Why Journalists Need to Respect Statistics

Published on November, 23 2015 by Olivier Travers on our data/viz blog

An Nguyen and Jairo Lugo-Ocando offer a strong and compelling opinion on the often uneasy relationship between journalists and data. Not surprisingly, we strongly agree with their push for numeracy and data checking. Here are a few quotes, but this article is well worth reading in its entirety.

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“Data and journalism are traditionally not seen as friends – and often as foes. Journalists, suffering from a “blind spot” for numbers, tend to dismiss data and statistics altogether. For some, they are hard to swallow and fly in the face of what journalism is about. […]

No wonder the media often “get a bad press” when it comes to statistics – to the extent that some experts have come to assume journalists never get numbers right. Not entirely correct, but rarely challenged, probably because few would care and dare to challenge it. […]

So if the seemingly sudden rise of data journalism says anything to journalists, it is this: their traditional luxury of ignoring – even laughing at – statistics is no longer sustainable. […]

What journalists need is a habit to question data in the same way as they do to any other kind of raw information. Where are the data from? Who actually did the research – and how did they do it? Who paid for it? Can the data be independently validated? And ultimately, does the data make sense in context? Many, perhaps most, data-generated myths and untruths can be easily busted after asking these basic journalistic questions.”