Maths and stats for journalists
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Let's face it, journalists tend to disavow any love of mathematics. Their stock-in-trade-so they claimis words, not statistics. Yet the reality is that journalists deal with data on a daily basis. It is integral to almost all journalistic tasks we tackle, from examining match reports on sporting contests, or increases in interest rates, housing prices or the consumer price index; to analysing opinion polls about the popularity of our politicians, budget accounts or share price movements. Despite the common refrain of journalists-'I hated maths when I was at school' -we constantly seem to look for ways to incorporate statistics into our stories. We do so because they seem to provide our stories with an extra level of gravitas and meaning, despite the warning inherent in the old adage: 'lies, damned lies and statistics'.
In this chapter we return to some of the fundamentals everyone learned at school and talk about how they can be incorporated into our writing. In doing so, we also consider some of the traps that can undermine our writing if we are not careful.