Reporting About Numbers

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

One of the greatest challenges that seems to face journalists is the ability to have or obtain a small amount of knowledge about everything.

This can be especially difficult when you're asked to write about something that you have little or no interest in-- for me, that area would be economics. While I recognize the importance of understanding the economy that I live in and know that it has very far reaching effects, I can't escape the bore of financial statistics and numbers reports.

Luckily, there are sources for journalists who have to follow a story that they have no interest in. I found one here about writing about economics.

The first thing that needs to be accomplished is getting an idea of which numbers in the reports are relevant to society, and are newsworthy. Figures about employment are always relevant, and many times the changes and fluctuations are newsworthy.

When reporting about unemployment, the rate of change should be reported. The demographics of the employed and the unemployed can also be very newsworthy if they're changing, or if there is some recognizable desparity that may be indicative of a larger social issue.

Journalists can also look to stories about interest rates, since even changes within the interest rates banks get can come to effect everyday people trying to obtain loans.

The release from meetings about federal interest rates are available here, after the eight annual sessions. An important questions to ask is who voted for which increases or decreases.

The facts surrounding motivations for increases and decreases in federal interest rates are also important. Increases mean that there is no attempt to directly stimuate economic growth through loans, while a decrease in rates means the opposite.

Information related to consumption is important to readers, especially considering the crazy amount that we as citizens of the United States consume.

The Consumer Price Index and the Consumer Confidence ratings are both great places to start a story. The confidence index can also be related to information about employment in a longer feature story.

Stories about the housing market are also good economical stories. Look for answers about the prices of homes in a given area, who's moving into the homes, or for comparison rates between different housing markets.

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