The Devil’s in the Data

Effectively summarizing complex data has become increasingly critical for stretched reporters.

Our colleagues at FGH’s Health Media Insights newsletter share three key questions you should ask yourself to make your data-based pitch as effective as possible:

  1. Can I summarize this data in two sentences? Reporters know their editors are thinking in headlines—so should you. We recommend summarizing along these lines: “Our data demonstrate X, which means Y. That matters because Z.” 
  1. Am I presenting this data in the best way? Fast-moving reporters may be reading a pitch on their phones and may not have time to read a massive spreadsheet or paper. Boil your data down to a two-page PDF with data graphics that will be easy for a reporter to read on any screen. This approach also shows reporters that their outlet’s graphics team can easily create visuals from the data or leverage yours.
  2. Is my information airtight? If reporters see anything inconsistent or unclear in your initial pitch or data summary, it will raise questions about your data’s accuracy. Potential pitfalls include comparing different time frames in the same graph or making a claim that’s hard to connect to the numbers. 

Some final food for thought: Reporters have varying comfort levels with data. Seasoned science reporters may be comfortable with – and may even request – a large data set that they can analyze themselves, but they are few and far between. Keep that in mind when considering your reporter targets and the best way to engage them.

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