Look Into the Numbers

By Maureen Alley

Journalism and new media experienced a front-end collision in the last few years. Social media, faster news cycles and increased demand from all angles are driving journalists to report more at faster rates. And with more to do with less time to do it, journalists often fall to the numbers.

What do I mean by falling to the numbers? Simply: Quickly posting content that cites statistics because they sound interesting. People love stats, and love to cite stats to back up their beliefs. And knowing this, you grab the articles that have numbers and post them. You’ll increase your traffic and user engagement. However, you may be hurting the very people you’re trying to report to.

During my time as managing editor for Website Magazine, I quickly learned that any headline with statistics would drive huge traffic numbers to the website. It would increase retweets on Twitter and ultimately discussion. And isn’t this all what it’s about? Well, not really.

Anyone who is a close follower of politics knows that it’s easy to sway stats in your favor. And anyone who attended journalism school knows it’s important to look at all the numbers to really know what they mean.

So while we need to report and provide the information our readers want/need, we also need to remember our journalistic foundation. You could be providing information to your readers that is inaccurate or doesn’t take into account the whole story. It might take a little longer to report the story, but you’ll know you’re reporting accurate information. Your readers will recognize it, and so will your advertisers.

Maureen recently left her job at Website Magazine to move closer to home in Madison, Wis. She’s currently looking for a new writing/editing gig, so give her a shout at malley13@gmail.com if you know of anything in that area.

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