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Tips From Nate Silver to Help You Play By the Numbers

Revolutions, a blog about numbers and analytics, was on hand to hear ESPN’s Nate Silver at the recent Joint Statistical Meeting in Montreal. He’s got some 11 tips and principles for journalists when it comes to dealing with numbers, specifically statistics.

Here’s a few.

  • Our favorite, correlation is not causation. You can’t always connect the dots, as much as you might want to. For example, just because incidences of violence go up when it’s hot, doesn’t mean climate change causes violence, CBS News.
  • The average is still the most useful of all stats. “Because they are looking for interesting stories, journalists often focus on the outliers.” While interesting, outliers don’t illuminate much that you can apply to the world.
  • Make predictions. “If journalists would put their money and their reputations where their mouths are they might get closer to achieving scientific objectivity.”

More of Silver’s tips, as told by blogger Joseph Rickert, here. Credit goes to the Evolving Newsroom for picking this one up.

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