Show and Explain Data

Pattern number within this pattern set: 
R Y Shah
The Galatic Institute of Root Journalism

How reporters compile information is rarely scrutinized. Statisticians often complain that reporters don’t show statistical data correctly. The reader doesn’t know how the reporter got the information, or understand how this information was assembled.


Data is randomly thrown into an article, often in support of whatever point the article is attempting to make. This is an irresponsible, misleading and only serves to further confuse the public. All data should be displayed clearly in its proper context, with a brief explanation as to how to interpret it and what it means. In addition, data should come from a wide variety of sources.


Contemporary journalists often derive their information from a few sources for different stories. Many times these sources are Washington think tanks who are supported by major banks and corporations, which should call their objectivity into question. (See Show and Explain Sources) Or journalists get their numbers from polls without clearly explaining the conditions under which this information was derived.
Information needs to be presented clearly with visual aids if at all possible. (See Cognizant Layout.) If it seems unlikely that all the terms that describe the information is within a layman’s knowledge, there should be a simple and concise key somewhere nearby to explain these terms.
In addition, random statistics MUST be explained. Who conducted the experiment that got these numbers? How did they go about it? How many people did they ask? Where are these people based? All this pertinent information must be reviewed in order to put the data in its proper context. Simply citing that these numbers came from an annual poll isn’t going to cut it. That might make sense to insiders, but reporters should be primarily concerned with what makes sense to the common reader.
In addition to this, it will be easier for the reader to determine what information was gotten firsthand and secondhand in an article.


When reporters make the effort to explain how the data in their article was obtained, and by whom, their efforts will hopefully increase the validity of the data’s in the reader’s mind. What’s more, when a public composed of people with various levels of education are given a thorough and clear explanation, the true impact behind the numbers can be felt.

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