I've been working with some journalism students looking at the challenges of writing stories based on surveys and other stats. So it was good to see some useful tips on how to question numbers from South African journalist Linda Nordling writing on SCiDevnet.
Many journalists started their careers because they are good with words but some are really uncomfortable with figures.
Useful tips from Nordling include:
- Single numbers aren't always useful: they need other figures to provide context.
- What's missing: eg check that percentage breakdowns add up to 100. If they don't, what's missing?
- Use figures that readers/users can relate to.
- Watch out for stats and financial targets that sound unrealistic.
- And of course: check, check, check.