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Doing the Numbers: Getting the other 50% of the story

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Presentation given at the annual convention of the New Mexico Press Women, April 17, 2010, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA

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Doing the Numbers: Getting the other 50% of the story

  1. 1. New Mexico Press Women – April 2010 -- Albuquerque Doing the Numbers: Getting the other 50% of the story Tom Johnson Institute for Analytic Journalism Santa Fe, New Mexico www.analyticjournalism.com t o m @ j t j o h n s o n . c o m
  2. 2. Today? <ul><li>Theory is your friend </li></ul><ul><li>Arithmetic is your friend </li></ul><ul><li>Examples of sophisticated analytic journalism </li></ul><ul><li>Two fundamental analytic tools </li></ul><ul><li>Using Excel to give stories context </li></ul>
  3. 3. <ul><li>“ Theory?” said the journalist. </li></ul><ul><li>“ I don’ need no stinkin’ theory: I’m a WRITER !” </li></ul>
  4. 4. <ul><li>There is nothing more practical than good theory </li></ul>Nothing more practical
  5. 5. Ecosphere as theory <ul><li>The ecosphere is a theoretical concept, place, process </li></ul>
  6. 6. Species in biosphere Metabolism Latent Energy In Energy Out <ul><li>Species in Biosphere: </li></ul>
  7. 7. Datasphere <ul><li>That theoretical place where all data -- in all its forms -- exists </li></ul>
  8. 8. <ul><li>Journalists, et al., in Datasphere </li></ul>Changing Datasphere: Metabolism Latent Energy In Energy Out <ul><li>Species in Biosphere: </li></ul>
  9. 9. Changing Datasphere <ul><li>Shift from I-o-P to 1s and 0s </li></ul><ul><li>RRAW-P process model: R esearch  R eporting  A nalysis  W riting  P rint/Publish/Produce </li></ul><ul><li>Journalism is no longer breaking news; no longer just telling stories </li></ul>
  10. 10. Changing Datasphere <ul><li>Journalism’s future = Hub for transactions </li></ul><ul><li>Journalists’ future = bringing added value </li></ul><ul><li>Analysis and explanation of data (while telling the stories) </li></ul><ul><li>Requires new skills </li></ul>
  11. 11. Major factors in changing datasphere <ul><li>Vast quantities of digital data in various formats </li></ul><ul><li>Relative ease to get that data </li></ul><ul><li>New tools to find, retrieve, analyze and present that data, especially quantitative data </li></ul>
  12. 12. New demands for journalists <ul><li>High-level skills: search, retrieval, revisiting of data and data sites </li></ul><ul><li>Reasonable skills in quantitative analysis </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Basic statistics </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Basic visual statistics </li></ul></ul>
  13. 13. No more math-phobes <ul><li>No, it is NOT “all about story.” </li></ul><ul><li>Little – if any -- room today for the mathematically phobic </li></ul>
  14. 14. The quant. half of the story <ul><li>ANY topic can have a quantitative angle </li></ul><ul><li>“Calculus for journalists” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Change in amount </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Change in rate </li></ul></ul>
  15. 15. The quant. half of the story <ul><li>Estimate </li></ul><ul><li>Gather the data </li></ul><ul><li>Clean the data (Plug for Ver 1.0) </li></ul><ul><li>Count </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Sort, note range (median, mean, mode) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Measure </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Proportion </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Change </li></ul></ul>
  16. 16. Examples of heavy-weight Analytic Journalism…
  17. 17. USAToday - Analytic Journalism Examples NB: Great site of 2008 Presidential election maps: http:// kottke .org/plus/2008-election-maps/
  18. 18. Orange County, California Bus Study - Analytic Journalism Examples Orange County, California Bus Study
  19. 19. Weather-Hurricane Andrew - Analytic Journalism Examples Weather - Hurricane Andrew
  20. 20. Fundamental Tools <ul><li>GIS (Geographical Information Systems) </li></ul><ul><li>Data base applications </li></ul><ul><li>Spreadsheet application </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Excel </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>OpenOffice Calc, et al. (free) </li></ul></ul>
  21. 21. Light-weight examples (to produce daily stories)
  22. 22. Fundamental Tool <ul><li>Spreadsheets can </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Help understand phenomena, often in context </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Uncover new stories and angles on old stories </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Help sell stories to your editor </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Help tell stories to your readers </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Easy sorting of data </li></ul><ul><li>Basic to high-end statistics </li></ul><ul><li>Visual graphics tools </li></ul>
  23. 23. Einstein card <ul><li>Calculating Percentages </li></ul><ul><li>Calculating Proportion </li></ul><ul><li>Calculating Rates </li></ul><ul><li>Calculating Ratios </li></ul><ul><li>Calculating Inflation </li></ul>
  24. 24. Freeport Traffic Horizontal #1
  25. 25. Freeport Traffic Horizontal #1a <ul><li>Step 1a : “ Clean ” your data </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Step 1b : “ Interrogate ” the data/database </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Step 2: Source ; Where did the data come from? </li></ul><ul><li>Step 3: What are the definitions ? Have they remained constant ? </li></ul><ul><li>Step 4: ESTIMATE the hard-data difference as real numbers and percent </li></ul><ul><li>Step 5: Calculate the differences. </li></ul>
  26. 26. Freeport Traffic Horiz #2
  27. 27. Freeport Traffic Horiz #3-Act. Diff
  28. 28. Freeport Traffic Horiz #4a - % of change #1 - Estimate! #2 - Look to the Einstein Card!
  29. 29. Freeport Traffic Horiz #4b - % of change
  30. 30. Vertical Analysis- Proportion
  31. 31. Vertical Analysis- Proportion
  32. 32. Last slide – Writing tips <ul><li>Pay attention to the difference between million and billion </li></ul><ul><li>Write like time flows – from left to right; from past to present </li></ul><ul><li>Three levels of using numbers </li></ul><ul><li>In a story with stats, do not use the word “significant” casually </li></ul><ul><li>Don’t confuse “correlation” with “causality </li></ul>
  33. 33. Prepare for tomorrow <ul><li>Join www.ire.org </li></ul><ul><li>Subscribe to the IRE and NICAR listservs http://www.ire.org/membership/listserv.html </li></ul><ul><li>Think about “dashboards” (free tutorial) http://www. excelcharts .com/ blog /products/demographic-dashboard/ </li></ul><ul><li>GIS (more free tutorials) http:// herzoggis . notlong .com http://www. esri .com/industries/media/business/journalism.html </li></ul><ul><li>ESRI data to IRE members at no cost. http://ow.ly/1nPf6 </li></ul>
  34. 34. Yes, we make house calls <ul><li>Training in your newsroom </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Web 2.0 collaboration tools </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Intro to free/low-cost GIS </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Using spreadsheets for context </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Using “dashboard charts” for status and context updates </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Free for NM publications (if travel expenses covered) </li></ul>
  35. 35. New Mexico Press Women – April 2010 -- Albuquerque Doing the Numbers: Getting the other 50% of the story Tom Johnson Institute for Analytic Journalism Santa Fe, New Mexico www.analyticjournalism.com t o m @ j t j o h n s o n . c o m

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