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Making sense of numbers with narratives

Posted on: September 15, 2018

Some people’s eyes glaze over when shown figures and statistics. Some hearts might harden as it is easy to focus on the numbers instead of considering the people that make up those numbers.

Case in point: The debate about the number of deaths resulting from Hurricane Maria last year.


Video source

This segment from the video above was one method to estimate the number of deaths in the aftermath the hurricane that hit Puerto Rico last year. But they might not mean much to the neutral or uninformed without a human face and story.


Video source

The journalist near the end of the news report took care to describe a couple he had followed from last year. The couple survived the initial onslaught, but the husband succumbed to “the stress (and) the fumes from the generator”.

Narratives do not just complement, they illustrate more richly. They connect readers, listeners, and watchers with what matters — the human condition.

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