AP Style Guide Addresses Expanding Role of Data in Journalism
June 28, 2017
The AP Style Guide is the renowned go-to handbook of best practices and style rules for any professional journalist. In its newly released 2017 edition, the Guide has released a new section focused on data journalism, a testament to data’s growing importance in this field.
This move reflects a continually growing trend of reporters being more statistically savvy. Statistics is the science of learning from data, which is a valuable skill in journalism. Reporters have increasingly sought to include statistics courses as part of their education. The Colombia School of Journalism even has a faculty member with a Ph.D. in statistics. To see how knowing statistics can pay off for a reporting career, take a look at Wall Street Journal “The Numbers” columnist Jo Craven McGinty or the staff at FiveThirtyEight.
In an AP blog post announcing the Guide’s new statistics chapter, Interactive Newsroom Technology Editor Troy Thibodeaux, who oversaw the development of the new chapter, said:
“Data journalism has evolved from a rarefied skill set that only computer-assisted reporters practiced to become an important tool in the toolkit of every journalist.”
Thibodeaux goes on to state that every reporter needs “basic quantitative understanding” to understand and draw their own conclusions from the data, because the organizations and companies reporters cover, across all beats, are using data to communicate.
“If journalists can’t draw their own conclusions from the data, then they’re left simply accepting at face value the findings of the people they cover.”
As noted above, statistics is the science of drawing conclusions from data, so aspiring and current reporters should include statistics courses in their studies in order to up their game.
The new data journalism chapter offers guidance for reporters regarding acquiring, evaluating, reproducing and reporting on data. It offers best practices for journalists to follow when reporting with data, and addresses the big questions at each stage of the data reporting process.
These practices are key to maintaining transparency in journalism in a data-driven age. Statistical literacy is an increasingly critical skill for journalists and consumers alike as the issue of fake news continues to expand.
- Jeremy Singer-Vine has the Buzz on using Data in Journalism [Interview]
- Real or Fake News? Let Statistics Help: 7 Questions to Ask [Quick Guide]
- Stats + Stories: Spotting Fake News with the Guardian USA Data Editor Mona Chalabi [Podcast]
- 3 Ways to Spot a Bad Statistic [Video]
This fall in the Public Health Data Challenge, 91 teams made up of 303 students submitted their recommendations on how local officials should fight the national opioid epidemic after analyzing the CDC’s Multiple Cause of Death (Detailed Mortality) data set. Students recommended creative and thoughtful solutions for local officials including increasing the availability of naloxone…
Irineo Cabreros is an AAAS Mass Media Fellow with the sponsorship of the American Statistical Association. He spent 10 weeks this summer training as a science journalist with Slate in its New York City offices. This summer I had the opportunity to write for the science desk at Slate magazine as an AAAS Mass Media Fellow sponsored…