Analysis: Numbers

Analysis: Numbers
by Dallas Johnson

To analyze the use of numbers, we can look at this CNN article about a new Arlington probe by the Army Chief.

The reporter uses numbers near the end of the story to illustrate some of the points made earlier in the article.  It seems like a good usage of point-support.  The beginning of the article is the story, the end backs up the points made in the article and even helps to provide a little explanation.

The numbers are certainly not overwhelming because the writer does a good job of making sure they are relevant and in context.  They refer to the cemetery and the number of burials and number of staff members.  The writer uses these numbers in an appropriate place relative to the point the numbers make.

The reporter did use math to illustrate their point.  More specifically, the writer used percentages of burials going up over 20 percent while staffing has gone down 20 percent.  This helps to illustrate an explanation to the problems Arlington has been having in its burials recently.

The sources in this case, come directly from Arlington.  This gives legitimacy to the numbers.  There is no better place to get numbers from than the direct source. 

There are a couple of issues with the sources.  The first is that Arlington is going to try and prove that their problems are not a big deal and may provide statistics that paint them in a good light.  However, it is the journalist's responsibility to make sure they get what they need.

The second issue is that the writer does not explicitly state where the numbers come from.  We can see with a little back and forth reading that the numbers come from Arlington, but this is frustrating.  The numbers should be attributed directly.

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This page contains a single entry by Dallas Johnson published on November 14, 2009 2:13 PM.

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