To report, blog, analyse or commentate you need to be across data, and much of it is going to be quantitative. Journalists increasingly have to have at least minimal competence in understanding stats and data, if they are going to do a creditable job.
So what would the basics look like? Here’s a Minimum Statement. Minimum is the word. No one expects journalists to be senior wranglers. Their skill set has to include imagination, presentation …words. But too often journalism educators have left numbers out. And the result, some would say, has been impoverished reporting of social police, crime, science, climate change …fields where you need to be able to assess risks, calculate proportions and (most important) spot other people’s errors and exaggerations.
Recent figures show applications by students living in England to study at university from this autumn are down, and there’s interesting comparative data from Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. But one year’s figures could be a blip. A mite of caution is a basic requirement – the alternative is breathless enthusiasm for any given set of figures, with the risk of misleading readers, viewers and listeners.
Take a look at our dozen or so cautionary points and let us know if they sound like the basis for a journalistic career in the 21st century.