abstract doesn't tell you is that the difference still increases based on education for emerging seekers, but the difference isn't quite enough to achieve the statistical significance seen in the other two categories. Also, the power of these categories to explain differences largely disappears when you control for -- age. Not quite a "well, duh" moment, but a bit obvious.