FiveThirtyEight.com founder and New York Times staffer Nate Silver delivered the Henry Pringle Lecture to Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism graduates last week. He told them:
* Read everything, including academic papers, which Silver says many journalists miss. Some academics don’t know how to write, but a few of them do, and there’s a lot of wisdom there once you get used to parsing through the language. ”
* Learn how to be entrepreneurial. It’s important to develop a sense of yourself as a brand ‐‐ don’t let yourself become defined too narrowly because that will limit your opportunities as your career evolves. ”
* Learn how to make an argument. “ The reader is going to be asking you to develop a hypothesis, weigh the evid ence, and come to some conclusion about it — it’s really very much analogous to the scientific method. Good journalism has always done this — but now it needs to be done more explicitly.”
* Learn how to work with data and statistics. “Statistics, to anyone who knows anything about them, aren’t factoids — 4 out of 5 dentists agree that Colgate is the best toothpaste, Uganda is the 118th most populous country — but instead quanta of information that can be pieced together, just like all the other information that you collect as a journalist, to help you write stories and inform others about the world.