Margin of Error: Why journalists of the future must be math-literate

A year of layoffs and anaemic ad buys has given journalists an excuse to turn inwards like never before. By now, even folks outside the industry must be sick of hearing about the Future of Journalism — my own fervent hope is to never read another article about social media for reporters. But I do think that an instinct for self-improvement is useful, so I’m going to add something else to the agenda — call it a Margin of Error manifesto. I’d like to talk about statistical literacy.

I know that it’s a bit predictable, even self-serving, to argue that everyone should have a skill that you have already developed. And I hate to add another job description to a list that is rapidly becoming unmanageable. Increasingly, it seems that we are all expected to be programmers and photographers, designers and copy editors, fact checkers and fundraisers. I’m not sure what to make of this job ooze, as an economist — we know something about the value of specialization — but so long as we’re all marginally employed and learning new skills, let’s try to pick up this indispensable one.

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