Math Tools Ch. 5-8

By Ginna Royalty

Chapter 5- Polls and Surveys

beautiful tracksfor yourPolls and surveys are heavily used and reported on by journalists. But, sometimes they can be skewed and bias and reporters need to help readers understand the polls and surveys.

Polls are an estimate of public opinion on a single topic or question and used a lot for political purposes.

Surveys are based on representative samples of the population, but usually include multiple questions. Surveys can be used a in a wide variety of settings.

Making sure a poll is reliable is important, and one way you can do it is by making sure the polls are randomly selected. Researchers have to rely on samples to get a picture of the whole population.

Margin of error and confidence level are also important to understand as a journalist. Margin of error indicates the degree of accuracy of the research based on standard norms. It is expressed as a percentage and is based on the size of a randomly selected sample.

Confidence level is the level or percentage at which researchers have confidence in the results of their research.

z and t scores are also important to have a basic understanding of. A z score, or “standard score” shows how much a particular figure differs from the mean. The t score, or the student’s t distribution, is used when the sample size is small, 100 or fewer.

Formula: z score= (Raw score – mean) / standard deviation

Example: Name three things that polls need to remain unbiased.

Answer: clear wording, randomly selected participants, sampling error is reasonably small

Chapter 6- Business

mark your calendarsBusiness beats often have the most math out of any of the others. Financial statements are formal documents that are available to shareholders, regulatory agencies and other stakeholders interested. They are found in a company’s annual report.

The profit and loss statement, P&L, is one of the most important document for a company and shows if they are making money or not. Different companies have different ways of reporting this.

Formula: Gross margin= selling price- cost of goods sold

Formula: Net profit = gross margin – overhead

A balance sheet is a written financial statement of a company’s assets, liabilities and equities and shows the financial stability of the company.

Current ratio is a liquidity ratio that measures the ability of a company to meet its liabilities, and you will see these very often.

Formula: Current ratio = current assets / current liabilities

Math problem: Lisa paid $1.15 for the flowers she sold in her shop and sold the flowers for $2 per flower. What was the gross margin?

2 – 1.15= .85 cents

Chapter 7- Stocks and Bonds

investment rportsStocks and bonds are important ways businesses raise money. Corporations sells stocks to raise cash and people buy stocks as investments. When an individual buys a share of stock in a company, they become a part owner of the company. The value of a company’s stock changes over time based on demand.

A bond is a loan from an investor to the government or other organization selling the bond and corporations and governments raise money by selling bonds. The “face value” of the bond is the amount the owner of the bond will receive at maturity. Investors often sell bonds on the open market before they mature. The “current yield” can also fluctuate.

Formula: current yield = (interest rate x face value) / price

Formula: Bond cost (interest) = amount x rate x years

Market averages are used to measure action on the exchanges.

Math problem: Kelly paid $650 for a $800 bond with a 5 percent interest rate. What is her current yield?

Current yield = (.05 X $800) / $650 = 6.15%

Chapter 8- Property Taxes

cinco de mayoArticles about property tax are often on the first page of a newspaper; they are the largest source of income for local government, school districts and other municipal organizations. Property tax is determined by taking the total amount of money the governing body needs and dividing that among the property owners in that taxing district.

Property tax is measured in units calls “mills,” which is 1/10 of a cent, or $.001. Property taxes are usually applied to assessed valuations, not to the actual price a home would sell for.

Formula: mill levy = taxes to be collected by the government body / assessed valuation of all property in the taxing district

Appraisal value is based on:

  • The property’s use (residential, business, vacant land, farm, business, commercial)
  • The property’s characteristics including:
      • Location
      • Square footage
      • Number of stories
      • Exterior wall type
      • Year of construction
      • Quality of construction
      • Amenities
  • Current market conditions as determined by sales in the immediate area over a specific number of years
  • A visual inspection of the property by trained appraisers

Formula: assessed value = appraisal value x rate

Formula: Tax owed = tax rate x (assessed value of the property / $100)

Math problem: Carmel’s municipal budget totals $567,500 for next year. What will the tax rate be if the assessed value of all the property in Carmel is $73,599,000?

$567,500 / $73,599,000 = .00771070 = 7.71 mills = $7.71 per $1,000 assessed valuation


Social media: encouraging political participation or political laziness?

By Ginna Royalty

Part 1/2

Protesters gather in D.C. for the Women’s March on Washington. Photo by The Chicago Tribune

Teresa Shook was trying to find a way to express the disappointment, anger, and sadness she felt when she heard the results of the 2016 Presidential election.

She posted a single, crazy idea in a Facebook group: what if women marched in D.C. during inauguration weekend? Before she went to bed, 40 women had responded with a yes. When Shook woke up she could not believe her eyes; 10,000 people agreed with her.

Social media’s role in political participation is undeniable. Teresa Shook would not have been able to gather around half a million people without the help of social media. More than three million people across the globe came together and made a statement regarding the rights of women. There were almost 700 sister marches in over 60 countries across the world, from Australia to France to Kenya and Spain.

The 2016 election was different than most elections in more ways than one. Social media played a huge role in both the spreading of news and becoming politically active.

Social media’s role in the 2016 election

Since 2008, the number of users on social networking site has grown tremendously, from 33% to 69% in 2012. According to the Pew Research Center, in 2016 only 13% of adults are not online and nearly eight-in-ten online Americans now use Facebook.

With the increasing amount of people using social networking sites, the ways that Americans are getting active in the political world are also changing.

Lee Rainie, the director of Internet, science and technology research at the Pew Research Center. Photo by Ginna Royalty

According to Lee Rainie, the director of Internet, science and technology research at Pew Research Center, “For millennials, social media participation is just a part of life. It’s a way for them to do all kinds of things, including political activity.”

“For baby boomers, social media came into their lives at a much later stage and so they’ve had to incorporate it into their political life, rather than millennials who just started with social media being just as much a part of their civic life as whatever else they were doing in ‘real life,’” Rainie said.

But has social media been more harmful than helpful for political life? This past election cycle has perpetuated scandal and drama and fake news, hurting both candidates.

GetImage (4)
Jason Husser, director of Elon Polls. Photo by Elon University

“There are a lot of folks that think that because they liked or retweeted something that they made an actual difference in that cause, “ said Jason Husser, director of Elon Polls. “Influencing policy takes more than a like. It doesn’t do much more than get attention.”

According to the English Oxford dictionary, the definition of “slacktivism” is “actions performed via the Internet in support of a political or social cause but regarded as requiring little time or involvement, for example signing an online petition or joining a campaign group on social media.”

Voting patterns for millennials 


reasons young people don't vote (1)
Research from Lee Rainie from Pew Research Center. Graphic by Ginna Royalty

Only about 50 percent of Americans aged 18-29, millennials, voted in the 2016 election, which went down from the 2008 election. An estimated 56.8 percent of the total eligible population voted in 2016.

Rainie said that younger people not turning out to vote is a long-standing problem that is not new to 2016 and that there a lot of political science reasons for this.

“Young people don’t necessarily pay as much attention to politics and news, they are just launching their lives and have a lot of stuff on their mind,” Rainie said. “They’re wondering, ‘Where am I going to live? Who am I going to marry? Where am I going to get a house? How’s my career going to unfold?’”

“They also haven’t necessarily lived their lives with lots of direct impact of political decisions on their lives,” Rainie said.

However starting in 2008 the trend of less voting behavior started to reverse. There was a higher voter turnout than previous elections, and young people, in particular, had a higher level of participation. There were multiple factors to this: it was the dawn of social media and Obama was a special kind of candidate.

Even though more millennials started to vote, it was still not all of them.

“The story of people’s lives tend to be that as they settle down, as their careers develop, as their families develop and as their community groups become more pronounced, they get more interested in voting because they can see ways that policies affect their everyday lives,” Rainie said.

Map of United States 2016 election results if only millennials had voted. Graphic by Mic

Rainie wonders whether more young people who didn’t vote in the 2016 election now feel like that was a mistake, especially after seeing how so few votes had to change to produce a different election outcome. In 2020 more people might think, “Well my vote might count.”

According to Rainie, one of the biggest hindrances on people voting is that they think, “What I think doesn’t matter and I can’t influence anything” or “It’s a waste of time for me to pay attention to this stuff when I have other things to do.”

There is no doubt that the political environment is changing with all of the different media options that are also continually changing. There are many more social media channels now than there were 5 or 6 years ago, and there will be more in the future.

“Social media has allowed politicians to communicate without the media,” said Husser. “It allows instant and direct communication to the public.”

Companies and political figures have to adjust the way they treat social media content because they’re worried about accusations of promoting fake news or accusations of echo chambers, people who are living in information bubbles and not really encountering other information.

“The big difference with social media is that it has the ability to target areas in ways that were never feasible before. Campaigns can deliver very specific information. Social media helps connect people in a way that we weren’t connected before.”

-Justin Grimmer, associate professor of political science at Stanford University.

“Heading into the future there will be adjustments in the platforms,” Rainie said. “Some of them will become even more open, but a lot of them will make adjustments to try to limit fake news and try to limit the way people can hurt each other on these platforms.”

News sources in relation to political participation  

According to the Pew Research Center, about one-third of millennials said that social media was the most helpful way to learn about the 2016 presidential election.

Using social media as a way to obtain news drops off drastically after the 18-29-year-old range with only 15% of 30-49-year-olds and 5% of 50-64-year-olds reporting that social media was a helpful way to get news about the election.

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“Across the board, social media is becoming a resource for political activity,” said Grimmer. “Baby boomers are increasingly using social media as an outlet, but it is still a little more natural for millennials.”

full shot photo
Hal Vincent, lecturer and faculty director of Live Oak Communications. Photo submitted by Vincent

“Social media helps coordinate and communicate with much smaller niche audiences,” said Hal Vincent, lecturer and faculty director of Live Oak Communications at Elon University. “Down to the county, municipal and neighborhood level, things can be more organized, at least in their communication, thanks to social media.”

“Fundraising and grass-level political support will only continue to strengthen and mobilize thanks to social media.”

Graph by Pew Research Center

The Pew Research Center also found that there is also a difference between outlets used to consume news and likelihood to participate in a primary or caucus. Those who consume information through cable TV and the radio are more likely to participate in a primary or caucus than someone who finds out information through social media or local TV.

“There is such a polarization on social media, people only see, read and follow the things that they want to hear about,” said Dan Griffin, Elon University senior and political science and strategic communications double major.

The notion of “fake news” also played a huge role in the 2016 election. A study done by Stanford University found that “of the known false news stories that appeared in the three months before the election, those favoring Trump were shared a total of 30 million times on Facebook, while those favoring Clinton were shared 8 million times.”

“I think flashy news article titles hit people at their values and if someone sees an article that has a crazy title name, they may share it automatically without even clicking on the link,” said Kayla Gallagher, Elon University junior and political science major. “When people see something that they want to be true, they may also be likely to share it whether it’s true or not.”

Read more about social media’s impact on political campaigns in the sidebar labeled: “Social media’s involvement in political campaigns”

Lee Rainie discusses the differences between baby boomers and millennials and their usage of social media for political participation.

Questions: Why aren’t younger people getting out there and voting? How can social media help with political participation?


Social media’s involvement in political campaigns

By Ginna Royalty

Part 2/2

Social media is a very common way for social movements and political groups to organize and gain followers.

Shamira Gelbman, professor of political science at Wabash College

“This year, in particular, we have seen social media being used to mobilize people for their real activism, it has been used to get people out,” said Shamira Gelbman, associate professor of political science at Wabash College. “This election, in particular, we have seen a lot of organizations of letter writing and calls to senators through social media.”

Social media can draw people in and get them actively engaged in the conversation, Gelbman said. “It has been used in ways to try and get people to publicly commit to being engaged. ‘Retweet if you’re committed to voting, click on this link to sign a pledge.’ It’s really made political participation a more of a social thing, there’s more of a peer pressure to it.”

Along with the Women’s March on Washington, there have been many types of campaigns, rallies and protests that have begun and used the momentum of social media.

KONY 2012

KONY 2012 went viral overnight. The video collected more than 112 million views within the first week it was released, becoming the most viral video in history, according to Time.

Invisible Children, a San Diego-based social justice organization with Christian roots, released the campaign. The campaign focused on the activities of the central Africa-based Lord’s Resistance Army led by Joseph Kony.

Campaign poster for Kony 2012

According to the organization’s website, their mission is to “make Joseph Kony famous, not to celebrate him, but to raise support for his arrest and set a precedent for international justice.”

The social media campaign was focused on spreading awareness, but they also called for action and planned a “Cover the Night” event for April 20, 2012, where participants were encouraged to put posters and materials over their towns.

KONY 2012 relied on social networking site users to rebroadcast, or share, the video to their own followers and get others engaged in the conversation. They tried to appeal to both sides of the political spectrum, focusing on bringing the two parties together for a common goal.

KONY 2012 is one of the first examples of a massively successful political social media campaign. Invisible Children used social media as a tool to empower its followers.


Sparked by Ferguson, police brutality has become a highly discussed and key political topic in the United States since 2014. The first time the phrase “black lives matter” was used was by a black community organizer in July 2013 after George Zimmerman shot and killed black 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman was later acquitted.

Black Lives Matter Black Friday
Protesters march in the streets after the many lost lies of black individuals. Photo by The All-Nite Images

The hashtag #BlackLivesMatter didn’t pick up until August 2014 after Michael Brown was shot in Ferguson, Missouri. Between mid-2013 and March 2016 #BlackLivesMatter appeared on Twitter almost 11.8 million times according to the Pew Research Center.

Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, a professor of African-American studies at Princeton University told Al Jazeera, “Social media has been critical in the knitting together of a national narrative of police violence and abuse.”

“Social media platforms have helped organizers to overcome distance and geography by putting people in immediate touch with each other,” Taylor said.

According to the Pew Research Center, in 15% of #BlackLivesMatter tweets, the author was making a larger point and engage in a broader discussion surround race.

“Social media connects people, gives them a voice and gives them a sense of power,” said Payton Auchenbach, a junior political science and communications double major at Elon University.

“People who otherwise have nothing in the world can voice their opinion on social media, without consequences. This builds momentum, both in a positive and negative sense.”

Math Tools Chap. 1-4

By Ginna Royalty

Chapter 1: The Language of Numbers

TownJournalists need to understand the importance of numbers so that they can be as accurate as possible. Numbers are everywhere, especially in newspapers. Always check the math and numbers in articles don’t assume that they are right. Make the numbers easier for readers: spell out single-digit numbers between zero and nine, round off numbers unless a specific number is required, do the math for your readers. Be careful with words like among/between, compared to/with, further/farther.


Chapter 2: Percentages

placesto gowith yourdad this father's dayCalculate percentages correctly so that readers can understand the material more effectively. The four common usages of percentages are percentage increase and decrease, the percentage of the whole and percentage points. Formula for percentage increase/decrease: Percentage inc./dec. = (new figure – old figure) ÷ old figure. Then convert to a percentage by moving the decimal over two places. The formula for percentage as a whole: percentage as a whole = subgroup ÷ whole group. Then move the decimal two places to the right. The formula for simple annual interest: Interest = principal x rate (as a decimal) x time (in years). The formula for payments on loans: A= monthly payment P= original loan amount R= interest rate N= the total number of months. A = [P x (1 + R)N x R] ÷ [(1 + R)N – 1]. The formula for interest on savings: B= balance after one-year P= principal R= interest rate T=number of times per year the interest is compounded. B = P(1 + [R ÷ T])T

Chapter 3: Statistics

jazzAfter percentages, the most common numbers reporters work with are statistics. Statistics are used in research, crime rates, test scores and more. It is very common for journalists to be asked to evaluate surveys and studies. The mean is the sum of all figures in a group divided by the total number of figures. The median is the midpoint in the group of numbers. The mode is the number appearing most frequently in a distribution of numbers. Other categories of statistics include percentile, standard deviation, and probability.

Chap 4: Federal Statistics

Math problemThe federal government provides a lot of information involving numbers to the public, including unemployment rate, inflation, gross domestic product, international trade balance and more. The unemployment rate, which is defined by the percentage of the labor force that is unemployed and actively seeking work, is released every month. The formula is: unemployment rate = (unemployed ÷ labor force) x 100. Inflation is another big issue that journalists face. U.S inflation is measured by the Consumer Price Index.


Truitt Center helps educate Elon students by putting on Holi Festival

Multimedia Reporting by Ginna Royalty

Elon students throw up colorful powder during the 2017 Holi Festival at Elon

The Elon community came together on Friday, April 7th to celebrate Holi, a well-known Hindu festival which celebrates the beginning of spring and the triumph of good over evil. People come together and celebrate by having a paint or colored powder fight.

Abhinav Nitesh, an intern at the Truitt Center for Religous Life & Spiritual Life, planned Elon’s 2017 Holi Festival. As reported in The Pendulum, Nitesh moved to the United States last year from India to get a better education. He picked Elon for the small class sizes and proximity to his uncle who lives in Cary, North Carolina. Nitesh found Elon to be very hospitable and wanted to help educate the Elon community about a different religion, one that is not too common at Elon.

“The is one of those festivals I really love the most back home, all of our friends would gather around and just enjoy ourselves while worshiping in our faith,” Nitesh said.

“This job opportunity at the Truitt Center provides me with a platform to make people aware about a different religion. It gave me a podium to inform people about the faith that I hold near and dear to my heart.”

“While the aesthetics of Holi may supersede its true meaning to some, it is a powerful tool to promote Hindu life at Elon,” Unversity Chaplain Jan Fuller said to The Pendulum.

Photo by Stephanie Hays, Elon News Network

“I loved learning about Holi and being able to celebrate it with fellow Elon students!” said Marta Djalleta, sophomore. “There’s always such positive energy there and I’m so grateful to have been a part of it!”

While Holi is one of the Truitt Center’s most popular events, it may be for the wrong reasons. According to The Pendulum, Carrie Seigler, the multifaith intern coordinator at the Truitt Center said that some students may attend only for the “Instagramable” aspect.

Meredith Piatt(right) celebrates the Holi Festival. Photo submitted by Piatt.

“I went to Holi because I went to India on a study abroad trip over winter term this past year and I learned about the culture and religion and I felt like I could intellectually and educationally participate this year which is why this is my first time participating,” said Meredith Piatt, junior.

Piatt thinks Elon does a great way of pairing fun events like Holi with educational aspects, such as the skit they did explaining the roots of the festival before the event started.

“Elon is trying its best. I think it’s the students that need to be involved in it now,” Nitesh said. “Elon can only do so much.”

America’s Best: The Classics

TOP 10 TIPS.pngHarold A. Littledale: “Prisoners With Midnight in Their Hearts”

Described as, “A 1917 Crime and Courts Classic,” Harold Littledale revealed the inside scoop on prison life in America in the New York Evening Post. He utilized repetition, starting each paragraph with, “It is a fact.” The authority and authenticity of the work created a political statement at the time and Littledale won the 1918 Pulitzer Prize for reporting.

WP_William_Allen_WhiteWilliam Allen White: “Mary White”

Described as, “A 1921 Obituaries and Funerals Classic,” William Allen White was the most famous and influential small-town newspaper publisher in America by the time of his death in 1943. His most famous news story was the result of a tragedy; his daughter was knocked off a horse and died.

hickok_s61Lorena A. Hickok: “Iowa Village Waits All Night for Glimpse at Fleeting Train”

Described as, “A 1923 Deadline Classic,” Lorena Hickok was persistent and dedicated and persuaded her editor to give her more articles than just the typical “female” articles. Hickok uses dialogue and chronological structure to convey the event’s excitement. She formed a close relationship with Eleanor Roosevelt and then stopped reporting on the Roosevelt family but then wrote a biography of her.

220px-Richard_WrightRichard Wright: “Joe Louis Uncovers Dynamite”

Described as, “ A 1935 Deadline Classic,” White had a hard time getting his opinions on race into the mainstream media. He always gave the reader more, diving in head first and committing. He always explored the meaning of the events taking place. His piece reminds readers about the untold stories and stifled voices in America.

download (2)Dorothy Thompson: “Mr. Welles and Mass Delusion”

Described as, “A 1938 Opinion and Persuasion Classic,” Dorothy Thompson had a bold writing style. She dives into the deeper meaning and comments on the unidentified issues. She became one of the most influential journalists of the first half of the 20th century.

Ernie_Pyle_cph.3b08817Ernie Pyle: “The Death of Captain Henry Waskow”

Described as, “A 1944 Obituaries and Funerals Classic,” Ernie Pyle became a national hero for his Scripps Howard newspaper about common, everyday soldiers. He used “I” and “we” to connect with the community he covered, he was not an outsider. He used an expressive lead, dramatic setting, and an honest array of emotions.

New York Times photojournalist Al Drago speaks with Elon journalism class

By Ginna Royalty

Al Drago’s Twitter profile picture

Al Drago started taking pictures when he was 16. He continued to dive into the world of photography and journalism in high school, and when he came to Elon University in 2011, he even photographed his own move-in day.

While at Elon, he worked with both The Pendulum and Elon Local News and was a photojournalist intern with the Durham Herald-Sun, the Burlington Times-News, the Raleigh News & Observer and the Baltimore Sun.

Drago spoke to Professor Janna Anderson’s Reporting for the Public Good class today and gave the students an inside look at life as a photojournalist.

“Every holiday you’re going to be working, you’re going to be embracing it, you’re going to be loving it,” Drago said.

He spoke of his time at Elon, what it took to get where he is today and advice for aspiring journalists. He connected with the students, showing them his first “selfie” from 2005 and made jokes about the “Elon bubble” and being an overworked student.

During his college years, Drago told his professors that work came first for him, and luckily most of them were understanding.

Drago tells a story of one assignment that changed his life. “It was a Tuesday, I was in my house and there was an ELN assignment I wasn’t attending and I got a call from the News Observer and they said ‘We have a triple murder in Chapel Hill, how soon can you get there?'”

Drago’s first picture in The New York Times

He was in the middle of shaving and said “10-15 minutes” even though the drive to Chapel Hill was actually around 40 minutes. He threw the shaving cream off his face and sped over to Chapel Hill.

The picture he took ended up being the one every outlet wanted.

“I woke up to my phone blowing up, I had hundreds of tweets and messages from newspapers,” Drago said.

It was the first time his photo was in The New York Times, but it definitely wouldn’t be the last.

After Drago graduated in 2015 he worked as a photographer for Roll Call in Washington D.C. and then moved on to working for The New York Times, where he covers the White House, Congress and national politics.

Drago explains the differences between Snapchat and Instagram

Drago is one of three photographers for the Times who follows the president everywhere he goes, whether it’s in the motorcade for a speech or traveling on Air Force One to accompany the president on a weekend trip.

He gave students great tips for getting the job or internship you want: network with anyone possible, cold-email editors asking for advice and work ferociously. He worked nonstop.

At one point he had an unpaid internship with the Raleigh News and Observer from 2-10 pm, covered Durham Bulls games from 10-11:30 and then went over to a distribution plant and worked from midnight to 5 am.

Drago also talked about the hardships that came along with working so hard during college. Whether it was keeping up with school work or missing social functions and spring breaks, it wasn’t easy to get to where he is now.

“For all the photos, I could also you show you all the things I missed,” Drago said.

Drago is a big fan of using Snapchat and Instagram to share pictures. He said the main difference between the two is that “Snapchat prioritized content creation over consumption. Instagram flips that formula.”

Drago ended his presentation giving advice to the students: “You have to have “me” time or you’ll totally explode.”