What Data To Look?

– Points can’t miss in 2015 S.A.B.E.W. Conference

By Yanshu Li

“What data will you be looking at relevant to measuring those two things?” asking about the global weakness and market volatility, the room turned the attention to Dennis P. Lockhart, the President and Chief Executive Officer at Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.

Giving a speech about the current economy and monetary policy at 2015 Society of American Business Editors and Writers conference, he said VIX index is a good gauge of market volatility, which represents the market’s volatility expectations in next thirty days. He also mentioned looking at other data that indicates wage growth, income changes, and consumption. “Consumer data will be the most telling,” Lockhart said.

Because some of the consumption are mostly consumer-driven, such as auto industry, furniture, and finance, or durable purchases. Not only they are the reliable indicators for policy makers, but also the right direction for journalists looking for good stories.

The Sidewalk Labs C.E.O. Dan Doctoroff talked about “the technological and disrupted city.” It’s an urban-innovation company found by Google. His speech focused on the scale of the global urbanization, problems and how technology can help to improve the quality.


“The good news is the cities were made for density.  But the challenge is that we can’t just add millions of people to our cities, and to expect our quality of life to remain calm,” he said.

Sidewalks believed the digital data produced by sensors, smartphones, and software can help residents and government make better choices. Regarding the massive data, the project is going to collect, one question was inevitably being asked – the potential downside that is people’s concern about privacy.

“I think the keys to privacy at the end of the day are transparency, anonymity, and preferably making sure that you are providing meaningful value for the information that you are collecting,” he said. “But it’s all three of those things in combination.”

Not just government and corporations are looking for useful data; it works the other way around as well.

RealtyTrac, a firm providing real estate data analysis, put a small red notepad for every attendee with an advertising page selling data. Sqoop.com put a tip sheet in for helping journalists find federal public records.

This year’s Society of American Business Editors & Writers, S.A.B.E.W. conference provided useful information for journalists finding story ideas, and where to look for the right data for the stories.

The Senior Economics Correspondent in The New York Times, Neil Irwin, sent his genuine advice to young journalists that was worth pondering.

Irwin was at the panel named “2016 Election, will the economy decide?”  Answering what is the story to avoid regarding the relationship of economy and presidency – “to tell the business journalists don’t tell this time.”

He pointed out the high demand of editors, also a strong sense among readers, for interpreting the economy indexes alone with the current political powers.

IMG_0802“Trying to frame every economic story as a political story gets in some trouble,” the senior economy journalist stated that the ways that the presidency affects the course of the economy are “very subtle” and also it affects in a very long-term rather than a short-term.

“This is a good job number; that’s a sign of Obama is the best president ever. It’s a bad one that judges the worst president ever, which are just bunkers,” Irwin said.

For journalists, especially who have their beat such as economics, getting the right datasets is the crucial step one, asking the right question can be the significant step two. But putting the analysis in the right context is going to be fundamental because it will contribute to accuracy.


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