Full topic list
This is a session of Topic 7: Statistics education and the wider society

(Monday 12th, 11:00-12:30)

Statistics and the media



The majority of the population have received no formal statistical training, and their main exposure to statistics is through the media. Clearly any effort at statistical literacy that hopes to reach the wider population and thus create “an evidence-based society” must do so by engaging with the media.

While newspapers, radio, television or the internet recognize the merits of interacting with professionals in many fields, including for example regular columns by practitioners in the fields of medicine or finance, they rarely seek professional statistical advice. Consequently we continue to witness frequent misuses of statistics in the media which only go to perpetuate Disraeli’s image of “lies, damned lies and statistics” among the wider population.

What can be done by the statistical education community to improve this situation? Clearly this involves greater collaboration between statisticians and journalists. We need to educate journalists to the issues involved in accurately reporting statistics to the public and in addition to this we must be prepared to engage more directly with the media ourselves.

This session will examine the issue from the perspective of the statistician and the journalist.
  • How can the statistician best engage with the media? Interacting with the media is quite different from interacting with students. Time is limited, explanations generally cannot be expanded upon later but must be succinct and to the point. Journalists and statisticians with media experience will offer advice here.
  • What are the best practice guidelines for statistical training provided to all journalists?


PaperTitlePresenter(s) / Author(s)
7A1Association-causation problems in news storiesMilo Schield (United States)
7A2Spinning heads and spinning news: the American media’s gap in quantitative reasoning skillsRebecca Goldin (United States)
7A3Statistics on national radio: some insights from working with professional broadcastersKevin McConway (United Kingdom)