an amateur eye on the numbers that befuddle us all


I've been a journalist since I joined my local newspaper, The Oban Times, when I was 16. I made it to university at one point, studying politics and history, but it wasn't until I was about 27 that I had to sit in a serious maths class.
That was when I did a postgrad in economics at Birkbeck in London. Had I known it would involve so much maths, I probably wouldn't have enrolled, but I'm glad I did.
I've long since forgotten calculus and advanced algebra, but the simple stuff economists use every day - arithmetic and statistics - isn't too hard. In fact, it can be quite good fun.
And not being afraid of it can help you see through news stories.

Do immigrants steal our jobs and scrounge benefits? Journalists of different slants will argue either way. Journalists who aren't afraid of numbers know the answer is no. Does crime pose a mortal threat to us all? Perhaps, but a declining one. 
I'm not an economist or a statistician. I just like to know what the numbers are in a story, or wonder what they could be.
In a previous life I was a journalist-cum-analyst for a business news outlet where I was exposed to some of the techniques financial people use to figure things out.
They often make assumptions and guesstimates. I'll probably do that here too, but where I do, I'll acknowledge them.