Taking the slap out of statistics! (Because let’s face it, for most journalists, numbers=pain!)

I admit it freely– I have never been a math person. I got decent marks in high school math but it was through sheer, pain-staking determination and NOT through natural mathematic competence. I pushed myself to do all my required math courses, but gave a huge “NO THANK YOU” pass on taking calculous. So needless to say when I heard we’d be covering Statscan a few weeks ago, I was more than a little nervous. Here’s how it went down.

The assignment: Take a stats-filled news release from the Statistics Canada website and make it into a story that people will actually understand and care about.

The Story: January saw a large increase in Canadian youth employment– the first since the beginning of the economic downturn. But does it mean we students can look forward to a bountiful summer job market?

What I learned:

-This week I learned a lot about reporting using numbers from our awesome guest lecture by Statscan expert John Flanders. I tried really hard to carry the things I learned over into my piece ( ie. do the math FOR the reader). I had a lot of fun interviewing an analyst from Statistics Canada on my subject, and I learned to be very specific with my questions– reporting on numbers requires a constant stream of clarifying questions!

-I also had another social media triumph finding my “human source” this week. I was put in touch with my student source, Erin Thibodeau, through a friend who saw me advertise on Facebook that I needed to talk to a student I didn’t know who was looking for a summer job.  Erin was a fantastic point of view and I found out that she is actually in one of my classes!! Thanks Facebook!

-Okay—really freaky, but I learned that I actually ENJOY reporting on statistics. I just loved being able to prove a conclusion in my story with concrete numbers ( ie—youth are having an easier time finding part-time than full-time jobs.) Yes, even though I didn’t necessarily understand them, I loved looking into the StatsCan charts about the Labour Force because they really inspired me with so many questions. (What’s a youth? 29,000 WHAT were gained in Jan.? What qualifies as part-time employment? Etc.)

Overall, I feel I have found a new tool for story ideas now that I have a handle on the Statscan website.

Check out the full story here: http://wp.me/PLVYR-O

and make sure you scroll to the bottom! I’ve added a link to a “facts sidebar” I did to go along with this story!

Read and Enjoy!



One thought on “Taking the slap out of statistics! (Because let’s face it, for most journalists, numbers=pain!)

  1. Reagan Reese Seidler says:

    It’s funny; stats become more interesting when you appreciate their nuances. Kinda like women’s ski cross after you notice Ashley McIvor is surprisingly attractive.

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