Barry Hollander remembered

Many students, alumni, faculty, staff and friends sent memories and messages of condolence via social media and other platforms. A representative collection of these thoughts can be found here. The preferred viewing browser is Chrome.

Barry Hollander led the Grady College participation for Electionland, an effort to identify and verify potential problems at the polls for his course, Public Opinion and the 2016 Election.
Barry Hollander led the Grady College participation for Electionland, an effort to identify and verify potential problems at the polls for his course, Public Opinion and the 2016 Election.

Students remember his wit and his gruff sense of humor. Alumni remember his relentless pursuit of accuracy and the verification of facts in journalism. Others remember his regular classroom challenge: “If your mother says she loves you, check it out.” Everyone remembers his passion for journalism and educating the next generation.

Barry Hollander, professor of journalism at Grady College for 26 years, died on Jan. 30, 2018.

“Barry was a great journalist and journalism professor,” Charles Davis, dean of Grady College said. “He taught the fundamentals of reporting to nearly every journalism and public relations student in Grady for more than 20 years, and he delighted in following their work in The Red & Black and Newsource.”

Hollander joined Grady College as an assistant professor in 1991, and taught hundreds of students how to report sound, fact-based journalism. He was the first professor many Grady students had for basic reporting and information gathering, and he taught graduate students public opinion and special topics classes.

Greg Bluestein (ABJ ’04), political reporter for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, said Hollander always encouraged his students to learn what they could in the classroom, then take that knowledge and apply it elsewhere through writing for local newspapers or working at internships.

“It was pushing us to be bold and confident about what he taught us, and what Grady taught us,” Bluestein said.

Hollander was influential in Bluestein’s life after college, as well, frequently providing feedback.

“He was kind of a constant sort of presence in the back of our minds as journalists out there saying ‘you know, maybe we should have pushed harder on this,’” Bluestein continued. “He was never doing it in a negative or critical way, but more of a life-long educator way. Even after we were out of UGA, he was pushing us to think about how we reported things.”

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Dan Fagin worked with Hollander when they were both working at the Punta Gorda bureau of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune in the mid-1980s.

Barry Hollander was moderator of a panel included Greg Bluestein (ABJ ’04) and Mary Katharine Ham (ABJ ’06) during the 2016 McGill Symposium.
Barry Hollander was moderator of a panel that included Greg Bluestein (ABJ ’04) and Mary Katharine Ham (ABJ ’06) during the 2016 McGill Symposium.

“It was my first job out of school,” Fagin said, “and Barry would mock me mercilessly about being an Ivy League boy. Like most people who truly love our profession, his hard shell of hilarious cynicism, (saying things like) ‘that paper’s not fit to wrap fish,’ couldn’t quite conceal his fondness for the job.”

“The only people who escaped his rapier wit,” Fagin continued in a message on Twitter, “were Edith and his two kids, Jacob and Erin. He unashamedly reveled in their love, and in their remarkable accomplishments, too.”

Samira Jafari (ABJ ’02), an executive producer at CNN, said that news was in his DNA and that she felt like she was working with a real newsman while in his class.

“He pushed us to get the tough stories and ask the tough questions,” Jafari said. “He had such faith in the students to be able to do that. He injected this gumption and this courage to go and get the tough stories.”

Jafari recalled that Hollander had encouraged her to pursue an unsolved crime story when she was a student. It was a difficult and emotional story, but he helped her build the characters and navigate the difficult interviews.

“It never would have occurred to me that I would have been capable of doing that if someone didn’t take time out of class to say ‘hey, I think you can do this and I think you would really grow from it,’” Jafari said.

Lindsey Cook (ABJ ’14), a digital skills editor for the New York Times, was another student who Hollander encouraged.

An undated picture of Barry Hollander addressing a group of international journalists.
An undated picture of Barry Hollander addressing a group of international journalists.

“I can’t overstate Hollander’s impact on my life and career,” Cook said. “He was a committed mentor for all the self-described nerds at Grady, including myself, and always met his students with a smile, cup of coffee and his signature wit.”

Like others, Cook remembers his passion for news, and especially for supporting The Red & Black.

“He read the Red & Black religiously,” Cook recalled. “Many Red & Black editors and reporters know the feeling of an email from Hollander in your inbox with praise, a story suggestion or sass-layered criticism.”

Hollander’s classes were the first many took at Grady College, and although he sprinkled anecdotes throughout his lectures, he taught that it was not anecdotes, but facts, that made the story. His red pen was well known in the halls of Grady, but his lessons encouraged countless students to appreciate the hallmarks of journalism as much as he did.

“Hollander valued facts and accountability more than most people I’ve met,” said Daniel Funke (ABJ ’17), a reporter at The Poynter Institute.

Scott Trubey (ABJ ’05), a business reporter for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, said it was Hollander’s class that convinced him that journalism is what he wanted to do for a living.

“He kept you on your toes, and the thing that I think about the most about him is how much he cared for the craft and how much he instilled the need to care for the craft from the very early stages,” Trubey said.

Barry Hollander taught in the Grady at Oxford summer program in 2006.
Barry Hollander taught in the Grady at Oxford summer program in 2006.

He continued: “Hollander was also great about data and how important it was. He showed how to craft narrative around data. He had a way of taking numbers and painting a picture that I think left a mark on me and so many of my other classmates who went on to be reporters.”

Hollander was awarded not only praise from students, but also several awards through the years including the Department of Journalism’s teacher the year, Student Government teacher of the year, and the UGA Honors Program’s top teaching award.

Outside of the classroom, Hollander was an avid poster on Twitter, his blog, What People Know, and on the platform, Medium, citing transparent observations about politics, data, the University of Georgia and his illness.

“What he wrote on Medium and also what he wrote on Twitter and social media… his personality showed through all of this horrible scourge of cancer,” Bluestein said. “But, some of his Tweets are hilarious. It was a real example to us all. He is sort of poking fun of it all.”

Jafari cited his candor, honest and no-nonsense tone as favorite attributes, as well as his looking out for his students, many times as a parent would.

“I loved that he had our backs without coddling us,” Jafari said. “When you care about people, you don’t want to be so protective that they don’t learn. You also look out for them so they succeed and he was good like that.”

“He is not forgettable,” Jafari concluded. “He is someone who made an impact on a lot of us. He should very much be credited for shaping our lives after college. We wouldn’t be where we are without people like him, and that’s his legacy—to help other people have one, too.”

Hollander’s words can best be summed up by reading his obituary, which he wrote.

Other remembrances can be viewed here:

Making sense of fake news

(This feature was originally written for and printed in University of Georgia Research. It is reprinted with permission.)

A year ago, a contentious election culminated in a new president for the United States. It also introduced the country—and the world—to fake news.

From individual stories like Pizzagate (an online story alleging that a Washington, D.C., pizzeria was involved in a child sex ring led by Hillary Clinton) to examinations of its role in the presidential election, fake news has become a staple of headlines. Recent stories have explored how fake news is created, how it goes viral, and increasingly, how to combat it.

Some people believe all conspiracy theories, whether from the political left or right, and those people tend to have high levels of anxiety and low levels of trust, Hollander says. Photo: Terry Allen
Some people believe all conspiracy theories, whether from the political left or right, and those people tend to have high levels of anxiety and low levels of trust, Hollander says. Photo: Terry Allen

But the concept of fake news is not new. For perspective, Research Magazine turned to four experts at the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication—faculty members Jay Hamilton, Bart Wojdynski and Barry Hollander and Ph.D. student Jessica Maddox. They approach the topic from different angles, but share at least one premise: Fake news means different things to different people.

The definition of fake news has expanded, the researchers said, from its original meaning—a story that’s deliberately made up for personal, political or economic gain. Fake news also may refer to a story that was true in its original form but was altered, accidentally or deliberately, through the process of being shared, usually through social networks. And it’s used as a pejorative term, applied by the user to discredit something he or she doesn’t agree with.

“Fake news is multiple things, and that’s what makes it so complicated,” said Jay Hamilton, cultural historian of communication and Jim Kennedy Professor of New Media.

Today’s concerns about fake news are informed by our nation’s experiences with news bias and propaganda, he said.

During the late 19th-century circulation battles, publishers like William Randolph Hearst sensationally slanted news (or invented it, as in the case of the sinking of the Maine in 1898) to increase newspaper readership and promote a particular political position. In the latter half of the 1930s, Father Charles Coughlin used his weekly national radio program to drum up anti-Semitic sentiment and consolidate a nationalist political program sympathetic to fascist governments.

Prevalent in these concerns, Hamilton said, is the idea that messages are powerful and people are susceptible. But there’s a big difference between news bias and fake news, according to Hamilton, head of the department of entertainment and media studies.

“One’s about standpoint and skew. That’s bias,” he said. Fake news “is about fabrication and completely nonsensical things that have never happened.”

And what’s driving the fake news phenomenon now is a hyper-competitive online media marketplace seeking to capitalize on internet users’ attention to bring in advertising dollars.

To address the problem, Hamilton recommends reforming the structure of online advertising sales and giving users tools to investigate content. He’s impressed with, a journalism project out of Ukraine that verifies facts and refutes false reports about events in Crimea covered in the media.

“It’s really instructive that such an innovative effort at combating fake news came out of a former Soviet republic,” he said. “Who else is going to be so skilled at wading through the crap than people who have had to deal with that for generations?”

Bart Wojdynski, assistant professor of journalism, wants to know how visual cues influence people when they’re evaluating information, particularly since readers increasingly view online information outside of its original context.

“A majority of people under 45 access news daily via social media channels like Facebook and Twitter, where it’s interspersed with content from their friends, acquaintances and colleagues,” he said.

In this “news snacking” context, Wojdynski said, people are less likely to question the information or the source.

“We know that people consume news for different reasons, and sometimes there’s a diversion component,” he said. “If you’re trying to pass the time for two minutes while waiting in line, you’re probably not going to do a lot of in-depth research to verify the sources of a story—especially on a mobile device.”

It’s not just social media that’s blurred the lines between news, entertainment and advertising, according to Wojdynski, who serves as director of the Digital Media Attention and Cognition Lab.

“It makes sense that consumers don’t always think of investigative reporting when they think of news, because news organizations are involved in a whole lot more, like car sections and living guides,” he said. “That has diluted the perceived value of news.”

Wojdynski is exploring how people’s scrutiny of the news is driven by confirmation bias (information that confirms what they think) and desirability bias (information that they want to be true).

“Ultimately, I think that’s what it boils down to—the degree to which people question what they see and read,” he said.

Barry Hollander’s research involves people who question everything.

“I look at conspiracy theories—why people believe them, and what factors make them more likely to believe,” said Hollander, professor of journalism.

In a recent study, Hollander looked at theories of the left and right, who believes them and why. Some people, he found, believe in all conspiracy theories, regardless of which side they’re on, because they think the world is out to get them.

“It’s easy to make fun of people who believe in these crazy stories, but it tells us something about the way they make sense of the political world,” he said.

Hollander believes that readers adjust their standards of credibility based on their opinions.

“People hear what they want to hear. They believe what they want to believe,” he said. “That’s why fake news succeeds.”

“If you really hate Donald Trump, or if you really hate Hillary Clinton, you are much more likely to believe fake news that makes that person look bad.”

Trying to counter a fake news story is difficult when people believe the media is biased against their viewpoint. And even when readers don’t subscribe to conspiracy theories, they still have a tendency to gravitate toward people who share similar views. While that clustering used to happen in geographic spaces—people who shared the same socioeconomic status and political views congregated in the same neighborhoods, for example—it now plays out in social media spaces.

“We all create these bubbles, but the lines of demarcation are much brighter now because of the fragmentation of the media,” he said. “We can now watch the cable news outlet that agrees with our point of view. We can have Facebook friends and follow people on Twitter who agree with our point of view.”

The rise of filter bubbles, which allow people to self-select who and what they’re exposed to, is part of the fake news problem, according to Jessica Maddox.

“If you normally watch CNN, flip to Fox News for a couple of minutes,” said Maddox, who expects to earn her Ph.D. next year. “It’s good to step outside of your comfort zone when it comes to media.”

Maddox has explored memes—pieces of media that spread from person to person via the internet and are tweaked along the way. The concept is similar to the kids’ game of telephone, where the message heard by the last person bears virtually no resemblance to what was originally said.

“It’s almost done rather harmlessly,” she said. “You’re just moving this information along, but without stopping to check or evaluate, it can become something completely different in the end.”

At the root of the issue is not just media literacy, she said, but social media literacy.

“So many of us—millennials through baby boomers—never received any kind of social media training,” she said. “We were just thrown into it, and we all learned as we went.”

It’s not a partisan issue, according to Maddox. Everyone is susceptible to believing, and passing along, fake news. She once posted a fake news story on Facebook—about Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, then a nominee, starting a fascism club in college—and later learned it wasn’t true.

“That was a really humbling moment,” she said.

What we need now, Maddox said, is to apply critical thinking skills to social media. Before social media, it was easy to identify fake news—it was on the cover of the tabloid newspaper in the checkout line at the supermarket. These days, it’s not so easy.

“We need to realize that article about Cher’s alien baby can be on our social media feeds now,” she said. “We as responsible citizens should pause when we see something like that.”

No matter the medium—newspaper, broadcast news, Facebook—Maddox has the same advice: “Question the source—that’s what I always advise people to do.”

Grady journalism students participate in Electionland, searching for voting problems

With rumors swirling around the country about a rigged presidential election and anticipated problems at the polls, there is little doubt that students in Barry Hollander’s course, Public Opinion and the 2016 Election, will have their hands full with Electionland on November 8.

Grady College is one of 13 journalism colleges across the county participating in Electionland, an effort to identify and verify problems at the polls. On election day, the public opinion students will be part of First Draft, a coalition of social newsgathering and verification specialists monitoring social media through apps like Facebook Signal, TinEye and Dataminr. They will be looking for voting problems like long lines, voting machine problems, accusations of intimidation issues, voter fraud and provisional balloting.

Once problems are identified, they will be sent to the headquarters at CUNY Graduate School of Journalism in New York where the problems will go through further verification and be forwarded to local journalists for follow-up.

“Think of this as seekers and catchers,” Hollander, a journalism professor at Grady College, said. “The students are the seekers. They go out scouring social media for reports of voting problems looking for key words. Their job is then to try to verify whether it’s really occurring. Then they send it up to the catchers in New York. They will verify it again then send back downstream to journalists on the street who can then do stories about voting problems.”

The Grady students will be responsible for monitoring Facebook, Twitter and Instagram throughout Georgia from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on election day. The students have a long list of key words they will be searching for that people might use to describe voting problems. Students will also be trying to verify the authenticity of photographs and have been trained in techniques used to spot fake photographs through reverse image searches, metadata and verifying file sizes to authenticate original photos.

“Rumors, conspiracy theories, debunking, fact finding and fact-checking…it’s what we do every day in journalism,” Hollander said. “We’re just focused here on the election. Once you master the skill in this domain, you can apply it anywhere else.”

Public Opinion and the 2016 Election is a special topics course comprising 27 students who have watched the debates, learned what public opinion is and how polls work. Each student is also assigned a journalist to cover and evaluate during the election.

Hollander has a few expectations for his students. “I expect the students to understand how hard it is to really measure public opinion and how to report and write about public opinion. This project is really a chance for them to master finding what’s going on in social media and verifying if it’s really true.”

“In a way, we are just part of the reporting step,” Hollander continued. “Our job is to save journalists the time and trouble of separating the chaff from the wheat.”

Other colleges participating in Electionland include, but are not limited to, the University of Florida, University of Tennessee and University of North Carolina. Each Frist Draft organization was assigned a geographic region to monitor and trained in the process needed for reporting.

Electionland is coordinated by ProPublica and a collation of news organizations including Google News Lab, USA Today Network and Univision, among others.

Election Day coverage from Grady College

Reporting on elections is a cornerstone in journalism education, and the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication has several special projects scheduled to cover the local and presidential elections Nov. 8, 2016.

A preview of the expected print and video coverage is below:


Electionland is a nationwide effort to identify voting problems such as long lines at the polls, voting machine problems and voter fraud. Professor Barry Hollander’s special topics class “Public Opinion and the 2016 Election,” is one of 13 journalism schools across the county that was selected and trained to identify and verify these issues using a variety of social media search engines and to report them for the entire state of Georgia. Once reported, the issues will be filtered to local journalists for follow-up. This program is sponsored by ProPublica and the Coalition of News Organizations. Visit the Electionland website for more details.

Athens-Clarke County and Oconee County TV coverage

Grady Newsource, the only television broadcast provider in the Athens-Clarke and County County area, will provide extended political coverage to its viewers on-air and online with “You Decide Northeast Georgia,” an election special on November 8 from 8 to 10 p.m. After the regular 5 to 6 p.m. Newsource broadcast that day, the students will provide three cut-ins at 6:30 p.m., 7 p.m., and 7:30 p.m. leading up to the special. If local races are not called by 10 p.m., Newsource will program additional cut-ins after the special. The digital team will update the website throughout the day, so that coverage is continuous even when the show is not on air.

“You Decide Northeast Georgia” will broadcast from multiple locations. Students will provide coverage featuring interviews with political experts, as well as updates from the digital team. There will be a team of reporters at each county elections office in the coverage area. Clarke County and Oconee County reporters will be live during the show. Newsource will air live shots from the University Union Watch Party, as well.

In addition to live coverage, reporters are already working on content that digs deeper into the local races and provides context for the vote. The show will feature profiles of candidates, analysis of voting trends and interviews with some of Georgia’s leading political experts.

Similar election coverage was done by Grady Newsource in Fall 2015.

Graduate Newsroom team

Grady’s Graduate Newsroom team includes 11 graduate students who will provide written and video coverage of the local Athens-Clarke County elections under the direction of Professor Pat Thomas. Students will provide coverage of democracy in action from local precincts before, during and after Election Day. A panel discussion has already taken place featuring State Rep. Regina Quick, Athens Banner-Herald Editor Ed Morales, Professor Charles Bullock (UGA SPIA) and Ms. Cora Wright, supervisor of for elections in ACC. Writing from the vantage point of Athens, they will report about candidates, campaign volunteers and events, donors and finance issues, voter engagement, referendum issues, poll workers and voters.

Students will report on one print and one video story in the run-up to the election. On Election Day, each student reporter will stake out his/her polling place and conduct interviews with people involved with the voting process. They will also report on a feature after the election, looking back at candidates and issues.

The professional partner of the Graduate Newsroom team is the Athens Banner-Herald/OnlineAthens.