Tag Archives: math

What I wish they taught in J-school

University of Kansas Journalism School, Stauffer-Flint Hall
University of Kansas Journalism School, Stauffer-Flint Hall

“Didn’t anybody ever tell them … ?”

“Why don’t they know … ?”

“What are they teaching them these days?”

Spend enough time in a newsroom and you’ll hear some variation of these questions, or other criticism of what Those Kids Today are learning (or not) in journalism school. Some of it, of course, is typical grumbling – as if anyone arrives in a newsroom for the first time knowing everything. Others, though, are valid points.

Now that I’m on the other side – teaching – I see how complicated it is: making sure the students get all the fundamentals while making sure they have a good understanding of new media technologies, and that they generally know How Things Work in the news business (which, these days, is sort of a moving target anyway). But I’ve tried to cover all the bases, plus give them a good idea of what to expect in their first internship or job, and that includes the valid points raised by working journalists.

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Percents and percentage points

Originally published on Grammar Monkeys on Aug. 13, 2010.

Sometimes in journalism we have to — gasp! — do math, because it’s part of the news. We have to get the numbers right, just as we have to get the facts right and the language right. To those who think a journalism or communications degree means you can forget about math, think again: Math is a key part of many news stories, corporate memos, nonprofit reports, etc. And it needs to be done correctly.

So, in the spirit of the upcoming election season and its steady stream of polls, a note on the difference between “percent” and “percentage point.” This is also relevant when talking about tax rates, test scores, and so on.

Percent is a fraction of something. Percentage points are how percents are measured.

They are not the same thing, so if you are comparing two percents or rates, be careful how they are expressed. Here are a few examples:

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