Numbers in Newsrooms:
A Qualitative Case Study of How Journalists
View Math on the Job
Patricia A. Curtin, Ph.D.*
School of Journalism and Mass Communication
CB #3365, Howell Hall
University of North Carolina
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3365
(919) 962-4091 phone
(919) 962-0620 fax
[log in to unmask]
School of Journalism and Mass Communication
University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
* the authors contributed equally to this work and are listed in alphabetic
Paper submitted to the Newspaper Division
New Orleans 1999
Running Head: Numbers in Newsrooms
For more than a decade, wordsmith James J. Kilpatrick has clipped examples of
mathematical errors in newspapers for his "Numbers file." Kilpatrick insists
getting the numbers right is an essential part of the "Writer's Art," as his
syndicated column is called. But he has found so many elementary miscalculations
that he ruefully concludes that many journalists can't handle even grade-school
math. He writes, "People who write for a living should never be left alone with
mathematics. They are almost bound to mess up."1
Commentators, editors, and educators have long spoken with despair of
mathematical incompetence in the newsroom. Yet working with numbers is
increasingly a part of the repertoire of daily reporting. Challenged by the
immediacy of the Internet and other competition from the electronic media,
newspapers are compelled to go beyond reporting events. Today's successful
journalists also must be able to filter, analyze, and interpret
data-information-processing that demands both math and computer skills.2 As
Philip Meyer noted in Precision Journalism, "They're raising the ante on what it
takes to be a journalist . . . A journalist has to be a database manager, a data
processor and a data analyst."3
But the next generation of journalists, though well-versed with computers, may
be no better equipped to deal with numbers. Applicants to the Columbia School of
Journalism answered fewer correct answers on an arithmetic test than did a group
of Japanese sixth graders.4 When Melvin Melcher, who administered the test,
confronted a group of mathematically disinterested journalism students, he
asked, "What's with you and numbers?" Their unanimous reply: "We chose
journalism because we don't have to deal with numbers. We want to write."5
The lament that journalists prefer to work with words, not numbers, has been
repeated so often that it has become a clich . While the profession's problems
with math are well known, less understood is why so many journalists have such a
hard time dealing with numbers. This case study probes how journalists perceive
the use of numbers in newspaper stories. The impetus of this investigation was a
request from management of a 150,000-circulation, chain-owned daily newspaper
for assistance from our university's journalism department in improving their
staff's mathematical skills and, ultimately, the accuracy and depth of the
newspaper's local news coverage. This investigation is based on the premise that
little headway can be made in improving mathematical competencies in the
newsroom unless the underlying reasons journalists use (or shun) numbers are
understood and addressed. Drawing from a series of focus groups with
professional reporters, researchers, copy editors, and top managers, this study
examines how journalists at the aforementioned newspaper view the importance of
math skills in covering the news, how capable they feel computing and
interpreting numbers, and what they believe would be most helpful in improving
their confidence and ability to work with numbers in the news. This qualitative
study is part of a larger investigation that seeks, through the additional
techniques of content analysis, a survey of news sources, and mathematical
testing, to identify what kinds of numerical errors are made, how they occur,
and how they can be prevented.
The difficulty that journalists have with numbers is well established. More
than a half a century ago, Mitchell Charnley of the University of Minnesota
found that three Minneapolis daily newspapers repeatedly got their numbers
wrong.6 Mathematical and numerical errors have been detected in numerous
accuracy surveys that followed Charnley's path-breaking efforts.7 In more recent
years, reporter innumeracy has been found to contribute to inaccurate and
misleading stories regarding political polls,8 banking,9 the homeless,10
African-Americans,11 the poor,12 child abuse,13 Social Security and Medicare,14
drug abuse,15 and other topical issues. After reviewing more than 100 news
stories on coverage of educational issues, investigators lamented the media's
"appalling lack of understanding of statistics and social science research."16
Even the New York Times, which prides itself as the nation's premier newspaper
of record, acknowledges it has problems getting its numbers straight.17
But numbers are fact of life for modern journalists.18 A sample of articles
from the newspaper under study revealed that about two-thirds of local news
stories involved numerical points of comparison or mathematical calculations.
Noted Victor Cohn in his authoritative "how-to" guide News & Numbers, "We
journalists like to think we deal mainly in facts and ideas, but much of what we
report is based on numbers. Politics comes down to votes. Budgets and dollars
dominate government. The economy, business, employment, sports-all demand
numbers. . . . Like it or not, we must wade in."19 Statistics, which comes from
the Latin meaning "to stand'' or the "state of things,"20 are not only
unavoidable but the mortar of good stories. Reporters are missing, for example,
life-changing demographic trends in America because of their ignorance of
numbers.21 A basic knowledge of math and statistics-or at least a willingness to
learn it and to ask others for assistance-is essential for journalists seeking
to take advantage of the power of computer-assisted reporting.22
But to achieve mathematical literacy, journalists need to learn more than how
to compute percentage change. Wrote John Allen Paulos in A Mathematician Reads
the Newspaper, "It's time to let the secret out: Mathematics is not primarily a
matter of plugging numbers into formulas and performing rote computations. It is
a way of thinking and questioning that may be unfamiliar to us." But the pay-off
is worth it, he contended. "'Numbers stories complement, deepen, and regularly
undermine 'people stories.' Probability considerations can enhance articles on
crime, health risks, or racial and ethnic bias. . . . And mathematically
pertinent notions from philosophy and psychology provide perspective on a
variety of public issues. All these ideas give us a revealing, albeit oblique,
slant on the traditional Who, What, When, Why and How of the journalist's
Despite the litany of research documenting the value of statistical analysis in
reporting and the media's propensity to ignore or misuse numbers, the literature
offers little insight on how journalists respond to numbers and why so many have
trouble effectively using them in their work. The educational psychology
literature, however, provides guidance on the constructs of math ability and
The related phenomena of math ability and anxiety have been the subject of much
study since the publication of a controversial 1974 book in which two female
researchers posited that men were inherently superior in mathematical ability to
women.24 Subsequent studies have focused on gender differences, producing mixed
results. The preponderance of literature suggests that a gender gap in math
performance exists, with females reporting more math anxiety than males.25 Math
anxiety, though a poor predictor of math ability, may be a good predictor of
math performance, although the relationship between the two is not a
straightforward one.26 The root cause of math anxiety, characterized as "a fear
of mathematics or an intense, negative emotional reaction to anything remotely
mathematical,"27 remains largely undetermined. Factor analysis has identified
six distinct constructs underlying math anxiety: mathematics test anxiety,
numerical anxiety, negative affect toward mathematics, worry, positive affect
toward mathematics, and mathematics course anxiety. Numerical anxiety was the
most removed from the others, demonstrating that "anxiety as a result of the
manipulation of numbers is the sine qua non of mathematics anxiety."28
The literature suggests that while numbers abound in local stories, many more
stories of significant public interest might be written if journalists were more
conversant with numbers. Of the numbers-based stories that make it into print,
many contain computational errors or are misleading, with concomitant
implications for media credibility and policy-making. Accuracy is the foundation
of media credibility. If journalists can't get their numbers straight, how can
readers trust the media to reliably convey and interpret the news? Despite the
importance of numerical accuracy, how journalists can be trained to avoid math
errors and to increase math literacy remains understudied. 29 Literature is
lacking on the extent to which math anxiety is experienced by journalists,
whether the growing number of women in the newsroom may be indicative of a
growing math anxiety in the newsroom, and what techniques are most effective for
overcoming math anxiety and improving journalistic performance.
Given the assignment of improving the mathematical skills of the staff of a
150,000-circulation, chain-owned daily newspaper, this study was designed with
two related purposes: (1) To explore methodically how journalists perceive their
use of numbers in the news; (2) To lay the groundwork for developing training
curriculum to help journalists work with numbers with greater competence and
confidence. Based on these purposes and the literature cited above, broad
research questions were developed. The answers are intended to provide insight
for journalism educators and news managers interested in improving mathematical
competency, as well as help the authors shape the philosophy and technique of
their training curriculum.
1. What role do numbers play in daily coverage at the newspaper under study?
2. How much importance do journalists place on math ability to do their work
3. How competent do journalists perceive themselves to be with computing and
4. What is the relationship between math anxiety, math performance, and math
ability in journalists' work?
5. What pedagogical techniques do journalists find most effective for learning
new math skills and concepts?
Before attempting to answer these questions, an analysis of the newspaper
content was performed to gauge its mathematical accuracy and to determine the
types of errors made. This analysis was part of the larger study of accuracy at
the paper, and only the descriptive results as they relate to this particular
aspect of the study are included here.
Newspaper Review for Mathematical Errors
To establish baseline information considered essential for developing a
corrective to misuse of numbers in the newsroom, every local news story
published over a three-month period-about 1,500 articles-was examined for prima
facie mathematical errors and misinterpretation of numbers.30 A total of 43 such
errors were found in articles or accompanying graphics. From a statistical
perspective, this number is small-less than three in every 100 stories examined.
But from an astute reader's perspective, the rate of error may be
disconcerting-an example of blatant misuse of numbers could be found, on
average, in the newspaper about every other day. Moreover, the content analysis
identifies only news stories that on their face include mathematical errors;
readers with personal knowledge of a story or subject area likely would be aware
of other mathematical errors.31
None of the news sections of the newspaper was error-prone-or error-free.
Despite the editorial scrutiny given to front-page stories, mathematical errors
occurred in the "A" section of the newspaper nearly as often as in the Metro
section. But one-third fewer articles with math errors were found in the
business section, even though its stories are laden with figures. Misuse of
numbers in charts accounted for nearly 20 percent of the errors identified in
Among the most common mathematical mistakes were stories with figures that did
not tally, problems with rounding numbers, and misuse of graphic displays. Some
stories got the numbers right but misused mathematical terminology, such as
margin, ratios, and standardized scores. Misunderstanding of numbers led to
redundancy and fuzzy description. As troubling as misuse of numbers was
unquestioning use of figures, resulting in news stories parroting source
hyperbole. Other stories fell short because they lacked interpretation essential
for making the figures understandable.
Armed with a basic understanding of the types of errors made by journalists at
the paper, this study used focus groups to gain insight into the journalists'
mindset because such qualitative methods yield the most information concerning
participant perspectives, uncover relational patterns, and concentrate on the
processes involved.32 An interview guide allowed comparisons across groups,
ensured that the questions were carefully crafted and covered in the same order,
and kept the direction of the discussions focused while allowing for the
subjects' constructs to emerge.33 Questions were asked at the level of personal
experience and, to increase personal distance and to enhance disclosure, at the
level of subjects' knowledge of other cases.
As a pilot study for the focus groups with journalists, in-depth interviews were
conducted in fall 1998 with a convenience sample of eight journalism graduate
students, many with professional backgrounds, who had just completed a research
methods course. The data from the pilot interviews helped construct the focus
group interview guide, particularly in regard to the potentially sensitive and
abstract concept of math anxiety. Debriefing of the subjects after the
interviews indicated they believed the techniques used kept problems with
self-disclosure, discomfort, and reactivity to a minimum. The interviews lasted
an average of 45 minutes.
The focus groups with working journalists included reporters, researchers, copy
editors, and top managers. Subjects were recruited with a letter on university
letterhead giving the purpose of the research, promising participants
confidentiality and grouping with their peers, and inviting their input into the
content of the subsequent math skills training sessions. Management encouraged
participation and supplied time off regular work duties. As an additional
incentive, participants were entered in a drawing for tickets to a top sporting
event in the area. A total of 33 subjects participated: Table 1 shows the
make-up of the groups. Subjects ranged from new hires with less than three
months experience to Pulitzer-Prize winning 'old timers.' The overall gender
make-up was almost evenly split, although the majority of top managers were
male. To protect confidentiality, names presented in this research are
pseudonyms. Average duration of the focus groups, which were recorded and
transcribed, was about one hour.
The data were analyzed by two independent coders according to schema set forth
by Glaser and Strauss,34 as clarified by Strauss35 and Strauss and Corbin36 in
later works. The coding comprised three steps: open, axial, and selective
coding. The unit of analysis was the sentence. During open coding, the text was
broken down by sentence and the concepts in each were examined and compared for
similarities and differences and for their relevance to the research questions.
From this fracturing and close examination of the data, emic and etic (emerging
from the subjects own terms or constructed by the researchers' terms,
respectively) categories or themes emerged. During axial coding, the categories
formed during open coding were reconstructed in relational form; the analysts
identified patterns underlying the categories to identify relationships among
them. During selective coding, the coders reconciled and collapsed the
categories around a major organizing theme. To ensure validity, the analysis was
kept solidly grounded in the data; the emergent analysis was "limited to those
categories, their properties and dimensions, and statements of relationships
that exist in the actual data collected."37 Member checks of the analysis were
achieved by providing the most informative of the subjects with the emergent
analysis and eliciting feedback.
Two coders independently analyzed the focus group transcripts during the initial
open coding stage to establish categories or themes. From the results of those
analyses, the coders agreed on four emergent major categories and 14
subcategories. Each is discussed in turn below and listed in Table 2. Remarks
noted in quote marks or italics are verbatim comments transcribed from the focus
Numbers are pervasive. The subjects expressed widespread acceptance (and
resignation) that an ability to work with numbers is essential for today's
journalists. Reporters noted that numbers are important for covering everything
from business to education, from the food section to sports.
Numbers are one of the only ways to get a hold of what's going on in the
community. (Belinda, reporter)
What we're finding is that numbers are the story. (Tina, researcher)
But subjects had not realized how pervasive numbers were in journalism until
they landed their first professional positions. Many were surprised that they
had to learn math "on the job."
The first thing that happens when you graduate from journalism school is that
some editor is expecting you to have a basic grasp on how to figure percentage
increase. A lot of people have to start learning from there. (Ronald, editor)
Learning math on the job is possible because the level of math required is not
great: "None of this is higher math."
You can do good work and the skills you need are not any greater than what kids
get in high school. (Todd, reporter)
Possibly because the level of math proficiency needed for the job was not seen
as particularly high or difficult to learn on the job, proficiency with words
was still valued above mathematical competency. Frank, a copy editor, noted that
the newspaper would hire someone who did well on the copy editing test but not
the math test, but if applicants couldn't "correct the big flaws in the story,
then we're not going to hire them, even if they're math whizzes." Mathematics,
then, is a value-added skill, not a baseline competency.
Throughout the focus groups reporters and copy editors noted that numbers not
only required computation but interpretation-figures need to be explained in a
way that common readers can understand them. In short, mathematics requires
precision but the analysis is, unnervingly, an imprecise art as much as a
science: "It's not only having the right number but putting the right words
around it." The story can take on a whole new cast depending on how the numbers
are measured or defined.
We rarely deal with hard numbers, absolutes like speed of light. We deal with
floating percentages, mortgage rates-all dependent on different factors. If
you change one little factor. . . . You are describing a different set of
conditions. (Jane, reporter)
A particularly vexing problem copy editors said they encounter were "apples and
oranges comparisons," especially with stories accompanied by graphical
We pretty routinely see discrepancies between graphics and stories. . . . The
graphics will be in terms of percentages, but the story will talk in terms of
levels. And it's hard for the readers to make that leap. And we don't help them
at all. (Helen, copy editor)
As part of this study, the researchers repeatedly tried to hold a separate focus
group with the newspaper's four graphic designers, but a mutually convenient
time could not be established, despite flexibility on the researchers' part.
Numbers are black and white. One way in which working with numbers differed from
working with words is that the journalists often viewed numbers as being starkly
right or wrong-"there is no fudge." Informed readers could, and would, check
the calculations, holding reporters and copy editors to an unaccustomed standard
It's intimidating . . . handing over the numbers to be published. There's
something about going out to the world that you want to make sure you have it
right. There's a lot of double-checking and triple-checking. (Julie, reporter)
The result is that numbers are considered "explosive, to be handled with care"
because "if you miss one figure on a number, you've got a correction the next
day." Off by a digit, reporters face a million-dollar mistake.
Everybody who has covered tobacco has at one time, before they got [the basis
for figuring price supports] in their head, made a mistake on the price of
tobacco. . . . And some grower would call up and say, "That's the stupidest
mistake I've ever seen because it doesn't cost $89,000 a pound." (Ronald,
Because of the consequences, many subjects stressed the need for journalists to
question their data rather than simply accept numbers at face value.
The most important thing to teach people is to remind them to look at what these
numbers really represent, to force yourself to think of them that way and not
just as digits floating in the air. That would save us making a lot of mistakes
and create good stories. (John, editor)
While reporters generally are skeptical by nature and training, they apparently
have difficulty applying "common sense" to the numbers they report. The editor
who relayed the story about tobacco prices noted that a common sense test should
have caught the error.
You don't have to be a numbers expert to figure it out, to look at numbers and
what they mean, to figure out whether they make sense to you or not. (Ronald,
Another common refrain was that when it comes to numbers, reporters rely
heavily, perhaps too heavily, on the veracity of their sources. In some cases
this reliance was seen as misguided faith.
One thing about numbers is that lots of times we think of our sources as
infallible. (John, editor)
A few noted that sources seemed to control the information because they 'owned'
the numbers. But competing sources mean competing information. In these
instances reporters base their decision on whose number to use on the
relationship they had established with the source.
There are different sources for the same number. I found that often causes a
problem. . . . One of the issues is figuring out your sources and who to
believe. (Belinda, reporter)
Numbers provide credibility. A view expressed by assignment editors was that
the black and white nature of numbers make them impart "a certain credibility"
to a story.
We don't want to bombard the readers with facts and figures, but I think to some
extent they really lend credence to a story. . . . It's important to have enough
facts and figures to buttress a story. (Peter, assignment editor)
Often, numbers in this sense would lead to enterprise stories.
Numbers stories are the ones that usually lead to something new and different
and have actual credence. There are a lot of stories about mood, or somebody
talking, 'He said, They said.' But with numbers you can actually take a bite out
of something. They have more meaning. They're thoughtful. (Yvonne, assignment
Conversely, if reporters are not able to work with numbers in this way, they
remain dependent on their sources.
You're at the mercy of your sources to tell you what the story is unless you
know how to think about the numbers (Martin, senior editor)
And if sources supply false information that remains unquestioned, the result
can be a missed scoop. For example, the 'competition' broke the story that a
local school administrator had illegally diverted federal funds into a highly
acclaimed magnet school program because "they had done the math."
Perhaps more common, reporters miss significant news stories because they
aren't able to intelligently discuss the numbers involved.
I've seen cases where reporters may be interviewing somebody or reviewing a
document or a number that's important and they don't get it. They don't
understand the significance of what they've just been told or what they've just
read. It's not just how we report, but how we communicate with our sources.
(Tom, assignment editor)
One way journalists mentioned they really can gain control of the information
supplied them was to practice computer-aided reporting, which is "all about
creating new numbers." By manipulating source data, reporters can generate
information that nobody else has. The numbers are no longer open to easy
We often take bureaucrats' numbers and do something with them and we become the
only source that has that particular[set of] new numbers. Who can say we're
right or wrong? (John, editor)
Some subjects admitted to using numbers to lend credibility to what otherwise
might be a shaky story.
We know that numbers are not infallible, but even when they're 'right' they're
not right. But we put them on a pedestal . . . and frankly, we use that to our
advantage. We're not afraid of numbers . . . we use them to fudge our way around
things. (Ronald, editor)
Numbers as a source of anxiety. Focus groups from each level of
newspapering-reporting, copy editing, and upper management-included
self-professed math phobes.
These sufferers compare their math phobia to physical disability-it is like
being "blind" or "paralyzed"-or to physical illness-a "virus" or "hives." As
such, it is incapacitating: "Whenever I see numbers in the story I just kind of
go into a little math tremor." A recovering math phobic admitted having
I still wake up at night sometimes if I have a story with numbers and do the
math in my head before I can go back to sleep. (Jane, reporter)
Noted a frustrated copy editor who was not math phobic, such incapacitation made
some reporters reluctant to question their sources even when the numbers didn't
It's a paralysis thing. They ask, "You want me to go where? I don't think I
want to go there. Do I really have to go there? Let me try to find some reason
why I don't have to go there." (Erica, copy editor)
In fact, those who had never suffered from math phobia could not understand what
the fuss was about. During their focus group, top managers talked around the
issue of math phobia among their staff, even when finally asked point blank
about it. Many managers blithely suggested that the best way to overcome
reporter resistance was to show examples of good numbers stories.
The nonphobic embrace technology, which they view as enabling. They want to make
more and better use of spreadsheets and learn how to use statistical analysis
packages so they report new kinds of stories. But the math phobic do not feel
capable of using even simple tools. The following exchange between a male and
female copy editor illustrates the point.
None of this is higher math. It's just common sense. If you're not really sure,
it's like checking spelling. You just pull out the calculator and punch up the
numbers and see it if comes out right. It's not that big a deal. (Frank)
[whispered] Yes it is. (Carol) [general laughter in the group]
I may not be any better than you, but I know how to use a calculator. (Frank)
Yeah, you have to know the equation if you're going to use a calculator.
For math phobics, technology adds another layer of fear. For training, they want
"the simplest option," that is, "two or three rules" they can apply to specific
situations, not technological tools. Working in larger groups on computers is
"intimidating" and makes them feel like "morons."
For all subjects, however, having resources within the newsroom to turn to for
help is crucial. A few subjects said they feel entirely alone when working on
We recognize we need to be afraid and we don't have expertise among ourselves
and we don't have the resources that we can go to, that we can say, not only are
the numbers adding up right, but am I looking at it the right way? (Julie,
Others suggested that some reporters are simply afraid to ask for help. Most
subjects spoke of people within their beats or areas that they "bounced their
numbers off." These people were referred to as the "math experts," and their
domain was always subject-specific, such as city budgets, the space program, or
business earnings. Subjects prefer to keep the arrangement informal; they do not
want a management appointed math editor, intimating that such an arrangement
would be perceived as punitive rather than supportive. Only those who professed
comfort with math also felt secure enough to call up an outside expert to double
check their figures. These same subjects often also turned to technology for
In the final analysis, differing groups had differing ideas of where
responsibility lay for making sure the numbers were right. Copy editors said,
"If there are serious errors, give it back to the reporter." Reporters said, "I
don't have time to ask someone to check the math. That's the editor's job."
Managers expressed confusion over whether a system of checks and balances was in
place: "We double check all numbers, don't we? Do we ever not do it?" The
result is a circular division of labor in which the accuracy of numbers may fall
through the cracks.
Working with the categories that emerged from the open coding procedure, the two
coders addressed fitting these categories together in relational form; that is,
establishing linkages among categories, particularly in light of the ultimate
purpose of the study-to develop a math-skills training program for journalists.
In working through this stage of the analysis, a dichotomy emerged that
coherently defined the relationships across categories: the division between
math phobic individuals and nonphobic individuals. This dichotomy was
pronounced, with math phobia similar to pregnancy in that you either are or you
are not, you have it or you do not. While focus group data cannot be
generalized to a larger population, the following analysis of math phobics
versus nonphobics is based on the representative views of each as expressed
within these groups. Furthermore, this distinction was supported by the data
from the in-depth interviews in the pilot study with graduate students.
Math phobic individuals, who were present in every job function represented in
the groups, approached numbers quite differently from their nonphobic
counterparts. The math phobes spoke of numbers only in terms of generative
situations, that is calculating a number to get a result. They did not refer to
themselves in interpretive situations,38 that is as interpreting and applying
statistical data to the everyday world. Because generative situations are those
that treat numbers as black and white entities, math phobic individuals tend to
envision numbers as either right or wrong. Journalists, who put the results of
their calculations in print for all the world to see, may experience an added
element of performance anxiety as well.
It's really disconcerting. You get to the bottom line, a number. And there it
is. (Julie, reporter)
Consonant with the finding from the literature that numerical anxiety is the
sine qua non of math anxiety, the math phobic members of these groups cannot see
beyond this immutable aspect of numbers. The result is that "math is like a
foreign language." If you cannot speak the language, it is just so much
gibberish. Even trying to use a calculator can be a terrifying experience
because math phobic subjects do not speak the language necessary to communicate
with the calculator, never mind a computer database or statistical analysis
program. For these individuals, learning math is like starting out in a foreign
language: Simple step-by-step instruction with explicit rules, much like
memorization of vocabulary and grammar, are required.
I get confused because there is the twice as many thing and the double and the
two times as much. And there's the percentage, which is different from
percentage points, and all those little gray areas in there that have you
completely flummoxed. . . . Make training as easy as possible: percentages, two
times as many, more than, as much as, or all of that. (Carol, copy editor)
This same copy editor noted that what was needed was "something like a style
book for math." Math phobic individuals want a clear, rules-based approach to
guide them in calculating numbers. One top editor noted that she used to own
just such a guide.
I used to have this Dummy's Guide to Numbers. I could never keep straight when
you subtract, when you add. So I had this key the county reporter gave me that
said if you're trying to do this, then this is the formula; if you want to do
that, then this is the formula. It was just great-and I lost it. [sigh] It was
really very, very useful. (Yvonne, assignment editor)
When nonphobic individuals would point to the ability of software programs,
including information available on the paper's own Web page, to do just these
types of calculations, the math phobic individuals would respond that such a
solution was not empowering: "You want to use your brains, you want to figure it
out yourself." For math phobic individuals, technology added another level of
complexity to numbers rather than helping them cope with their math anxiety. For
math phobic individuals, lack of confidence makes it difficult to challenge
sources, even when those sources are their own staff, as witnessed by this math
phobic copy editor talking about questioning reporters on their numbers.
It's just kind of a morass you're wading into. You just want to say, 'Okay, that
number's fine. I'm going to move along now.' It's a temptation. (Carol, copy
It is important to reiterate that math anxiety does not correlate with math
ability, although it may with math performance. In other words, people may be
perfectly capable of doing math but still experience high levels of math
anxiety. A higher error rate, then, will not necessarily be associated with
those who experience math anxiety, although math anxiety can contribute to
performance anxiety.39 Subjects in this study who were math phobic managed to
pass a management mandated math exam and hang onto their jobs, although they
said the test created "huge pressure" and caused employees to "break out in
hives and sweat." During the pilot interviews, math phobic graduate students
frequently revealed that they had often done well in math courses, usually
getting A's. What is at stake, it appears, is not the ability to perform the job
but the level of stress the job entails; math skills are indeed value-added
For those individuals who do not suffer from math phobia, numbers are viewed as
both the black and white results of calculations (generative) and as entities to
be interpreted and applied to the everyday world (interpretive). When faced with
the black and white aspect of numbers experienced in generative situations,
these subjects believe a simple "common sense test" should be applied.
I think the simple things are the lion's share of things we fall down in-and
they seem like they're the easiest to fix. Just apply a common sense test-take
back and read that sentence out loud to see if it makes any sense. (Peter,
Such a concept is a tautology for those who are math phobic: How can one apply
"common sense" to something that doesn't make intuitive sense? For those who are
not afraid of numbers, it is simply a case of having to double check the figures
to see that they are correct and that they make sense, much as quotes would be
double-checked for accuracy and meaning.
These nonphobic subjects more often enjoy playing with numbers and using them to
generate new story angles. They enjoy using numbers in interpretive situations.
I happen to like numbers. I like them both for the joy of doing them and I like
the analysis you can do based on the results. (Todd, reporter)
For those who are clearly nonphobic, technology is empowering. They not only
have no fear of generative situations, they actually embrace interpretive
situations and want more training in computer-aided reporting techniques.
Math isn't that hard. It's either simple arithmetic, or if it's more
complicated than that you can get a machine to do it for you. (Peter, assignment
In these cases, technology is empowering because it puts the reporter in control
of the questions that can be asked as well as the answers that can be generated.
One example cited was the reporter who crunched police data to show that crime
clearance rates were astonishingly lower than officially reported. When the
reporter confronted police with the results, they were "clueless, they had no
idea. Rather than the source being in control of information, just the opposite
was now true."
Lots of times in a deal like this we know so much more about the story than the
sources do. We've done the analysis and they haven't. They just aren't equipped
to do it. They have the data, but they aren't equipped to do the analysis, so
they can't double check our work anyway. (Walter, assignment editor)
These math-inclined journalists are more willing to turn to sources outside the
newsroom-from the Internet to academic experts-to assist them in their work.
Comfortable with interpretive situations, they seek not only accuracy but an
understanding what the numbers represent.
What emerges from the axial coding stage of analysis is that numbers function
in many ways in the newsroom, but math phobic individuals can only perceive them
as black and white. While nonphobic individuals search for new story angles and
want to learn new ways to obtain, process, and interpret data, math phobics seek
a few basic rules to follow to keep them out of trouble. As noted by a former
math phobe, using numbers is no longer a matter of getting ahead, but getting
along in journalism today.
For generations, reporters have been able to get away with their clumsiness with
numbers by saying, "Well, I was good at English." The more time I spend in
journalism, the more I realize how blinded I was. It was like walking around
with a hand covering one eye throughout my whole career because I was so afraid
to deal with numbers. . . . If you can't speak math, you have no business being
in journalism because that is much of the ball game. (Jane, reporter)
In the selective coding stage of data analysis, the researchers identified an
emergent core category that pulls together the relationships present in the
axial coding and places the analysis on a higher level of abstraction as an
overall theoretical formulation emerges.40 In this instance the key came from
Albert Bandura's social cognitive theory.41 In his theory, Bandura posits the
notion of self-efficacy, which he defines as "people's judgments of their
capabilities to organize and execute courses of action required to attain
designated types of performances."42 Bandura's premise is that beliefs determine
behavior; thus, how people behave is better predicted by their beliefs about
their capabilities than by their actual capabilities. Self-efficacy is task
specific. At any given time an individual's belief in his or her capabilities
will determine whether or not to take on a task, the amount of effort that will
be expended on the task, and how much persistence the individual will exhibit in
the face of adversity.43 Much of what was expressed by focus group participants
fits this theoretical framework. Editors note that "a lot of reporters on staff
just don't gravitate towards numbers stories because they get mind boggled,"
math phobic journalists prefer to "move along" rather than deal with a perceived
morass of conflicting numbers, and a fearful editor confesses she goes "into a
little math tremor" until she musters the courage to seek help. Low
self-efficacy leads to stress, at which point the environment controls subjects
rather than subjects controlling their environment,44 much in the manner in
which math phobic subjects talked about their phobia as a physical disability or
Conversely, high self-efficacy correlates with high motivation and a commitment
to challenge.45 Thus nonphobic journalists want more training to enable them to
find the stories they are missing and to better grapple with complex stories of
concern to readers. High self-efficacy individuals are also more likely to seek
out support from others,46 as demonstrated by the willingness of nonphobic
subjects to use outside experts.
According to Bandura, self-efficacy is a strong predictor of anxiety.47 Tests of
the theory have generally confirmed the role that self-beliefs of math ability
play in math anxiety and subsequent math performance.48 Subjects' perceived math
ability, not their actual ability, is therefore key to determining whether they
will fall on the math phobic or nonphobic side of the analysis. What remains
unanswered is the cause of low self-efficacy, which leads to math anxiety.
Bandura only states that it gradually emerges through the experiences an
individual accumulates,49 and educational psychologists who have studied the
phenomenon posit that math anxiety first appears in early adolescence.50 From
this analysis it would appear that journalism educators and newsroom managers
must learn to deal with the consequences of math anxiety because they are not in
a position to take a proactive role in preventing its formation.
Discussion and Implications
One contribution of this work is that it supports Bandura's theory from an
emergent study, rather than from a deductive one. The researchers did not go
into this qualitative study to test a theory; instead, the salience of this
extant theory crystallized from the data after the coders had finished the first
two steps of data analysis. Given that the literature on self-efficacy and math
anxiety to date stems mainly from laboratory testing on convenience samples of
students, this study provides additional support for the theory that had
previously been lacking.
A limitation of this study is that the results cannot be generalized to the
larger population. Further quantitative studies are needed to confirm or deny
the universality of the constructs that emerged from this research. But the
emergent constructs are highly representative of the two divergent
viewpoints-those who are math anxious and those who are not-from both the focus
groups and the pilot in-depth interviews. As such they present themselves as
worthy of further study and lead to the following suggestions for journalism
educators and newsroom managers.
For journalism educators and newsroom managers, one implication of this study is
that beliefs about math capability play a crucial role in students' choice of
majors and careers. The subjects in this study were surprised to discover after
they got on the job that numbers form a basic part of a journalist's stock in
trade. For the math phobic, this realization jolted their assumption that they
could excel in journalism; because of low self-efficacy, they had deliberately
chosen a career that they thought would allow them to avoid mathematics. It is
apparent that journalism schools must do a better job of getting the word out
that we're in journalism because we like to write-and we do numbers too.
Journalism educators need to integrate numerical competency exercises and skills
into their curricula. Much as we now require students to master the fundamentals
of AP style, we need to make basic math a requisite skill for a degree in
journalism. But in doing so, we must provide the support necessary so that even
those who are acutely anxious with numbers can overcome their trepidation. That
means providing step-by-step instructions, organizing peer-led tutorials, and
developing a curriculum that stresses the benefits of math as much as its
mechanics. Part of Bandura's larger social cognitive theory is that actions
become valued when the subject can see an obvious reward for those actions, thus
math becomes valued if it is explicitly shown to be an integral part of a
career.51 Newsroom managers can provide early intervention during internship
experiences, with an emphasis placed not just on getting sources' names spelled
correctly and writing a good headline but in correctly working a percentage
change and interpreting data from a spreadsheet.
Given that journalism educators and newsroom managers are left with only a
reactive role in dealing with math anxiety, support programs need to be
established that address this lack of self-confidence. Treatment programs for
math phobia traditionally have concentrated on the emotional elements and relied
on stress management programs, but their effectiveness has not been well
documented.52 Based on the findings in this study and extant research,53 a
highly structured instrumental approach, which stresses the memorization of
formulae, concepts, and rules-what Bandura termed "guided mastery"
techniques54-would be more effective. The math phobic subjects in this study
wanted a clear set of rules they could follow, and they particularly yearned for
an easy-to-use reference guide, a stylebook for numbers. Training for these
individuals should emphasize the hard-and-fast basic math skills needed most in
reporting. Only after these skills have been mastered might these subjects have
the confidence to approach interpretive math tasks, including computer analysis.
The efficacy of a rules-based approach is supported by the examination of the
newspaper content for mathematical inaccuracies. Of 1,500 stories reviewed for
the baseline study, not a single story was found that miscalculated percentage
change. This seemed remarkable for a profession notorious for not getting
percentages right. When questioned, the subjects explained that the newspaper
had been so plagued by incorrect percentage change that management launched a
campaign to eradicate the errors. This suggests that dealing with innumeracy in
the newsroom is not a Quixotic quest-change is possible when rules are made
But rote mathematics will do little good unless reporters and editors also are
shown how and when to apply the rules. Many said getting the "right answer" was
not as problematic as figuring out how to use the data. Journalists need help
with mathematical vocabulary and concepts so they know, for example, when to use
the mean and when to use the median to express an average. As with words, fuzzy
mathematical thinking leads to fuzzy description. Only by understanding the
underlying mathematical concepts can reporters effectively explain statistics to
The dichotomy between the math phobic individuals and the nonphobic also
underscores the need for a vastly different training approach for those who
possess greater self-efficacy. For these individuals, a training session on
basic math rules and their applications holds little appeal. These subjects
want, as one reporter said, "to learn how to evaluate different kinds of graphs
and present complicated ideas in the best way." They want to be exposed to new
sources of data, to improve their technological skills, and to learn more about
statistical analysis. Advanced computer training is essential for this group-the
data now available to journalists is too vast to cope with unaided by an
electronic spreadsheet or a database program. These subjects are receptive to
workshops led by recognized experts-an approach that could intimidate the math
phobic and shut down their learning. In short, the math-inclined need challenge,
Finally, a mechanism needs to be established to make math a more "top of the
head issue," even for those who already are comfortable with numbers. By
bringing these issues to the forefront, the common sense test is more likely to
kick in. Journalism educators can help develop this reflex in students. Much as
AP style quizzes are designed to help aspiring writers recognize when the rules
apply, math quizzes could play a similar role in helping internalize the need to
double-check and scrutinize numbers. More copy editing exercises should include
mathematical errors to train students to view numbers skeptically. Newsroom
managers need to establish a formal process by which numbers are routinely
checked and not, as found in this case study, passed over as someone else's
responsibility. These numerical checkups should not be just for accuracy. It is
everybody's job to make sure the numbers make common sense, compare apples with
apples, and are expressed in terms that readers easily comprehend.
The implications of the growing feminization of journalism schools needs further
study.55 That women experience more math anxiety is well documented. As more
women come into newsrooms, it is possible that the door will be opening to
increased math anxiety. Longitudinal studies will be necessary to assess whether
levels of math anxiety correspond with the numbers of women in the newsroom.
Managers in this study expressed the hope that the newsroom culture would change
from one of math fear to one of embracing math as more computer literate
graduates joined their ranks. But this study suggests that computers are not an
effective crutch for the math anxious. Further research is needed to explore the
role of technology in making math accessible to the newsroom masses.
And foremost, a fundamental mindshift is needed in the newsroom. Journalism is
no longer a refuge from mathematics, if it ever was. Numbers in the news should
not be viewed as a "ticking time bomb," but as a journalist's ally-or at least a
familiar acquaintance. But clearly, many journalists remain convinced that
numbers are not-and should not be-their calling. Researchers can make worthy a
contribution by showing how to change these deeply embedded social norms.
Somehow, we have to change the culture that math is something horrible and is to
be avoided at all cost. I don't know what the answer is, but we've got to
change the culture-that math is scary and you don't want to bother with it. . .
. It's like a virus that we need to get out of our system, because if we don't
do math, we're holding ourselves back. (Peter, assignment editor)
Table 1. Make-up of the Focus Groups
No. Date Duration Place Participants*
1 2/10/99 70 minutes meeting room in 6 reporters
adjoining building Arnold Judd
2 2/15/99 65 minutes main meeting room 8 copy editors
3 2/15/99 55 minutes main meeting room 3 senior editors
7 assignment editors
Roger Steve Yvonne
4 3/2/99 60 minutes bureau office 4 reporters
Note: Despite concerted efforts to hold a separate focus group with the four
designers, a mutually agreeable time could not be established.
Table 2. Emergent Categories/Themes from the Opening Coding Analysis
1 Numbers are pervasive
need to learn math on the job
level of math needed not great
math skills are value added, not baseline
readers necessitate context, interpretation of numbers
2 Numbers are black and white
force accountability, corrections
must critically examine numbers, apply common sense
sources often control the numbers
3 Numbers provide inherent credibility
lead to enterprise reporting
CAR lets reporters control the research
4 Numbers are a source of anxiety
math anxiety as a physical ailment
nonphobics lack understanding of the "disease"
technology is shunned by phobics, embraced by nonphobics
dependence on informal network of "math experts"
final, formal responsibility for numbers not clearly defined
Table 3. The Emergent Dichotomy from Axial Coding
Math Phobic Individuals Nonphobic Individuals
numbers are always black and white numbers can be interpretive
no inherent sense to numbers can apply a common sense test
need clear rules to follow need training on statistical interpretation
empowerment through learning to empowerment through technology
worried about mistakes worried about stories missed
reliance on internal experts willing to turn to outside experts
source dependent power over sources
1 James J. Kilpatrick, "Marvelous Mysteries of Calculation Between Writers and
Mathematics," The Seattle Times, 28 February 1999.
2 R. Ciotta, "Baby You Should Drive this CAR," American Journalism Review, March
3 Philip Meyer, The New Precision Journalism (Bloomington: Indiana University
Press, 1991), 1.
4 Melvin Melcher, "Young journalists are terrified by numbers," Editor &
Publisher, 25 November 1995, 48.
6 Mitchell V. Charnley, "Preliminary Notes on a Study of Newspaper Accuracy,"
Journalism Quarterly 13 (December 1936): 394-401.
7 See, for example, Charles Brown, "Majority of Readers Give Papers an A for
Accuracy," Editor & Publisher, 13 February 1965, 63; Fred Berry Jr., "A Study of
Accuracy in Local News Stories of Three Dailies," Journalism Quarterly 44
(Autumn 1967): 482-490.
8 Max Frankel, "Margin of Error: We Are Growing Too Dependent on Virtual Numbers
and Facts," The New York Times Magazine, 15 December 1996, 34.
9 Marc Levinson, "Banking on Scare Stories: The Press Is Determined Not To Miss
the Next Crisis," Newsweek, 2 November 1992, 73.
10 Christopher Hewitt, "Estimating the Number of Homeless: Media
Misrepresentation of an Urban Problem," Journal of Urban Affairs 18 (Fall 1996):
11 Martin Gilens, "Race and Poverty in America: Public Misperceptions and the
American News Media," Public Opinion Quarterly 60 (Winter 1996): 515-542.
13 "Understanding Child Abuse Numbers," Nieman Reports 47 (Spring 1993): 20-22.
14 Ben Wildavsky, "Poll-watchers Dress Down the Press," National Journal, 13
September 1997, 1786.
15 James Orcutt and J. Blake Turner, "Shocking Numbers and Graphic Accounts:
Quantified Images of Drug Problems in the Print Media" Social Problems 40 (May
16 David C. Berliner and Bruce J. Biddle, "The Awful Alliance of the Media and
Public-school Critics," Education Digest 65 (September 1998): 4-10.
17 Max Frankel, "Innumeracy 2," The New York Times, 5 March 1995, 24. Also see,
Daniel Seligman, "Ask Mr. Statistics," Fortune, 29 May 1995, 175.
18 N. Reisner, "On the Beat," American Journalism Review, March 1995, 44-47.
19 Victor Cohn, News & Numbers: A Guide to Reporting Statistical Claims and
Controversies in Health and Other Fields (Ames: Iowa State University Press
20 Ibid., 126.
21 See, for example, Stacy Jones, "Numbers Expose Truths: Demographer Urges
Newspapers to Take Advantage of Powerful Analytical Tool," Editor & Publisher, 3
May 1997, 41.
22 See, for example, Jennifer LaFleur, "Impressions from a NICAR Trainer," The
IRE Journal, July-August 1996, 3.
23 John Allen Paulos, A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper (New York: Doubleday,
1996), 3-4. Also see by the same author, Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and
its Consequences (New York: Random House, 1988).
24 Eleanor Emmons Maccoby and Carol Nagy Jacklin, The Psychology of Sex
Differences (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1974).
25 Kathleen T. Campbell and Cay Evans, "Gender Issues in the Classroom: A
Comparison of Mathematics Anxiety," Education 117, (Spring 1997): 332-338. Math
anxiety was measured on the 98-item Mathematics Anxiety Rating Scale (MARS),
which has been well validated in the literature (coefficient alpha = .96).
26 M. Beth Casey, Ronald L. Nuttall, and Elizabeth Penzaris, "Mediators of
Gender Differences in Mathematics College Entrance Test Scores: A Comparison of
Spatial Skills with Internalized Beliefs and Anxieties," Developmental
Psychology 33, (July 1997): 669-680; Joseph G. Smith and William B. Michael,
"Validity of Scores on Alternative Predictors of Success in a College Algebra
Class," Psychological Reports 82, (April 1998): 379-387.
27 Sue Austin, Elizabeth Wadlington, and Joe Bitner, "Effects of Beliefs About
Mathematics on Math Anxiety and Math Self-Concept in Elementary Teachers,"
Education 112 (Spring 1992): 390.
28 The instruments included in the study were the Mathematics Anxiety Rating
Scale (MARS), the Mathematics Anxiety Questionnaire (MAQ), and the Mathematics
Anxiety Scale (MAS). See Richard Kazelsias, "Some Dimensions of Mathematics
Anxiety: A Factor Analysis Across Instruments," Educational and Psychological
Measurement 58 (August 1998): 630.
29 A search of the Infotrac Expanded Academic Index using the keywords
journalism and writing produced 502 entries, the majority of which focused on
pedagogical techniques to improve writing through examination of the writing
process, the use of AP Style quizzes, evaluation techniques, etc. A search of
the same database using a combination of the keywords journalism, newspaper[s],
and math[ematics] yielded 30 articles. Four were critiques of newspaper
performance, one an announcement of statistical software for sports reporters,
six miscellaneous articles tangential to the topic, and, ironically, 17 were
studies of how to use newspaper coverage in primary school curricula to promote
math literacy. Only two articles addressed journalists' math skills and
30 The three-month period was from September 7 through December 6, 1998. For a
full discussion of the methodology and results of the content analysis, see "It
Doesn't Add Up: A Case Study of Mathematical Inaccuracy in the News,"
31 Preliminary results from a survey of news sources cited by the newspaper
indicate that about 15 percent of stories have at least one numerical error.
32 Grant McCracken, The Long Interview, (Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications,
1988); Michael Quinn Patton, Qualitative Evaluation and Research Methods, 2nd
ed., (Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications, 1990).
33 Richard A. Krueger, Focus Groups: A Practical Guide for Applied Research, 2nd
ed., (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 1994).
34 Barney G. Glaser and Anselm L. Strauss, The Discovery of Grounded Theory:
Strategies for Qualitative Research, (Chicago: Aldine Publishing Company, 1967).
35 Anselm L. Strauss, Qualitative Analysis for Social Scientists, (New York:
Cambridge University Press, 1987).
36 Anselm Strauss and Juliet Corbin, Basics of Qualitative Research: Grounded
Theory Procedures and Techniques, (Newbury Park: Sage Publications, 1990).
Anselm Strauss and Juliet Corbin, "Grounded Theory Methodology: An Overview," in
Norman Denzin and Yvonna Lincoln (eds.), Handbook of Qualitative Research,
(Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 1994), 273-285.
37 Strauss and Corbin, Basic of Qualitative Research, 112.
38 For a complete explication of working with numbers in either generative or
interpretive situations, see Iddo Gal and Ashley Stoudt, "Numeracy: Becoming
Literate with Numbers," Adult Learning 9 (Winter 1997): 13.
39 Joseph G. Smith and William B. Michael, 385.
40 Strauss and Corbin, Basics of Qualitative Research.
41 Albert Bandura, Social Foundations of Thought and Action: A Social Cognitive
Theory, (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1986).
42 Ibid., 391.
47 Albert Bandura, "Self-efficacy," Harvard Mental Health Letter 13 (March
48 Frank Pajares and M. David Miller, "Role of Self-Efficacy and Self-Concept
Beliefs in Mathematical Problem Solving: A Path Analysis," Journal of
Educational Psychology 86 (June 1994); Judith L. Meece, Allan Wigfield, and
Jacquelynne S. Eccles, "Predictors of Math Anxiety and Its Influence on Young
Adolescents' Course Enrollment Intentions and Performance in Mathematics,"
Journal of Education Psychology 82 (March 1990).
49 Bandura, Social Foundations of Thought and Action.
50 Meece, Wigfield, and Eccles, "Predictors of Math Anxiety." 60.
51 Ibid., 69
53 See Karen S. Norwood, "The Effect of Instructional Approach on Mathematics
Anxiety and Achievement," School Science and Mathematics 94 (May 1994): 248;
also D. H. Schunk, "Self-efficacy and Academic Motivation," Educational
Psychologist 26 (1991).
54 Bandura, "Self-efficacy."
55 See Gerald M. Kosicki and Lee B. Becker, "Annual Survey of Enrollment and
Degrees Awarded," Journalism & Mass Communication Educator, 53(Autumn 1998); and
Linda Grist Cunningham and Barbara A. Henry, The Changing Face of the Newsroom
(Washington, DC: ASNE, 1989).
Austin, Sue, Elizabeth Wadlington, and Joe Bitner. "Effects of Beliefs About
Mathematics on Math Anxiety and Math Self-Concept in Elementary Teachers."
Education 112 (Spring 1992): 390.
Bandura, Albert. Social Foundations of Thought and Action: A Social Cognitive
Theory. (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1986).
________. "Self-efficacy." Harvard Mental Health Letter 13 (March 1997): 4.
Berliner, David C. and Bruce J. Biddle. "The Awful Alliance of the Media and
Public-school Critics." Education Digest 65 (September 1998): 4-10.
Berry, Fred, Jr. "A Study of Accuracy in Local News Stories of Three Dailies."
Journalism Quarterly 44 (Autumn 1967): 482-490.
Brown, Charles. "Majority of Readers Give Papers an A for Accuracy." Editor &
Publisher, 13 February 1965, 63.
Campbell, Kathleen T. and Cay Evans. "Gender Issues in the Classroom: A
Comparison of Mathematics Anxiety." Education 117, (Spring 1997): 332-338.
Casey, M. Beth, Ronald L. Nuttall, and Elizabeth Penzaris. "Mediators of Gender
Differences in Mathematics College Entrance Test Scores: A Comparison of Spatial
Skills with Internalized Beliefs and Anxieties." Developmental Psychology 33,
(July 1997): 669-680.
Charnley, Mitchell V. "Preliminary Notes on a Study of Newspaper Accuracy."
Journalism Quarterly 13 (December 1936): 394-401.
Ciotta, R. "Baby You Should Drive this CAR." American Journalism Review. March
Cohn, Victor. News & Numbers: A Guide to Reporting Statistical Claims and
Controversies in Health and Other Fields. (Ames: Iowa State University Press
Cunningham, Linda Grist and Barbara A. Henry. The Changing Face of the Newsroom.
(Washington, DC: ASNE, 1989).
Frankel, Max. "Innumeracy 2." The New York Times, 5 March 1995, 24.
________. "Margin of Error: We Are Growing Too Dependent on Virtual Numbers and
Facts." The New York Times Magazine, 15 December 1996, 34.
Gal, Iddo and Ashley Stoudt. "Numeracy: Becoming Literate with Numbers." Adult
Learning 9 (Winter 1997): 13.
Gilens, Martin. "Race and Poverty in America: Public Misperceptions and the
American News Media." Public Opinion Quarterly 60 (Winter 1996): 515-542.
Glaser, Barney G. and Anselm L. Strauss. The Discovery of Grounded Theory:
Strategies for Qualitative Research. (Chicago: Aldine Publishing Company, 1967).
Hewitt, Christopher. "Estimating the Number of Homeless: Media Misrepresentation
of an Urban Problem." Journal of Urban Affairs 18 (Fall 1996): 431-448.
Jones, Stacy. "Numbers Expose Truths: Demographer Urges Newspapers to Take
Advantage of Powerful Analytical Tool." Editor & Publisher, 3 May 1997, 41.
Kazelsias, Richard. "Some Dimensions of Mathematics Anxiety: A Factor Analysis
Across Instruments." Educational and Psychological Measurement 58 (August 1998):
Kilpatrick, James J. "Marvelous Mysteries of Calculation Between Writers and
Mathematics." The Seattle Times. 28 February 1999.
Kosicki, Gerald M. and Lee B. Becker. "Annual Survey of Enrollment and Degrees
Awarded." Journalism & Mass Communication Educator, 53(Autumn 1998).
Krueger, Richard A. Focus Groups: A Practical Guide for Applied Research, 2nd
ed. (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 1994).
LaFleur, Jennifer. "Impressions from a NICAR Trainer." The IRE Journal,
July-August 1996, 3.
Levinson, Marc. "Banking on Scare Stories: The Press Is Determined Not To Miss
the Next Crisis." Newsweek, 2 November 1992, 73.
Maccoby, Eleanor Emmons and Carol Nagy Jacklin. The Psychology of Sex
Differences. (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1974).
McCracken, Grant. The Long Interview. (Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications,
Meece, Judith L., Allan Wigfield, and Jacquelynne S. Eccles. "Predictors of Math
Anxiety and Its Influence on Young Adolescents' Course Enrollment Intentions and
Performance in Mathematics." Journal of Education Psychology 82 (March 1990).
Melcher, Melvin. "Young Journalists Are Terrified by Numbers." Editor &
Publisher, 25 November 1995, 48.
Meyer, Philip. The New Precision Journalism. (Bloomington: Indiana University
[Nieman Reports]. "Understanding Child Abuse Numbers." Nieman Reports 47 (Spring
Norwood, Karen S. "The Effect of Instructional Approach on Mathematics Anxiety
and Achievement." School Science and Mathematics 94 (May 1994): 248;
Orcutt, James and J. Blake Turner. "Shocking Numbers and Graphic Accounts:
Quantified Images of Drug Problems in the Print Media." Social Problems 40 (May
Pajares, Frank and M. David Miller. "Role of Self-Efficacy and Self-Concept
Beliefs in Mathematical Problem Solving: A Path Analysis." Journal of
Educational Psychology 86 (June 1994);
Patton, Michael Quinn. Qualitative Evaluation and Research Methods, 2nd ed.
(Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications, 1990).
Paulos, John Allen. Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and its Consequences.
(New York: Random House, 1988).
________. A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper (New York: Doubleday, 1996), 3-4.
Reisner, N. "On the Beat." American Journalism Review, March 1995, 44-47.
Schunk, D. H. "Self-efficacy and Academic Motivation." Educational Psychologist
Seligman, Daniel. "Ask Mr. Statistics." Fortune, 29 May 1995, 175.
Smith, Joseph G. and William B. Michael. "Validity of Scores on Alternative
Predictors of Success in a College Algebra Class." Psychological Reports 82,
(April 1998): 379-387.
Strauss, Anselm L. Qualitative Analysis for Social Scientists. (New York:
Cambridge University Press, 1987).
Strauss, Anselm and Juliet Corbin. Basics of Qualitative Research: Grounded
Theory Procedures and Techniques. (Newbury Park: Sage Publications, 1990).
________. "Grounded Theory Methodology: An Overview." In Norman Denzin and
Yvonna Lincoln (eds.). Handbook of Qualitative Research. (Thousand Oaks, CA:
Sage Publications, 1994), 273-285.
Wildavsky, Ben. "Poll-watchers Dress Down the Press." National Journal, 13
September 1997, 1786.
Numbers in Newsrooms