Matt Baron shares numeracy tips to Medill students during a November 2007 class.

Yesterday I visited my alma mater for the third time since last autumn. (Pictured is me, as a bearded wonder, during my first such talk in November 2007.)

Ceci Rodgers

At the invitation of Ceci Rodgers, adjunct professor of economics and business reporting, I spoke to a “Journalism By the Numbers” class for grad students at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism.

Adapted from my seven-year-old workshop, Go Figure: Making Numbers Count, the point that I drive home more than any other is the importance of using numbers in context.

All too often, the stories we tell are loaded with stats in a vacuum–leaving the reader to guess as to their significance. Instead, as story-tellers, whether journalist, publicist or any other role, we need to take the time to truly understand the relevance of a given number and then communicate it clearly to our audience.

What about you–what irks you most about how the media uses (and misuses) numbers?

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