Friday, February 21, 2014

Writing with Numbers: This Week's R&B

I don't normally publicly critique the local papers unless they do stories that involve public opinion polls or, in this case, write with numbers. Lemme take a couple of minutes to look hard at two stories.
  • UGA students don't finish in four years. This is a longish story and my main concern is that the main reason, by far the main reason, that UGA lags here is the Hope Scholarship. The Hope makes it possible to linger in college compared to other universities. The numbers here are right, only 62.4 percent of freshman in the latest cohort graduated in four years. In fairness to UGA, 10 years ago that number was 44.2 percent. So when making comparisons, also look at how improvement rates compare.
  • College of Engineering grows into competition for Ga. Tech. This reads like a PR piece for the Engineering school. Don't get me wrong, I'm excited as hell at the success this program is having. It can only mean good things for the university. But the third graf of this story is too long, out of place, and that 70 percent job number is so out of context as to need a critical eye. Yes, maybe 70 percent of UGA engineering grads get jobs, like Tech, but I can promise you they're very different jobs. Tech is world class in engineering and computer science. We're not there yet. Be critical of every number, and especially don't let the flack write your story for you -- as this one seems.
I don't want to sound overly harsh. I'm glad to see numbers in stories, but you've got to be careful to make sure they are apples to apples, oranges to oranges.

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