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“ Writing The Numbers” Tom Johnson Institute for Analytic Journalism Santa Fe, New Mexico t o m @ j t j o h n s o n . c o m
“Theory of Journalistic Process <ul><li>Every potential story has both quantitative and qualitative feedstock </li></ul><u...
“Theory of Journalistic Process <ul><li>We teach the 5Ws & H; also drill into students: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>How many? </...
&quot;Theory of Journalistic Process&quot; <ul><li>Data In    Analysis    Info Out </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Find and retrie...
Basic &quot;Theory of Process&quot; <ul><li>Maintain  logbook  of process and methods in cleaning and analyzing </li></ul>...
Massaging Data <ul><li>Gather quantitative data </li></ul><ul><li>Estimate  </li></ul><ul><li>Clean data </li></ul><ul><li...
Think quantitatively; think visually <ul><li>Numeric  quantitative analysis: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Add, subtract, multiply...
Putting words to the numbers <ul><li>Writing numbers in first instance: </li></ul><ul><ul><li><100 = hard numbers </li></u...
Putting words to the numbers <ul><li>Avoid placing two quantities side-by-side </li></ul><ul><li>“ In 2010, 307,674 ticket...
Write with the flow of time <ul><li>Western literacy culture thinks/moves left to right: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Calendars (...
Is there an editor in the house? Source: http://www. nytimes .com/2010/06/20/us/20crime.html? scp =1&sq= arizona %20crime%...
Bad construction <ul><li>Because most recent data is first, context is not apparent </li></ul><ul><li>The reader has to do...
Terrible sentence construction <ul><li>What’s going up?  What’s going down?  “may  ALSO   be???” </li></ul><ul><li>Reader ...
But then comes the correction <ul><li>Correction: June 27, 2010 </li></ul><ul><li>“ An article last Sunday about the debat...
But then comes the correction Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/20/us/20crime.html?scp=1&sq=arizona%20crime%20statist...
Bad construction <ul><li>What’s the % of change?  </li></ul><ul><li>Would it help to literally see a trend line?   </li></...
Quant. Analysis improves writing <ul><li>Clumsy writing can be avoided if reporter first builds a vertical bar graph </li>...
The “Fundamental Five” Statistics <ul><li>Calculating percent of change </li></ul><ul><ul><li>(New-Old) ÷ Old * 100  </li>...
The “Fundamental Five” Statistics <ul><li>Calculating Rates: (incidents   ÷ population) * 10,000 (or 100,000) </li></ul><u...
The “Fundamental Five” Statistics <ul><li>Calculating Inflation: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>(CPI Now   ÷ CPI Then) * Item Price...
Some resources <ul><li>Numeracy in the Newsroom   http://newsnumeracy.wordpress.com/ </li></ul><ul><li>Math and Statistics...
Resources: Statistics <ul><li>Niles, Robert. &quot;Statistics Every Writer Should Know“ http://www.robertniles.com/stats/ ...
Resources: Data Visualization <ul><li>FlowingData:  http://flowingdata.com/   </li></ul><ul><li>Flowing Data http://flowin...
<ul><li>PowerPoint file at: </li></ul><ul><li>slideshare.net/jtjohnson/numeracy-for-journos </li></ul>Tom Johnson Institut...
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Numeracy for journos

  1. 1. “ Writing The Numbers” Tom Johnson Institute for Analytic Journalism Santa Fe, New Mexico t o m @ j t j o h n s o n . c o m
  2. 2. “Theory of Journalistic Process <ul><li>Every potential story has both quantitative and qualitative feedstock </li></ul><ul><li>Quantitative often essential for context; degree of change; historical evolution </li></ul>
  3. 3. “Theory of Journalistic Process <ul><li>We teach the 5Ws & H; also drill into students: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>How many? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>How big? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>How much? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>How to measure change in these? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>May decide NOT to use these, but must be part of research/reporting </li></ul>
  4. 4. &quot;Theory of Journalistic Process&quot; <ul><li>Data In  Analysis  Info Out </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Find and retrieve data; (log URLs) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Always work with COPY of original downloaded data </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Always attach URL or other source notes to data </li></ul></ul>
  5. 5. Basic &quot;Theory of Process&quot; <ul><li>Maintain logbook of process and methods in cleaning and analyzing </li></ul><ul><li>Save dataviz product to use with story </li></ul>
  6. 6. Massaging Data <ul><li>Gather quantitative data </li></ul><ul><li>Estimate </li></ul><ul><li>Clean data </li></ul><ul><li>Count and categorize </li></ul><ul><li>Analyze </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Categorical change (proportion) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Change over time (% of change) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Statistical relationships and significance </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Write it! </li></ul>
  7. 7. Think quantitatively; think visually <ul><li>Numeric quantitative analysis: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Add, subtract, multiply, divide </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Simple statistics, then more complex </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Visual quantitative analysis: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Chart and graphs </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Maps </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Visual analysis = multiple values: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Understand phenomena and its context </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Use visuals to show the story </li></ul></ul>
  8. 8. Putting words to the numbers <ul><li>Writing numbers in first instance: </li></ul><ul><ul><li><100 = hard numbers </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Btwn 100 and 1,000  % and hard data </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>>1,000  percentage </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Down in story, always supply hard numbers </li></ul><ul><li>Post ALL the data on the web; include URL at end of story </li></ul>
  9. 9. Putting words to the numbers <ul><li>Avoid placing two quantities side-by-side </li></ul><ul><li>“ In 2010, 307,674 ticket-buyers showed up at the Mile-High Stadium.” </li></ul>
  10. 10. Write with the flow of time <ul><li>Western literacy culture thinks/moves left to right: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Calendars (usually) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Grade school “Age of Exploration” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Timeline tools: sometimes vertical but more often left to right. Ergo, </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Construct sentences with numbers in “from past [data]  present [data]” form </li></ul>
  11. 11. Is there an editor in the house? Source: http://www. nytimes .com/2010/06/20/us/20crime.html? scp =1&sq= arizona %20crime%20statistics& st = cse “ For instance, statistics show that even as Arizona’s population swelled, buoyed in part by illegal immigrants funneling across the border, violent crime rates declined, to 447 incidents per 100,000 residents in 2008, the most recent year for which comprehensive data is available from the F.B.I. In 2000, the rate was 532 incidents per 100,000.”
  12. 12. Bad construction <ul><li>Because most recent data is first, context is not apparent </li></ul><ul><li>The reader has to doubleback direction in the flow of time </li></ul>Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/20/us/20crime.html?scp=1&sq=arizona%20crime%20statistics&st=cse “ For instance, statistics show that even as Arizona’s population swelled, buoyed in part by illegal immigrants funneling across the border, violent crime rates declined, to 447 incidents per 100,000 residents in 2008, …. In 2000, the rate was 532 incidents per 100,000 .”
  13. 13. Terrible sentence construction <ul><li>What’s going up? What’s going down? “may ALSO be???” </li></ul><ul><li>Reader is whip-sawed figuring out what came first; and where are we now </li></ul>Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/20/us/20crime.html?scp=1&sq=arizona%20crime%20statistics&st=cse “ But the rate for property crime … increased in the state to 4,082 per 100,000 residents in 2008 from 3,682 in 2000 . Preliminary data for 2009 suggests that this rate may also be falling in the state’s biggest cities.”
  14. 14. But then comes the correction <ul><li>Correction: June 27, 2010 </li></ul><ul><li>“ An article last Sunday about the debate over immigration reform and how people’s perceptions sometimes run counter to crime statistics misstated the change in property crimes in Arizona between 2000 and 2008. The number of property crimes went down, not up.” </li></ul>Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/20/us/20crime.html?scp=1&sq=arizona%20crime%20statistics&st=cse “ For instance, statistics show that even as Arizona’s population swelled, buoyed in part by illegal immigrants funneling across the border, violent crime rates declined, to 447 incidents per 100,000 residents in 2008, the most recent year for which comprehensive data is available from the F.B.I. In 2000, the rate was 532 incidents per 100,000.” <ul><li>… declined from 532 incidents per 100,000 in 2000 to 447 incidents per 100,000 residents in 2008 </li></ul>
  15. 15. But then comes the correction Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/20/us/20crime.html?scp=1&sq=arizona%20crime%20statistics&st=cse “ For instance, statistics show that even as Arizona’s population swelled, buoyed in part by illegal immigrants funneling across the border, violent crime rates declined, to 447 incidents per 100,000 residents in 2008, the most recent year for which comprehensive data is available from the F.B.I. In 2000, the rate was 532 incidents per 100,000.” REWRITE … declined from 532 incidents per 100,000 in 2000 to 447 incidents per 100,000 residents in 2008.
  16. 16. Bad construction <ul><li>What’s the % of change? </li></ul><ul><li>Would it help to literally see a trend line? </li></ul>Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/20/us/20crime.html?scp=1&sq=arizona%20crime%20statistics&st=cse “ Nationally, the crime rate declined to 455 incidents per 100,000 people, from 507 in 2000.”
  17. 17. Quant. Analysis improves writing <ul><li>Clumsy writing can be avoided if reporter first builds a vertical bar graph </li></ul>
  18. 18. The “Fundamental Five” Statistics <ul><li>Calculating percent of change </li></ul><ul><ul><li>(New-Old) ÷ Old * 100 </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>or </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>((new/old) –1) * 100 </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Calculating proportion: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>(# of parts ÷ TOTAL # of parts) * 100 = % of whole </li></ul></ul>
  19. 19. The “Fundamental Five” Statistics <ul><li>Calculating Rates: (incidents ÷ population) * 10,000 (or 100,000) </li></ul><ul><li>Calculating Ratios: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Take first of two numbers being compared and divide by second. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>600 ÷ 30 = 20 [Ratio is 20-to-1; if fraction, round off] </li></ul></ul>
  20. 20. The “Fundamental Five” Statistics <ul><li>Calculating Inflation: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>(CPI Now ÷ CPI Then) * Item Price Then = Item then in today’s $$$ [Tool: http://www. westegg .com/inflation/] </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Calculating INFLATION RATE CPI in 2000 is 3,500 CPI in 2001 is 4,500 What's the inflation rate? 4500 - 3500 = 1000 1000/3500 = .2857.... .2857 * 100 = 28.57 is the INFLATION RATE </li></ul></ul>
  21. 21. Some resources <ul><li>Numeracy in the Newsroom http://newsnumeracy.wordpress.com/ </li></ul><ul><li>Math and Statistics Toolbox Cards for Journalists http://www.notrainnogain.org/Train/Exer/Num/NUME.asp </li></ul><ul><li>175+ Data and Information Visualization Examples and Resource http://www.meryl.net/2008/01/22/175-data-and-information-visualization-examples-and-resources/ </li></ul>
  22. 22. Resources: Statistics <ul><li>Niles, Robert. &quot;Statistics Every Writer Should Know“ http://www.robertniles.com/stats/ </li></ul><ul><li>IRE Tipsheets: http://www.ire.org/resourcecenter/tipsheets.php </li></ul>
  23. 23. Resources: Data Visualization <ul><li>FlowingData: http://flowingdata.com/ </li></ul><ul><li>Flowing Data http://flowingdata.com/2010/07/22/7-basic-rules-for-making-charts-and-graphs/ </li></ul><ul><li>InfoViz Wiki:&quot;Data Visualization Links“ http://www. infovis - wiki .net/index. php ?title=Data_Visualization_Link </li></ul>
  24. 24. <ul><li>PowerPoint file at: </li></ul><ul><li>slideshare.net/jtjohnson/numeracy-for-journos </li></ul>Tom Johnson Institute for Analytic Journalism Santa Fe, New Mexico t o m @ j t j o h n s o n . c o m
  • frankkummer

    Oct. 29, 2013
  • izak.minnaar

    Jun. 21, 2012
  • m.lewis

    Aug. 13, 2010

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