Thursday, May 29, 2014

My Favorite Teaching Evals (Spring 14 Edition)

I need to sit down and read them all carefully, but it's time to look at some of my favorite comments from classes I taught in Spring 2014. We're going to focus here on jour3410, a required class for journalism and public relations majors. I teach the lecture and one lab, so to keep it simple let's look just at what the folks had to say about my 160-student lecture.

What did they dislike? Here's one I get every semester:
So early in the morning! Yikes!
Because, ya see, the lecture is at 9:05 a.m. Mondays and Wednesdays. Not because I love early mornings, but so we have more flexibility in scheduling the labs associated with the class.

Here's a problem I'm not sure how to handle.
I feel that the professor talked too much about stories that he had written in the past that didn't all seem to be relevant to the course material.
I tell a few "war stories" to illustrate the textbook stuff. So if the chapter is covering such terms as subpoena and deposition, I tell a story in which I faced. Some don't like it. Some do. For example, asked what he or she liked best about the class, one student said:
The interesting stories the professor told.
So, it's hard to change. I have a lot of comments like the one above. Oh, here's one I'd never seen before on dislikes. It's about exams:
His test questions were sometimes just obscure things that he had said.
That's an interesting observation above. Will have to give that one some thought.

Okay, there are some good things. Like:
I loved Hollander's teaching style and sense of humor. The material was not always interesting but he found ways to make it appeal to me more.
The professor! He is awesome and I love how he interacts with the class. I learned a lot from his lectures. They were interesting and informative. 
and maybe my favorite:
By far one of the most memorable professors I have had.  He was very enthusiastic about material. Did learn more than the first Journalism class with Soloski.
One student said the best part was how "lively" I was in class. The worst part? How "lively" I was in class. "He could have toned it down."


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

In Press

Because I can do whatever the hell I want on my own blog, I pass this along. Oh that magic phrase, in press.

Hollander, Barry A. (in press). "The Surprised loser: The Role of Electoral Expectations and News Media Exposure in Satisfaction with Democracy." Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly.

Abstract: While scholars have long noted the gap between electoral winners and losers in terms of satisfaction with democracy, there has been less success in identifying the underlying causes of this gap. This research tests whether electoral expectation may play a role. People typically predict their preferred candidate will win an election, an effect called wishful thinking, and this is examined through analysis of national survey data from the 2012 presidential election to determine whether those who expected their candidate to win, but were "surprised losers," are more negative about the election, democracy, and trust in government. In addition, while the news media are often mentioned in winner-loser research, rarely is exposure to the news included in analysis. Data from the same respondents interviewed before and after the election demonstrate that the gap indeed exists and exposure to the news, in particular Fox News Channel, resulted in greater wishful thinking among supporters of Mitt Romney and less satisfaction with democracy.

Friday, May 23, 2014


I listened to a radio story the other day about downsizing. Ya know, the kids have moved out, you got this big place with only two people. Empty nest.

Except we didn't overbuy when we had kids. Yes, it got a little tight in the teen years, our house, but we stuck it out and now that they're in college it's time to -- not do a damn thing. Samesizing, I'd call it, for lack of a better term.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

How Good Were the Georgia Polls?

Looking just at the Republican primary race for U.S. Senate (the most fun race of 'em all because it included my kooky congressman), let's see how the polls did compared to the actual voting results.

I'm just going to take two polls, conducted near the election.
  • A last-minute Morris/Fox 5 poll of 852 likely voters had it at (actual in parentheses):
    • Perdue 26 (31)
    • Kingston 17 (26)
    • Handel 17 (22)
    • Gingrey 11 (10)
    • Broun 10 (10)
    • and others making up the rest. In this poll 18 percent undecided
  •  An Insider/Advantage poll of 1,182 likely voters found (again, actual votes in parentheses):
    • Perdue 27 (31)
    • Kingston 19 (26)
    • Handel 17 (22)
    • Broun 10 (10)
    • Gingrey 9 (10)
    • and so on for the rest. In this poll, 18 percent undecided
What can we make of these? First, both polls got the leading vote getter correct. Give 'em points for that. Yes, the polls underestimated the votes of the top three candidates, but that's a function of the undecideds finally, well, deciding, and in this case all breaking more or less for the top three rather equally. Take that top poll as a case study, as it was the last one conducted before the election. Perdue overperformed by 5 percentage points, Kingston by 6, Handel by 5. Do the math and you see how the undecided voters broke when it came time to touch a screen.

What the polls failed to do is discriminate well between the second and third place candidates, Kingston and Handel. That's tough in a low-turnout primary. I'm not saying it can't be done, I'm just saying it's tough to pull off. I would have included questions designed to tap how the undecideds were leaning, for example, and how strong the feelings were for those who had decided. With a little effort, and better sampling techniques rather than robo-calling landlines, you can tease this out more.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Catholic Sample Size

I'm reading a story in The Georgia Bulletin (my Catholic diocesan newspaper -- yes, I get that bored) and came across this story:

Survey finds ongoing dissatisfaction with new Missal language

I can't find the story on the paper's web site, but here's a badly written version via the Catholic News Service. So why am I blogging about this? Because it touches on two of my favorite topics: (1) public opinion surveys, and (2) stories about public opinion surveys. Oh, plus I'm (obviously) Catholic.

A bit of background for the heathen among you. The Mass language changed a year or so ago. No one likes it, not really, but it's minor stuff mostly and by now most of us have gotten used to what is apparently more accurate, though less poetic, translations from Latin to English. There, more than you wanted to know.

Here's part of the story I have in my local Catholic "newspaper."
Three quarters of the survey participants agreed that the language of the new text is "awkward and distracting," and half said the translation "urgently needs to be revised."
The survey itself was of 519 respondents drawn from 6,000 randomly selected parishes. From a methodological standpoint, not a bad process. It's of priests and lay leaders, so we're not talking everyday Catholics here.

Msgr. Richard Hilgartner raises a couple of legitimate concerns and then adds this bit of methodological criticism. According to the story: "He also raises questions about whether the number of responses represent a meaningful sample of sentiment about the translation."

A survey of 519, assuming a good sample, is adequate. You get a margin of error of about 4.3 percent, depending on the method used to calculate it. Given the big numbers seen above, that's okay. Not great. I'd like 1,000, but 519 is perfectly adequate given the population you're trying to describe. In other words, the good monsignor should probably keep to liturgy and not survey work.

Now, a word about the story. The version I see in print, and online, both suck. I mean really suck, as in there are lots of ways to report a poll's findings and there are lots of ways to not do it well, and in this case my print version includes every possible way to screw it up. We need bullets for the questions, some way of organizing the results, and don't take a priest's word at methodological criticism. I mean, he's a friggin priest, not a survey researcher (best I can tell).

The lesson here? There's a lot about this survey to like, though I wonder at the construction of some of the questions, and certainly the stories based on the results fall far short of what a pro should do. Plus here's the kicker -- the new wording does suck, but I figure as more of us older Catholics die off the new generations will shrug and accept it.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Forbes, Vox, and Bullshit Heds

I'm getting kinda "meta" here, discussing a piece that discusses a news site. It's a Forbes article with this bold hed:

Why Do So Many Journalists Hate Vox?

I immediately think, wow, someone spent the money to survey journalists about what they think of a new and (to many regular folks) obscure explanatory journalism site?

No. Not at all. Here's a key graph:

Both types of explanatory journalism make a lot of journalists who don’t work at Vox angry, even journalists who work at other news sites that regularly publish both of these kinds of stories themselves. That’s confusing, we know. Maybe it would help to look at some examples.

And then it takes off on, well, some examples, and best I can tell never returns to what journalists think, and why. So you basically have a Forbes piece bitching about Vox while doing the same bullshit it complains Vox does.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Rand Paul's Secret Sauce -- Gamers?

Gamers, it seems, lean Libertarian. The original article is here. Basically, if you're a Libertarian-leaning candidate running for, oh, the GOP presidential nomination, I suppose gamers offer an unexploited political base.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Start From Scratch?

If you were to build a journalism curriculum from scratch, how would you do it?

This is no mere intellectual exercise (though mere intellectual exercises are what I do best, along with drinking coffee and striking professorial poses). The Department of Journalism at UGA will merge with the Digital and Broadcast Journalism section of the Department of Telecommunications. All those proper nouns strung together essentially means the journalism and broadcast journalism folks are combining and we start the process this summer.

Step 1: Form a Committee

This is how we do things in academe. First we form a committee or working group to attack the problem, and then we have meetings. Okay, maybe attack is a bit strong, but you get the idea.

Step 2: Bitch About Committees

This is a necessary step. Once completed, we can then ...

Step 3: Core Competencies

While any of us can sit down and scratch out on a cocktail napkin a curriculum, it's probably a good idea to sit and think first about what skills or competencies students need to have. Some of these are painfully obvious: reporting, writing, visual, ethics, law, and more reporting. Data. Fact finding. And more reporting. Lots of visual stuff, from stills to video to graphics. And coding, a little coding wouldn't hurt. Anyway, we'll hack away at a list. And of course some folks will insist their pet competencies be included. For me, coffee drinking is a competency.

Step 4: Bitch Some More About Committees

This one, maybe not. The dean says he'll buy beer if we'll work on curriculum this summer. With enough beer we'll probably bitch about something else.

Step 5: From Competencies to Curriculum

This is the hard part, from abstract (writing, thinking visually, ethical decision making) to concrete (actual classes). Here's where politics becomes an uncomfortable part of the process as folks work to protect and defend their own classes, especially faculty who don't want to be made to teach outside their comfort zone. We also have to decide on specialties, whether they should be majors or merely emphases (yes, it matters). What we don't want is to weld broadcast news unto journalism and just add another emphasis (broadcast) to our four existing emphases (public affairs, magazine, visual, and management). We get few chances to really change a curriculum. This is our shot. I hope to God we don't blow it. As far as I'm concerned, there will be no class with the name of a medium on it (i.e., magazine writing). As far as I'm concerned, writing and reporting will dominate the early curriculum (a class in fact finding, a class in writing across media). And as far as I'm concerned ethics and law should come early, not late, in the curriculum. I'm open to dumping our mass comm law class and offering one earlier that focuses on the tension between law and ethics. Not saying that's gonna happen. See comfort zones above. But what separates us from others is finding stuff out and telling stories in an ethical manner.

Step 6: Facing the Faculty

Everything goes back to the full faculty. Some of them occasionally teach. All will have opinions based on their vast experience in our curriculum (not really, not at all, but funny how they're the loudest, the ones that barely teach).

Step 7: The Vote

At some point we vote. Curriculum issues are the one place where faculty, not the administration, has final say.

Step 8: Implementation

If we're lucky, Fall 2015.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Interest in Sports

I'm messing with some national data from a coupla years ago about interest in sports and let's see how various sports stack up. What percentage of U.S. adults say they are "very interested" in specific sports (in no particular order):
  • ATP Men's Tennis -- 4.1 percent
  • ATP Women's Tennis -- 4.7 percent
  • Major League Baseball -- 15.5 percent
  • Minor League Baseball -- 2.5 percent
  • Major League Soccer -- 2.4 percent
  • International Pro Soccer -- 3.5 percent
  • NBA -- 10.0 percent
  • WNBA -- 2.3 percent
  • Men's College Basketball -- 13.7 percent
  • Women's College Basketball -- 3.9 percent
  • NFL -- 23.6 percent
  • College Football -- 24.4 percent
  • High School Football -- 8.1 percent
  • NHL -- 5.2 percent
  • PGA Golf -- 9.3 percent
  • LPGA Golf -- 4.1 percent
  • NASCAR -- 8.9 percent
  • Cycling -- 2.0 percent
  • Horse Racing -- 4.5 percent
  • Figure Skating -- 16.0 percent
  • Boxing -- 7.2 percent
  • Mixed Martial Arts -- 4.8 percent
  • BASS Fishing -- 3.1 percent
Because it's a Friday I left a bunch out, like skateboarding and swimming and so son. And I didn't bother ordering them. As you can tell, and as no surprise, NFL dominates in terms of the U.S. sports audience.

The data needs to be merged with some demographics so I can break people down by race and sex and region of the country. That's a summer project because then it opens up a whole set of interesting analyses for papers or articles or blog posts to be read by tens of people worldwide.

I even have questions on how often people watch sports on TV and how often they've attended certain sporting events (all the categories above, plus those I left out).

And here's the best part. In the same data I (think) I have questions on favorite movie genres. I can even break people down by the kinds of clubs they belong to, their hobbies, the music they listen to, and most important -- their attitudes about race. That last one is definitely a paper in the making. As my grad class in (irony alert) secondary analysis did not "make" for the summer, I have lots of time to crank data.


I had a few minutes today, as a break from grading papers, and did a little shameless ego-searching via the magic of Google Scholar and came across this 2012 policy paper out of London that cites an old old old study of mine. Fun. And yes, shameless.

Polling in Georgia

Okay, first, read this. When finished, you're allowed to return.

You're back? Good. I assume you can be trusted, that you read Galloway's Political Insider post about two polls in Georgia. Or at least skimmed it. Some good stuff there.

The lede is simple -- we have a Tale of Two Polls.

One is a semi-traditional robo-mixed poll that shows Handel with the momentum but Perdue ahead for the GOP nomination to run as the party's rep for U.S. Senate. The other is an "internal" poll. Let's talk about that one.Here's the memo that backs up that internal poll. Released by the Kingston folks, it coincidentally shows Kingston ahead. (shock!) The brief report concludes that Kingston "leads a crowded field."

Not so fast, my methodologically-challenged friend.

The margin of error of this poll is a hair below 5 percent, and that leaves you with statistically a tie among the top four candidates. On the good side, this poll includes 80 cell phone-based interviews in its relatively small, but marginally acceptable N of 400. The results may actually be better than the other, larger poll. Except, of course, it's internal. That means you can't really trust the numbers. As if Kingston's folks would release a poll that shows him way behind. News 101: Internal polls are fascinating, but they are not to be trusted.

So which one is right? They both are, because the race is simply too close to call, at least based on polls that are not as methodologically sound as one would like. Kingston wants to stop Handel's momentum and get himself into the runoff, and nothing does that better than (1) tons of money for TV ads and (2) a sense of momentum or inevitability.
This poll release is designed to slow Handel down, or at least signal to any contributors out there that he remains the viable runoff candidate.