I won’t review the history of my reporter-math peeves, however, I think one of the big (downward) turning-points in my hope for the future involved a news item years ago about a debate over the need for a statistics course in Northwestern’s Medill School’s curriculum. Subsequently, I was corrected by some of the players in the controversy who said I missed the point — that I characterized a j-school version of statistics as being “dumbed-down” when the point was that statistics for j-school students should be more focused and relevant. So, this time, I’ll characterize it as a positive and optimistic sign when I point to this post by Limor Peer about a new course at the Medill School called “News and Numbers”. I DO NOT think it is a “dumbed down” stats course for journalists. I think it is a good thing.
“The course covered much the same ground as statistics courses offered in other university departments, but it was geared toward Medill students – students used relevant data (e.g., audience research, media content analysis) to understand statistical concepts and learned how these statistics can be a useful and essential part of journalism. They also learned what many of the numbers being used in public discourse mean, where they come from, how to interpret and evaluate them, and how to use them in their own writing.
The post contains a list of several texts and excellent links related to the topic.