This page was created by Carol Blumberg in 2001 and maintained by her until 2006; Paul J. Fields co-coordinated the page between 2005 and July 2007.
THIS PAGE IS DIVIDED INTO THREE PARTS. THE FIRST PART DEALS WITH NEWS RELEASES AND EXEMPLARY NEWSPAPER ARTICLES. THE SECOND PART DESCRIBES RESOURCES AVAILABLE ON THE INTERNET FOR FREE. THE THIRD PART DESCRIBE OTHER RESOURCES (BOTH FREE AND THOSE WITH A COST).
These press releases and related resources were given to us by Statistics Canada. We wish to thank Statistics Canada (in particular, Martin Podehl and John Flanders) for allowing us to reproduce them here.
The American Statistical Association has established an “Award for Excellence in Statistical Reporting”. For details see http://www.amstat.org/comm/EISRA/index.cfm?nl=0505.
Criteria for an effective news (As a pdf file) Statistics Canada has developed a number of elements it considers necessary for an effective news release to be published in The Daily, the Agency’s official release bulletin. The major criteria are outlined, with examples from two major releases from The Daily:
Examples of excellent news releases and articles based on them
National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth: Challenges of late adolescence, published June 16, 2003 News Release (In English) National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth: Challenges of late adolescence, published June 16, 2003 News Release (In French)
Separately from the above, Statistics Canada has published a short paper "Statistics and the Media" by Wayne Smith describing Statistics Canada’s cooperative efforts with journalists.
COMMUNICATING STATISTICS TO THE MEDIA: TELLING THE STORY BEHIND THE NUMBERS by Vicki Crompton and John Flanders, in the ICOTS-7 Proceedings is of interest too regarding this.
ALEA-Actualidades do INE contains very well written articles of relevance to a wide audience, with graphs and explanations accessible to anyone. They are good candidates for exercises in classrooms, for adults to learn about current events in a clearly summarized and concise way, and for improving everybody’s statistical literacy. Of relevance, also is the page Nova Estatistical em Foco .
Marianne Zawitz's presentation to the Washington Statistical Society, 2000, states in the abstract that “Quality data presentations ensure user understanding by taking advantage of how users already process information, reduce the number of thought processes required to understand the data, and breakdown fundamental obstacles to understanding. This workshop will cover when to use graphics and tables, using your data to determine the type of graphic or table, the elements of good graphics and tables, and achieving clarity in presentation. Based on the principles set forth by Edward Tufte and William Cleveland, this is a practical workshop to show participants how to improve their presentations of quantitative data.”
RobertNiles.com is a website for writers, explaining spreadsheets and clarifying statistics at a very basic level. Very useful for journalists and writers on the go and pressed for a deadline.
Investigative Reporters and Editors is a web page that contains numerous training materials, mostly on data access, data cleaning, and basic statistics, for journalists and editors.
STATS – Statistical Assessment Service http://www.stats.org/ STATS is a multi-purpose website devoted almost exclusively to statistical literacy. It was designed as a resource for journalists, but is useful to anyone interested in statistical literacy. It provides timely and well researched analyses of current statistical and scientific disputes – largely American oriented. It works towards achieving a better understanding of scientific and social research – with considerable attention being paid to spurious statistical claims. Most of the material covered falls into the general areas of crime, environment, food, health/medicine, socials issues, technology, business and miscellaneous science. VitalSTATS is a monthly newsletter, and Newsclips contains opinion articles.
eCourse in Statistics http://tilastokeskus.fi/tup/verkkokoulu/index_en.html (in English) http://tilastokeskus.fi/tup/verkkokoulu/index.html (in Finnish) The eCourse in Statistics’ main purpose is usage skills of statistics via Statistics Finland’s Internet site. It is offered free of charge and has a total of five study modules on different statistical topics via the Internet. The material is, however, much more general and useful to anyone using the Internet to look at statistics including secondary students studying Mathematics and the Social Sciences and adult learners. eCourse in Statistics contains versatile information on statistics; it makes the basic concepts of statistics familiar and explains the backgrounds of statistical research as well as how statistical data can be used. On eCourse in Statistics one can learn about the basics of statistical thinking and how to read and use statistics. Other subjects that can be studied include demographics, national accounts and indices. eCourse in Statistics also offers instructions and hints for searching for statistical information. The study materials requires no prior statistical knowledge. The material intended for self-study includes exercises and examples of actual statistical data. For more information contact: Ms Reija Helenius at firstname.lastname@example.org or at +358 9 1734 3677.
Cohn, Victor. How to Help Reporters Tell the Truth. In 1999 ASA (American Statistical Association) Proceedings of the Section on Statistical Education, the Section on Teaching Statistics in the Health Sciences, and Section on Statistical Consulting, pages 102-105 A copy of this article is located on the Internet at http://www.statlit.org/PDF/1999CohenASA.pdf. This article was written by a journalist. It is aimed at statisticians and, as its title says, its purpose is how statisticians can help reporters to tell the story correctly.
Collins, LaVerne, Lancashire, Jeff, and Hagey, Janet. How National Statistical Offices Use the News Media to Promote and Facilitate Collection of National Census and Surveys and How They Solicit Media Support. In the electronic proceedings of the Work Session on Statistical Output for Dissemination to Information Media, Perugia, Italy, 1999. A copy of this article is at http://www.unece.org/stats/documents/1999/05/infmedia/12.rev.1.e.pdf. The complete proceedings of the work session are at http://www.unece.org/stats/documents/1999.05.infmedia.htm. As the title suggests, this article provides details two case studies of how Statistics Canada and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services worked with the media to improve the quality and quantity of their data collection.
Smith, Wayne. Statistics and the Media. In the Proceedings of the IASE Satellite Conference on “Statistics Education and the Communication of Statistics” http://www.stat.auckland.ac.nz/~iase/publications/14/smith.pdf This paper describes the cooperative efforts between journalists and Statistics Canada to improve the reporting of statistics in the media.
You think sometimes numbers and statistics are boring? Don’t blame the producers of those numbers alone. It may be the media’s fault that did not put enough drama in them. If you are reading this and you are not media, or professional providing statistical information, this is also for you. Find out why when your instinct tells you that some number they give you does not sound right, it may not be right. Those that send you the numbers are not the same people producing them. See in this publication how they are related and tensions that may arise among them. Everybody dealing with the public and interested in promoting statistical literacy should read Communicating with the Media. A Guide for Statistical Organizations published by The United Nationas Economic Commission for Europe and updated often to keep up with our rapidly changing times. In fact, every teacher of Introductory Statistics should read this document. Tips on how to avoid frustrating the media and how to avoid being misunderstood by it.
United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UN-ECE). Communicating with the Media: A Guide for Statistical Organizations This booklet is on the Internet at http://www.unece.org/stats/documents/media/guide/Contents.htm. It " is intended as a practical guide assisting statistical offices in setting up effective communications with the media and, in turn, with the general public. It should serve as a quick reference presenting the main principles and a general overview of the issues to be considered. It is a distillation of experience over the years and draws from the numerous papers and presentations from the meetings organized by the UNECE on dissemination of statistical output to information media” (quoted from UN Statistics Newsletter, April 2004). So far, only the text of the document is available, but the site is supposed to be developed further with supporting material and documents. The guide is also available in soft cover for purchase from UN-ECE. See http://www.unece.org/pub_cat/topics/stat.htm for details.
United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UN-ECE), Making Data Meaningful: A guide to writing stories about numbers http://www.unece.org/stats/documents/writing/ “The guide is intended as a practical tool to help managers, statisticians and media relations officers use text, tables, graphics and other information to bring statistics to life. It contains suggestions, guidelines and examples of how to use effective writing techniques to make data meaningful.” (Copied from website).
This is a year 2006 publication of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe intended as a practical tool to help managers, statisticians and media relations officers use text, tables, graphics and other information to bring statistics to life using effective writing techniques. The document could be used also in introductory statistics courses that emphasizes interpreting data rather than formulas and numbers. It teaches good writing techniques and has plenty of examples comparing good and bad stories based on numbers.
Watson, Jane M. Assessing Statistical Thinking Using the Media. Chapter in the book: Iddo Gal & Joan B. Garfield (Eds.) The Assessment Challenge in Statistics Education (pages 107-121). Published in 1997 by IOS Press (Amsterdam, The Netherlands). The entire book can be purchased from the International Statistical Institute for10 Euros. See http://isi.cbs.nl/sale-iase.htm for details. This chapter is also available for free on the Internet at http://www.stat.auckland.ac.nz/~iase/publications/assessbk/ by scrolling down to Chapter 9 on that page. “The goals of this chapter are (a) to address the need to assess statistical thinking as it occurs in social settings outside the classroom, (b) to suggest a hierarchy for judging outcomes, © to provide examples of viable assessment based on items from the media, and (d) to discuss the implications for classroom practice” (p. 107). This chapter also gives sample student responses, which will give both teachers and mass media professionals insight into how students in Grades 6 to 9 interpret reports and graphics in the mass media.
Best, Joel. Dammed Lies and Statistics: Untangling Numbers from the Media, Politicians and Activists ISBN 0520219783 Published by University of California Press (Berkeley, California, USA), 2001, 190 pages. Price: US$ 19.95 This book has been highly recommended by a number of sources as being extremely readable. It “considers the regular use, misuse, & abuse of statistical information by politicians & the media.” (quoted from listing in electronic version of Books in Print).
Best, Joel. More Dammed Lies and Statistics: How Numbers Confuse Public Issues ISBN 0-520-23830-3 Published by University of California Press (Berkeley, California, USA), 2004, 222 pages. Price: US$ 19.95 “In this sequel to Damned Lies and Statistics, Best identifies different sorts of numbers that shape how we think about public issues, including missing numbers, scary numbers, confusing numbers,authoritative numbers, and magical numbers.” (quoted from listing in electronic version of Books in Print).
Cohen, Sarah. Numbers in the Newsroom: Using Math and Statistics in News. Published by For Investigative Reporters and Editors, Inc. Price: US$ 15 for Members; US $25 for Nonmembers Ordering information at http://www.ire.org/store/books/math.html The chapters of this book are: What’s a Number?; A Newsroom Math Guide (includes fractions, rates, percentages, measuring change, understanding averages, etc.); Working with Graphics The Standard Stories; Surveys and Polls; The 10 Most-Wanted List: Mistakes in the News from Simple Math to Lapses in Judgment; Lotteries, Lightning Strikes and Longevity – A Note on Probability; Resources; Reading List.
Cohn, Victor and Cope, Lewis. News and Numbers: A Guide to Reporting Statistical Claims and Controversies in Health and Other Fields (Second Edition). ISBN 0813814243 Published by Iowa State Press (Ames, Iowa, USA), 2001, 224 pages Price: US$ 24.95 The first edition of this book was developed after the first author, who was a journalist for the Washington Post, spent one year working at the American Statistical Association. This book is very readable and accurate statistically. It has been highly recommended by both journalists and statisticians.
Crossen, Cynthia. Tainted Truth: The Manipulation of Fact in America ISBN 0671792857 Published by Simon and Schuster Adult Publishing Group (New York, New York, USA), 1994, 272 pages Note: This book is out of print Recommended as a first book on statistical literacy for members of the mass media.
Fennick, John H. Studies Show: A Popular Guide to Understanding Scientific Studies ISBN 1-57392-136-X Published by Prometheus Books (Amherst, New York, USA), 1997, 240 pages Price: US$ 25.00 “Explains how statistical researchers conduct and report both good and bad studies, and how to tell the difference. Fennick, a veteran observer of studies and their findings, discusses the methods of studies on consumer products, medications, treatments, foods, alcohol, safety, devices, social behavior, and public policy to explain how scientific results can vary, and provides tools to help the reader ask the right questions and understand the conclusions.” (Copied from Books in Print)
Few, Stephen. Show Me the Numbers: Designing Tables and Graphics to Enlighten ISBN 0-9706019-9-9 (ISBN 13: 978-0-9706019-9-9) Published by Analytics Press (USA), 2004, 280 pages Price: US$ 45.00 “Information is provided on the fundamental concepts of table and graph design, the number and knowledge most suitable for display in a graphic form, the best tabular means to communicate certain ideas, and the component-level aspects of design.” (Copied from description in Books in Print).
Holmes, Nigel. The Designer’s Guide to Creating Charts and Diagrams ISBN 0823013383 Published by Watson-Guptill Publications, Incorporated (New York, New York, USA), 1991, 192 pages. This book is an easy-to-read comprehensive guide for anyone, including secondary school students and journalists, interested in creating readable and correct statistical graphs and tables as parts of reports and articles. Note: It is now out of print.
Huff, Darrell How to Lie With Statistics (with pictures by Irving Geis) ISBN: 0-393-31072-8 (for 1993 edition–the present edition) and 0-393-09426-X (1954 paper edition) and 0-393-05264-8 (1954 hard copy edition) Published by W.W. Norton & Company (New York, New York, USA), 1993, 144 pages Price: US$ 11.95 “A 1954 classic that continues to dispel false beliefs and inform the statistically naive. Huff’s direct and witty style exposes how advertisers, government and the media mislead their audiences through the misuse of statistics. Huff then explains how the reader can see through the smoke and mirrors to get to the real meaning–if any–of what is presented.” (Copied from Books in Print). This is an extremely important book for anyone to read who is interested in statistical literacy. Even though it is 50 years old, it is still one of the most important books in statistical literacy.
Jaffe, A. J.; Spirer, Herbert F; and Spirer, Louise. Misused Statistics (Second Edition) ISBN: 0-8247-0211-5 Published by Marcel Dekker, Inc. (Monticello, New York, USA) 1998, 274 pages Price: US$ 49.75 (hard cover) “This book... is written as a supplement to statistics textbooks, and aims to alert readers to the problems inherent in statistical practice. It begins with an introduction to statistical methods followed by several chapters classifying types of misused statistics with documented, real-world examples, drawn from many areas including the media, public policy, polls and surveys, advertising, and business and economics. The book is intended mainly for people whose statistical knowledge is less than that of a professional statistician” (quoted from Eisenhower National Clearinghouse website at http://www.enc.org/resources/records/0,1240,018855,00.shtm)
Meyer, Philip. Precision Journalism: A Reporter’s Introduction to Social Science Methods (Fourth Edition). ISBN 0742510875 (hard cover) Price: US $80.00 ISBN 0742510883 (paperback) Price: US $26.95 Published by Rowman & Littlefield (Lanham, Maryland, USA), 2002, 304 pages This book comes highly recommended by others.
Miller, Jane E. The Chicago Guide to Writing about Numbers ISBN: 0-226-52630-5 (for hardcover edition-Price: US$ 45.00) and 0-226-52631-3 (for paper edition-Price: US$ 17.00) Published by University of Chicago Press (Chicago, Illinois, USA), 2004, 312 pages. See http://www.press.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/hfs.cgi/00/16452.ctl for ordering details. This book “begins with twelve principles that lay the foundation for good writing about numbers. Conveyed with real-world examples, these principles help writers assess and evaluate the best strategy for representing numbers. She next discusses the fundamental tools for presenting numbers–tables, charts, examples, and analogies–and shows how to use these tools within the framework of the twelve principles to organize and write a complete paper.” (copied from website). It has 13 text boxes, 55 figures, and 20 tables.
Murray, David A., Schwartz, Joel, and Lichter, S. Robert. It Ain’t Necessarily So: How Media Make and Unmake the Scientific Picture of Reality. ISBN 0742510956 Published by Rowman & Littlefield (Lanham, Maryland, USA), 2001, 274 pages Price: US $25.96 (hard cover) This book comes highly recommended from several sources as highly readable. See below under Schwartz, Joel for a related book.
Schwartz, Joel, Murray, David A., and Lichter, S. Robert. It Ain’t Necessarily So: How Media Remake Our Scientific Picture of Reality. ISBN 0742510956 Published by Penguin Putnam (New York, New York, USA), 2002, 272 pages Price: US $15.00 (paperback) This book comes highly recommended from several sources as highly readable. See above under Murray, David for a related book.
United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UN-ECE). Communicating with the Media: A Guide for Statistical Organizations This book is on the Internet at http://www.unece.org/stats/documents/media/guide/Contents.htm. It presents the best principles and practices from several countries in one document. It is quite comprehensive and addresses the issues of how to use the media for communicating and disseminating official statistics to the public. So far, only the text of the document is available, but the site is supposed to be developed further with supporting material and documents. The guide is also available in soft cover for purchase from UN-ECE. See http://www.unece.org/pub_cat/topics/stat.htm for details.
Wallgren, Anders, Wallgren, Britt, Persson, Rolf, Jorner, Ulf, and Haaland, Jan-Aage. Graphing Statistics and Data: Creating Better Charts. Published by Sage Publications (Thousand Oaks, California, USA), 1996, 94 pages Paperback version: ISBN 0761905995 US$ 38.95 Hardcover version: ISBN 0761905987 US$ 79.95 Note: The name of this book in its original Swedish version is Statistikens bilder. Att skapa diagram. Published by Norstedts Juridik AB (Stockholm, Sweden).
Produced by Statistics Sweden. “Graphing Statistics & Data introduces the technique and art of producing good charts. Carefully written with many examples and illustrations, the book begins with an introduction to the building blocks of charts (axes, scales, and patterns) and then describes each step involved in creating effective and easy-to-read charts. Throughout the book, the authors use numerous examples of real data as a basis of the maps and charts. They also include a chapter that shows step-by-step how to work from the data to the finished chart. Practical textual information serves as a guide for executing each stage of preparing a chart or graph.” (Quoted from description in Books in Print)
From September 2002 to December 2004, the entries to this page were contributed by Chris Wald (University of Auckland, New Zealand), John Harraway (University of Otago, New Zealand) and Carol Joyce Blumberg (Energy Information Administration, USA)