reporting with numbers


About Us

This guide was developed as part of a multi-year project jointly undertaken by PBS NewsHour and Knology (a social sciences nonprofit). The project, which is funded by the National Science Foundation (award # DRL-1906802), is called “Meaningful Math: News Media for Increasing Adult Statistical Literacy,” and its key goal is to discover ways for making numbers in the news more accessible to the general public.Since the project’s beginning in 2019, by combining the daily work and experience of NewsHour digital and broadcast journalists with research conducted by Knology into how news users make sense of data, we have collaboratively produced guidelines for how best to help our audiences understand qualitative content. In our research, which contributes to the broader project that is mapping out the landscape of adult statistical literacy in the US, we’ve examined the kinds of numerical data found within the US media landscape, the kinds of quantitative reasoning skills needed to comprehend that data, and the kinds of attributes and affordances in news stories that both decrease and increase public understandings of numbers and statistics. We seek to help audiences critically assess the quantitative data found in media reports, and to help them translate those assessments into real-world decision-making.


Bennett Attaway

Bennett Attaway is a Knology researcher and math nerd. As part of the "Meaningful Math" project, he is the first author of a paper about quantitative reasoning and news habits and tested small tweaks to news content to support readers in understanding the numbers presented.

Lorna Baldwin

Lorna Baldwin is an Emmy and Peabody award winning senior producer at the PBS NewsHour.

Jena Barchas-Lichtenstein

Jena Barchas-Lichtenstein, who directs the media research and partnerships at Knology, is co-PI of "Meaningful Math." Dr. Barchas-Lichtenstein has led the research side of the PBS NewsHour-Knology partnership since 2017, and authored more than a dozen studies about how adults learn through news media.

Elliott Bowen

Elliott Bowen is the writing and communications lead at Knology. As a member of the Meaningful Math team, he has contributed content to each of the Journalist Guide’s chapters, while also producing companion web articles for the project’s peer-reviewed outputs.

William Brangham

William Brangham covers a broad array of topics from climate to health to criminal justice as a PBS NewsHour correspondent and producer.

Travis Daub

Travis Daub is the NewsHour’s Director of Digital, responsible for all content that appears in the NewsHour’s digital spaces.

Vanessa Dennis

Vanessa Dennis is Director of Product for PBS NewsHour, leading product, design, engineering and user experience across a range of platforms.

Diane Lincoln Estes

Diane Lincoln Estes is a producer at PBS NewsHour, where she works on economics stories for Making Sen$e.

Molly Finnegan

Molly Finnegan is the NewsHour’s Deputy Managing Editor for Digital, helping strategize digital news coverage and editing original reporting on multiple platforms.

Patti Parson

Patti Parson is Managing Producer PBS NewsHour and the PI for “Meaningful Math.” She has been PI on seven NSF grants, managing producer on three and PI on one NIH grant.

Laura Santhanam

Laura Santhanam, who leads the NewsHour’s reporting on the Marist Poll, has tried to help audiences better understand polls and created video for YouTube and Facebook giving people a chance to “Ask a Pollster." She is also the NewsHour’s Health Reporter who has covered the COVID-19 pandemic and public health, maternal health and the opioid crisis.

Erica R. Hendry

Erica R. Hendry is the NewsHour’s managing editor for digital, responsible for overseeing reporting, content and editing across platforms.

Isabella Isaacs-Thomas

Isabella Isaacs-Thomas is the NewsHour’s digital science producer, responsible for creating content for the NewsHour’s online efforts and writing its weekly science newsletter. She began as a news assistant on “Meaningful Math.” Her work on climate coverage includes reporting on the IPCC report and on how the ocean absorbs carbon emissions.

Nicole LaMarca

Nicole LaMarca is a Knology project manager and researcher. She has worked closely with PBS NewsHour since 2017 to study effective strategies for communicating with the public about science and math, among other topics.

Megan McGrew

Megan McGrew is an Associate Producer, responsible for digital animation and graphics content around science. McGrew began as a news assistant on “Meaningful Math.” Their work includes graphics for carbon emissions and a record number of billion dollars disasters.

Miles O'Brien

Miles O’Brien is PBS NewsHour’s lead science correspondent. He also is a producer and director for the PBS science documentary series NOVA, a correspondent for the PBS documentary series FRONTLINE and aviation analyst for CNN.

Paul Solman

Paul Solman is the PBS NewsHour’s business and economic correspondent. He also has taught at Yale University, West Point and Oxford University and has lectured at many other universities.

Uduak Grace Thomas

Uduak Grace Thomas is a freelance writer and editor with a passion for clear communication around complex topics. Previously she managed communications for Knology and supported multiple research projects under the organization's media research area.

John Voiklis

John Voiklis, who directs behavioral research at Knology, is senior personnel on "Meaningful Math." As part of the PBS NewsHour-Knology partnership and other projects, Dr. Voiklis has led efforts to increase data literacy among the public and the professionals who serve them. He has contributed to dozens of studies on learning and decision-making across development.

PBS NewsHour is an award-winning news program that regularly covers STEM issues on its broadcast and in its digital spaces. Airing on over 300 PBS stations in the U.S. and streamed on its website and YouTube channel, its content is also available on social media (@newshour on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram @PBSNews on TikTok). Internationally, the NewsHour airs in Australia, Japan and New Zealand; Voice of America licenses PBS NewsHour segments for international distribution across its platforms while Canadian audiences access it through U.S. public stations.

The NewsHour has won extensive awards, including for its coverage of climate and of health, regularly participates in the Marist Poll and has been rated as “most objective” and “most credible” by Erdos and Morgan Opinion Leaders Survey.

Knology is a non-profit research organization dedicated to producing practical social science for a better world. Knology was founded in 2012, and the transdisciplinary team consists of over 20 social scientists, writers, and educators who draw on their varied areas of expertise to untangle complex social issues. Through research, they seek to improve human relationships with the biosphere, to help cultural institutions become agents of social change, to support more effective media products and partnerships, and to improve individual and collective wellbeing. Knology studies these four topics by examining people’s behaviors and the broader systems that shape our actions.


We thank our advisors Jim Corter, Danny Bernard Martin, Caitlin Petre, Jonathan Stray, Nikki Usher, and Darryl Yong – and our evaluators Eric Hochberg and Jim Hammerman for sharp questions and insights that have consistently improved our thinking. None of this would be possible without our amazing engineering team, Jenna Cohen, Mike Klein, and Stephan Rohde. Thanks to our colleagues who gave feedback: Jenna Cohen, Dan Cooney, Hannah Grabenstein, & Matt Rasnic.

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