reporting with numbers



Economic data and statistics -- from stock prices, jobs and unemployment rates to inflation, government spending and consumer confidence -- are often presented in ways that assume the audience is familiar with complex mathematical concepts. Even experienced storytellers, faced with breaking news or hefty reports, can lose sight of explaining the basics. Save these best practices for business and economics reporting as your go-to cheat sheet, there to help ensure you’re using numbers and statistics in ways that help audiences better understand quantitative data and use it to think critically.

Our goal is not to explain numbers and statistics, although we’ve included links to a number of sites you might find helpful if you’re looking for a refresher or more in-depth explanation of nuanced economic concepts, such as wage rate growth or the weighted value of the dollar.

Our chief concern here is to share insights on how to talk about business and economics-related quantitative data.

Some questions to ask as you write or edit your stories:

1) Do you need a number in the first place?

2) Where does the number come from? Spell out the number’s origin story

3) What methods or evidence support this number?

4) What are the limitations of the data I have?

5) How can I offer context for statistics?

6) What remains unknown or uncertain (and how can I include that uncertainty?)

This chapter of our guide includes three separate sections: guidance on constructing headlines; guidance on using numbers and statistics in the body of a report; guidance on using graphics and data visuals.

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