Career / College

Journalists are not mathematicians

Why is it a fact that journalists suck at math? My advisers have said it, my journalism professors have said it, my roommate said it last night (as I was pulling my hair out trying to solve 24 equally confusing math problems involving functions), and now, well, I’m starting to agree with all of them.

I wish someone had hit me in the head with a baseball bat when I initially chose to go for a Bachelor of Science instead of a Bachelor of Arts, because the only thing I’m saying right now (silently, of course, because coincidentally I am writing this in my math class) is, “What was I thinking?!”

I should’ve stuck with Spanish. I was good at it, it made sense, and God only knows how much more I’d be able to apply it to real life situations than “f(x) = 3. What is the domain?” My answer? Who. The. Heck. Knows?! It’s not like when I’m married and my husband and I can’t figure out our bills I’m just gonna say, “Hey honey, how about we use those old f of x equations I learned in college?!” No. Just, no.

I say, you can’t make a living writing math books. You can, however, become the next J.K. Rowling and make everyone fall in love with you simply through the written word. There’s a reason there was only one Albert Einstein, folks.

Granted, there are lots of jobs that involve the crunching of numbers and, in turn, a sizable paycheck. On the other hand, everyone knows journalists aren’t in the business for the money.

So. Back to my original question and the purpose of this post: why is it a well-known fact that journalists can’t do math? Craig Silverman, reporter for the Columbia Journalism Review, says there are increasingly more stories written by journalists containing numerical errors. So much more, in fact, that numerical errors are the most common type of error made by journalists today. Sheesh. We really have made a name for ourselves, huh.

A more scientific explanation is that we are used to using the left side of our brain because that is where all things concerning grammar and word production are located; our right side is neglected (poor thing). Things make sense to us in words and letters, not numbers and mathematical symbols.

How a journalist thinks.

I guess it’s a good thing college students even have the option to pursue a Bachelor of Arts (which means taking a foreign language, not math, for two years).


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