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Title: A study into the value placed on numeracy as symbolic capital within the journalistic field
Author: Harrison, Steve
Awarding Body: Liverpool John Moores University
Current Institution: Liverpool John Moores University
Date of Award: 2020
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Journalists need a clear understanding of numbers and to be comfortable communicating them if they are to perform their role of informing the public and holding power to account. That is because numbers are at the heart of almost every topic of public interest: from health, wellbeing and politics to sport, the economy and business. Yet the popular image of the journalist is that of a barely-numerate wordsmith, at home with prose but bewildered by percentages. If true, that is damaging to public discourse, both in terms of what is and is not reported, and how effectively it is communicated. This research project proceeds from the observation that journalists have a “numeracy deficit” when it comes to writing with and about numbers, and it analyses this deficit in an original manner by drawing on Bourdieu’s concepts of the journalistic field, symbolic capital and habitus, employing these as the basis for a fresh understanding of the topic. By comparing journalism students with statistics students, the role of habitus and cultural capital is invoked to theorise how the development of journalism students’ numeracy skills is inhibited. A numeracy audit of UK newspapers illustrates common errors when reporting on stories which involve quantitative data, and it is argued these arise in large part because numeracy is not valued within the journalistic field to the extent that literacy is. Case studies were critically analysed to explore the practical consequences of an inadequate level of numeracy on the quality of journalism. The findings have been supplemented by interviews with authoritative figures within the profession. By placing this topic for the first time within the context of field theory, it is argued that a solution to journalism’s numeracy deficit does not lie in training alone, as traditionally argued, but requires a transformation of the journalistic field itself.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: PN4699 Journalism