• Business journalism

Business reporting at the high school level? In the school newspaper or on the school’s web site?

Business is what adults do, you say. Not students.

Wrong.

How much money do have in your wallet? How did you get it? What are you going to spend it on? What are you saving money to buy? Ask those same questions of your closest friends.

Money, how you get it, and how you spend it are all important concerns for you and your friends, and that forms the basis for business journalism.

High school journalists usually don’t take on the same kinds of stories that professional business journalists will cover, but they still have concerns about business, even beyond those of personal finance.

For instance, consider these story ideas:

  • What businesses in your area cater specifically to teenagers? Identify them and write about what they offer. Compare their prices and service to places where the same items might be available.
  • What are some of the part-time jobs that students at your school have? Many students work in the fast-food industry. You could write a story comparing the pay, hours and working conditions of these jobs.
  • Do any of the students at your school own their own businesses? The term here is entrepreneurship. Chances are, there is a student or set of students who are doing something unusual or innovative to make money. What are the problems or opportunities that students has encountered? How has the work affected school work?
  • What is the latest electronic gadget that everyone at your school “has to have”? Why? Where is the best place to get it? What are the deals?
  • Fashion is always a big deal – especially with female students. Fashion is big business with young women. What is the latest fashion trend? How much does it cost? How do you fellow students (male and female) feel about it?

These are just a few of the stories that you could generate for your high school newspaper or web site. You can probably think of many more.

But there is one thing you’re going to have to be confident about if you’re going to write business stories. It’s the dreaded M-word: math.

Chip Scanlan, a member of the faculty at the Poynter Institute, writes: “Competency with numbers requires:

* Basic working knowledge of arithmetic

* Familiarity with statistics

* Ability to calculate percentages, ratios, rates of change, and other relationships between numbers

* Ability to translate numbers into terms that readers and viewers can understand

* Knowing the difference between median and mean averages

* Understanding of margin of error in polling

* Basic understanding of probability theory

* Understanding of graphs and other pictorial representations of numbers.”

OK, so what should you know? Here goes:

Mean, median, percentage, rates and ratios (to begin with).

If you’re shaky on any of these, here’s a good web site to brush up:

http://nilesonline.com/stats/

Or try this online math competency test from the University of North Carolina:

http://www.unc.edu/~pmeyer/carstat/mathtestquestions.html

When you know your math, get cracking on your business stories.

 

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