Humans Versus Artificial Intelligence: How Can We Adapt to Keep our Jobs Safe?

By Hannah Benson

Artificial intelligence is at large in our developing world, be it in the form of digital networks, computers and other technology, and the unfortunate reality of the situation is that it is grabbing jobs away from its human competition.

Janna Anderson, professor and director of Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center.

This threat has been on the rise for quite some time now. Global consultancy McKinsey predicts that the adaptation of automation technologies currently at large could impact 50 percent of the world economy, which translates to 1.2 billion workers.

The question is raised whether people should continue at their jobs and hope that the issue subsides, trusting that humans will always dominate over technology, or if people should get on board and start adapting in order to beat the competition.

Renowned professor at Elon University and co-author of the report “The Future of Job Skills and Job Training,” Janna Anderson, explains that people do need to learn how to adapt and add to their skill sets in order to trump the competition.

Anderson speaks more to the issue here.

Traits needed to challenge (1).png
Graphic by Hannah Benson.

“The big findings [of her work],” says Anderson, “were that people do believe that we do need to train to race with the robots.”

“We need to learn to work with artificial intelligence and other tools in this digital age,” she adds.

As researchers agreed that it was necessary for people to adopt a list of skills to get on the same playing field as these digital competitors, a compilation of skills, capabilities and attributes arise as noteworthy. Many of these are as follows: adaptability, resilience, compassion, empathy, deliberation, judgement and discernment, conflict resolution and the capacity to mobilize, motivate and innovate.

Elon professor Kelly Furnas, when asked about the issue at hand, said, “Artificial intelligence is really good at understanding and acting based upon high-volume, repetitive tasks. A teacher might grade 2,000 essays over a course of a career, but a computer can grade 2,000 essays in a matter of seconds. This is why we now see computers grading even the essay portions of standardized tests. But computers rely on existing data to learn. In unique, novel situations, human minds will always be better, because we have the ability to reason and create connections even when none exist.”

Jack Hamilton, Elon sophomore, gets worried about the competition.

When the subject was brought to the table, many Elon University students had feedback to give concerning the issue at hand, both positive and negative.

Elon sophomore Jack Hamilton responded, “I always hear about artificial intelligence and how it’s going to replace the job I have someday, but I guess I just thought that was my parents being paranoid or trying to scare me. The more information I hear about it, the more I feel like I should be getting worried, in fact, I might start doing more research on that now.”

Elon sophomore Margaret Gunson, someone who considers herself ‘technologically challenged,’ had this to say about the topic:

Gunson is worried about the imminent takeover.

“I already feel inferior to computers everyday, and now you’re telling me they’re going to be taking my job down the line? That worries me, but at the same time I feel like there are certain jobs that can’t be touched by this issue, like tour guides, waitresses and anything like that. I’d like to have someone try and tell me a robot could replace a job that is centered on human hospitality.

Though Gunson remains unconvinced, Anderson, after copious research, attests that all jobs are in jeopardy.

“Everybody needs to be a jack of all trades,” she says. “You need to understand a wide variety of things and be curious and excited about lifelong learning [in order to meet success].”

Elon student and education major, Emily Ford, spoke to how she feels the entire situation is going to skew how people are raised to prepare for the work force.

“Now that people know their jobs are at risk, they’re going to shoot to develop the skills

Ford worries that people will adopt the skills at the cost of others.

that will protect them from losing their job, rather than the kinds of skills people were encouraged to adopt 30 years ago when there wasn’t much competition at hand,” Ford says, “and this worries me. I mean, the kinds of skills aren’t negative in any way, but I dislike the idea that you’re learning them to ward off robots from taking your spot.”

“I never think too much about the issue,” says Alec Steffenberg, Elon sophomore. “People publish studies and write books, but I frankly think that it’s all a ruse. Of course, I’m aware of artificial intelligence, but I think that, if it should be a problem, I have enough skills in my repertoire to challenge it.

But perhaps he should be worried, as over 1,400 technologists, scholars and futurists by Pew Research Center and Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center found that

Steffenberg, a nay-sayer on the cause.

education and jobs-training ecosystems will be altered in the next 10 years. This will be done to exploit new virtual and augmented reality tools and artificial intelligence.

Everyone else, so it seems, will just have to get on board or accept that their position is in danger.

“Tap into the world’s knowledge and expand yourself,” says Anderson, “develop skills and you could be successful.”


Zeta Tau Alpha hosts Bright Pink for Breast Cancer Workshop

By Hannah Benson

The Zeta Eta chapter of Zeta Tau Alpha at Elon University took its allegiance to breast

The official logo of the non-profit organization. Courtesy of

cancer awareness one step further this past Monday as they hosted Bright Pink, a national non-profit organization focused on prevention and early detection of breast and ovarian cancer in young women.

The representative who came to speak, Julie Hufman, has been a part of the organization for over 10 years now, and is one of the “rare executive heads of an organization who hasn’t suffered from the disease we fund research for” in the first place, so she stated in her introduction. She mentioned rather that she is incredibly passionate about prevention and education about the disease in the first place, and how the lecture itself could save someone’s life if they so much as listened and took the appropriate action.

Hufman then launched into an interactive program that included a few quizzes which participants took on their phones to further increase their education about the topic in the first place.

She began by explaining how women of all ages should be performing breast exams on themselves at home, by examining their breasts with varying

Screen Shot 2017-05-02 at 1.34.02 PM.png
Graphic by Hannah Benson.

angles and pressure and feeling for lumps. Should women find anything of concern, they are told to check again weekly, then let a medical professional know within 2-3 weeks. Hufman really emphasized the importance of being safe rather than being sorry; it’s a much smarter move to bring something to the attention of your doctor that turns out to be benign than keep something from them that turns out to be fatal.

Hufman then outlined a variety of things people can do to lower their risk of developing breast cancer down the line. This list included getting 20-30 mintutes of exercise daily, lowering alcohol and red meat intake, and maintaining a healthy Body-Mass Index. She explained how being able to lower the risk of a disease is incredibly powerful and how smart people would be to take advantage of that.

“If I told you that one action you performed today could cut your chances of getting hit by a bus in half, you would take it,” Hufman explains to the room, “granted, the circumstances are different, but the idea is the same. Once we know what can prevent something that can kill us, we can start to take the steps to get to that safer way of life.”

Hufman later encouraged the participants to use their phones to sign up for monthly reminders to perform the self-breast exam, and to share the reminders with their friends and loved ones, so that those women can become aware, too.

Graphic by Hannah Benson.

Hufman explained that, in the past year, at a college workshop like the one she was giving at the moment, a girl who signed up for the reminders performed the exam on herself a few months down the line, found something and caught her breast cancer very early on. Hufman testifies that this girl thanked the organization for their outreach, for, without it, she may not have caught the cancerous area for quite some time.

“And that’s why I do what I do,” Hufman explained, “but I can’t help you save any lives until you act. That’s what really does the work.”

Ali Figuelo, Elon sophomore and member of Zeta Tau Alpha remarked after, “I can’t believe how much I didn’t already know about breast and ovarian cancer before tonight. I’m definitely going to share this information with the people I care about. Now that I know what I know, I want to make sure everyone can catch a disease like this early.”



Math Tools, Chapters 9-12

Directional Measurements

Though deadlines are often looming and journalists typically aren’t the first ones to take the initiative to do a math problem, checking numbers dealing with time, rate and abacus-1866497_1280.jpgdistance can be a crucial step to ensuring an accurate story. There are simple formulas reporters can follow to check math in these situations — and most only require basic multiplication and division.

Distance = rate x time

Rate = distance ÷ time

Time = distance ÷ rate

Example problem 1

Your mother is coming to visit for the weekend! You need to pick her up from Raleigh-Durham airport in the morning, which is 55 miles away from Elon University. If you plan to leave your dorm at 9 a.m., how fast must you drive to get there by 9:50 a.m., when her flight arrives?

Rate = 55 miles ÷ .85 hours = 64.7 or about 65 mph


Though our cars’ speedometers show us instantaneous speed, it is more useful for reporters to know how to calculate average speed.

Average speed = distance ÷ time

Example problem 2

Alexa came in fourth on her team at their cross country meet. Her 5K (3.1 miles) time was 24:29. What was her average speed during the race?

Average speed = 3.1 miles ÷ 24:29 =

3.1 miles ÷ .4 hours = 7.75 mph

Area Measurements

Being able to clearly express measurements is an important skill for journalists to have. Sometimes these illustrations take on the form of analogies, such as likening the square footage of the new superstore to that of a football, and other time actual numbers and specific figures are required to clearly describe measurements.

Articles about construction projects will invariably require you to report on perimeter and area.

For a square or a rectangle shaped structure:

Perimeter = (2 x length) + (2 x width)

For irregular shapes, simply add the lengths of all the sides to find the perimeter.

calculator-983900_1280.jpgExample problem 3

Your uncle is landscaping his backyard and decided to include a brick, pentagonal-shaped patio. The sides vary in length. If the base is five feet, the two sides are each seven feet, and the top edges are each five feet, what is the perimeter?

5+6+6+7+7 = 36 feet

For a square or a rectangle shaped structure complete the following formulas:

Area = length x width

For a triangular shaped structure:

Area = .5 base x height

Volume measurements

liquid conversion

Example problem 4

You bought four quarts of ice cream from a local fundraiser. How many servings will the ice cream yield if each serving is approximately one cup?

4 quarts = 128 ounces

128 ounces ÷ 8 ounces = 16 servings

Volume of rectangular solid = length x width x height

The metric system

Metric Volumes

Though in the states, many people are intimidated by the system of measurement, converting from one unit to another within the metric system requires only multiplying and dividing by 10, 100, 1,000 or other multiples of 10.


Elon University Buzzes with Feedback on Donald Trump’s First 100 Days

By Hannah Benson

As Donald Trump’s first 100 days nears to a close on this Saturday, April 29, universities are buzzing with opinions on how this first milestone of time

Screen Shot 2017-04-26 at 10.29.31 AM
Graphic generated by Hannah Benson.

has gone. The Elon Poll of Elon University has reported that Trump support declined in North Carolina in at the end of his first 100 days, in everything from support for the wall he proposed to construct to his social media presence.

In the same poll, nearly three-fourths of voters said Trump’s usage of Twitter is “inappropriate,” and 55 percent of people polled disagreed with his claim that America is the enemy.

Jason Husser, director of the Elon Poll, said that, “Typically, presidents enjoy strong support during their first 100 days even from former opponents or critics. The Trump presidency is different–his level of support in his first 100 days both for himself personally and for his key policies is as low as we’ve seen in the history of opinion poll. However, his core supporters remain very loyal.”

While 56 percent of North Carolina voters think Trump’s actions are consistent with his campaign promises, there is strong opposition to one of those

Rachel Golland, Elon junior.

promises – building a wall along the Mexican border. Nearly 60 percent of all voters oppose the wall in its entirety, including 92 percent of Democrats who think it’s a bad idea.

“Though President Trump enjoyed considerable support among North Carolinians on Election Day, he has lost ground among the crucial independent voters responsible for his success over Hillary Clinton,” said Husser.

Jordan Hunter, junior at Elon, said, “His twitter [account] kills him, it makes him sound absolutely awful…the way he responds to things on social media is really bad, and someone should be monitoring it.”

With every controversial issue, there are people who see both

Jordan Hunter, Elon junior.

sides. Alex Dolby, Elon freshman, made the remark that, “during the election, I wasn’t the biggest fan of Trump, but now that he’s elected I truly think he’s going to do what’s best for our country, even if people don’t see that now.”

Melissa Roy, a student worker in the Provost’s office, spoke to the situation in a very educated tone. She said, “I think his first 100 days have been completely unsuccessful, I didn’t vote for him, but I think people who did are extremely disappointed.”

“After the election, obviously the people who didn’t vote for him were disappointed, but

Alex Dolby, Elon first-year.

we could foresee some hope in that a variety of factors would keep him from going through on the lofty promises he laid out in his campaign,” says Roy.

The first 100 days wraps up tomorrow, and more sources should be reporting statistics at that time.

“100 days in though and I think a lot of people are scared, I mean, I am. I’m not sure what will become of our country in another 100, or another 100 after that,

Photo courtesy of the Elon Poll.

much less four years.”.

Elon Dining Supports Local Farms and Seeks to Educate Students

By Hannah Benson

In this day and age, it seems like a lot of different institutions and organizations claim that the food they serve is “good for you,” whether that means free of trans fat, not made with growth hormone, organic or locally grown, but a lot of these are just empty

The Eating Made Easy table boasted this fun sign to grab attention from passing students.

promises. Something can be fat free but still loaded with harmful ingredients, and something that’s organic can be grown far, far away and can have made its way to you through transport that releases harmful chemicals into the air and atmosphere. With all of this knowledge, we are forced to ask: what types of foods are good for us and the world around us?

The latest answer seems to be food that is fresh and locally grown, meaning that it isn’t made with pesticides and comes from the local area that it is served. This is healthier for people, as it isn’t genetically tampered with, and healthier for the environment, as the goods don’t go through lengthy travel to reach the location in which they’re served. Elon University, known for its sustainability efforts and practices, is known for serving food that is locally grown in its dining halls and at catered events around campus. A good deal of this local food includes greens in th

Cerra, the registered dietician, has been on staff at Elon for about 2 years now.

e dining halls, fruit and milk. In fact, a blackboard in colonnades dining hall boasts the weekly foods that are harvested locally.

The morning of Wednesday, April 26, Elon Dining decided to take it a step further and set

The dietician, Amanda Cerra, was enthusiastic when asked why she cared so much about her position at a school that was so focused on sustainable living.

“I’m here to educate students about the benefits of eating local and seasonally,” says Cerra. “I’ve been at Elon for almost two years now, and I am proud of the work I’ve been able to do with the dining program here, because I think a lot of kids don’t know about the benefits of local eating, and I am happy to belong to a university that makes it their duty to educate them.”

Tabeer, smiling as she displays the produce.

Amanda and Tabeer, another esteemed employee of Elon Dining, were hosting the tables today to play a spin-the-wheel game with students to see what they did and didn’t know about local eats.

Students were encouraged to come to the table, sample the strawberries and sugar snap peas grown within 20 miles of the school, match pictures of fruits with the season in which they were fresh for harvest and spin a wheel to answer trivia questions. The questions ranged from facts about Elon Dining to questions about eating local.

Sam Eisenstadt, an Elon sophomore who was at the table at the time, playing games and speaking with Cerra, had this to say about his experience:

I thought the game I played was informative, and I can’t believe I didn’t know more about farming and local produce before. I feel like the university should really go out of its way to teach students more about the local food culture and how to support it.

Some organizations and groups on campus do already exist with the intention of educating students about sustainability and what they

The local strawberries on display.

can do to contribute, one of the largest being the Office of Sustainability’s eco-reps,

students hired to spread the word around campus about how to live sustainably. Eco-reps come to classes and events to educate others about how to make those changes in their lives. They sometimes set up tables and allow students to answer questions about their sustainable living practices, and this sparks that curiosity that many feel is necessary to making a sustainable campus work. Their works are sufficient, but many people believe that the university directly could start making larger attempts.

And maybe this event was the first of many attempts on the part of the university to make those strides and educate their students.

“I think that as soon as students understand that eating locally makes such a big

The local sugar snap peas on display.

difference,” says Cerra, “they might be more inclined to practice it and tell their friends. That’s what we hope for in the end.”

Model UN Hosts Crisis Conference; Students Experience Hands-On Learning

By Hannah Benson

The International Crisis Conference at Elon, a hands-on model crisis conference put on for International Relations and Political Science students came to Elon just yesterday. The conference is one of the most respected student-led events in Elon’s Department of Political Science and Policy Studies.

Elon sophomore Matt Kimball leading his delegation.

Students from varying levels of classes in these disciplines come together once per semester to participate in the lifelike simulation.

The conference is put on toward the end of each semester by the students in the Model United Nations Class-Club hybrid as a mandatory event in order to pass the class. The students in Model UN have a variety of positions to choose from, being everything from the News Team, constantly posting updates from the conference on a mock news source, the Diplomatic Corps, who pass messages between members of their delegation and lead members to secret meetings in buildings around campus. The structure of the conference goes so that the Model UN students provide the situations and classes of students in the International Relations curriculum are placed into the simulation to act as they see fit.

The conference pushes students to act as though they’re in the thick of actual foreign relations, and strict rules apply to maintain this type of realism. For instance, students 10426902_384810858364581_1195700027103182578_n.jpgare told to dress in Business Casual attire and speak to one another with the dialect observed by Model UN students, with phrases like, “motion to..” and, “organized caucus”. In addition, students from other delegations aren’t permitted to speak to one another outside of the bounds of an organized meeting, and these meet-ups cannot go on without the presence of a Diplomatic Corps representative who reports the information back to the full delegation with detailed notes.

Sophomore Lilly Denunzio, former ICCE participant had this to say about her experience:

“I thought the crisis conference was both engaging and eye-opening. I had never been exposed to what it might like to be on a delegation for a country engaged in some kind of crisis where calculated decisions had to be made on the fly.”

Denunzio was a student in Model United Nations and International Relations her first year when she participated in the conference, so she got the rare position of seeing preparations for the conference on one side and participation in it on the other side.

Students in the thick of negotiations.

Elon sophomore Alejandro Ramos, who acted as the director of foreign intelligence for his delegation, spoke to the conference as being informative and more engaging his second time around.

“I participated in ICCE for the second time this semester,” Ramos says, “and I definitely learned more about diplomacy this time. I felt more qualified to speak about the topics and negotiate with other people. Last time I was kind of lost in the thick of it, but I felt more confident and capable this time. I think it’s one of the best ways to get engaged in the field I’m studying.”

“I was taking an international relations course during the semester ICCE was held,” said Denunzio, “so having this experiential opportunity to apply course content in a relevant and realistic way was very valuable.”

Sweet Signatures Took the Stage for their Spring Concert

By Hannah Benson

As the days turn warmer, one of Elon’s favorite A Capella groups geared up for their Spring Concert to be held the night of Friday, April 21, Sweet Signatures.

The girls of Sweet Sigs had been preparing music for their biggest concert all year and were so excited to bring their work to the stage. Last year’s concert even featured a handful of Sweet Sigs alum who came back from around the area to join their old and new members and share in song.

The girls, old and new, wore white dresses and sang “Sweet Home Carolina” to commemorate the place that brought them all together. Students were excited to see if this year’s concert would feature any graduated members.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

First-year Kirsten Chase and upcoming vice president of the group, when asked what she was excited for for the upcoming concert, said:

I am so excited for the Sigs’ concert because we have worked so incredibly hard practicing and preparing our songs and I’m really happy with the end product. It wasn’t easy, but we all really came together and accomplished what we needed to do in a relatively short period of time.

The girls had promised that their set list was completely confidential, but some participants of this year’s Elonthon had heard a few of the girls practicing V V Brown’s

The Sweet Signatures performing a number during their concert at Whitley Auditorium.

“Shark in the Water” in the bathroom in stunning harmony. So, it was assumed that some of the set list had been revealed.

Jess Pusch, a sophomore who has been in the group since she first came to Elon, was more than enthusiastic to speak about the event in the days before it.

“I’m so excited to be able to show off all of the hard work we have been putting into this performance and share it with the people we love,” says Pusch. “The women in this group are so incredibly passionate and driven and every day spent rehearsing and being with them is so wonderful. We’re sad to be saying goodbye to our magnificent seniors but the love they have put into this group for the past four years is something that stays forever.”

The concert starred all of the group’s members and did, in fact feature a handful of graduated students who had once been part of the group’s membership. They hailed from up and down the East Coast to be present for the event. Possibly the most touching distance traveled for the concert was on part of the president, Hailey Harn, whose parents flew in from California to see her last performance.

“It the first Sweet Sigs concert I’d ever seen,” says first-year Megan Donahue, “and I can’t believe I missed them for so long. I mean, even I started crying when they sang their final song, and I don’t know any of them.”

Alpha Xi Delta hosts its annual Xiti Dinner for Autism Speaks

As the semester comes to a close, the annual Xiti Dinner put on by Alpha Xi Delta Sorority came to the Elon Community Church on the night of Wednesday, April 19.

Alexandra Lambiris and Corinne Barrow smiling with ziti. This was their fourth year being part of the event.

Each girl in the sorority was expected to bake two large pans of ziti that they were to bring to the church to be reheated, put on plates and served to students who pay five dollars at the door for an all-you-cat-eat ticket that is refilled throughout the night as they raise their hands for seconds. Other sisters are expected to bring in garlic knots and desserts of all kinds to contribute to the menu.

All of the proceeds from the event go to support the sorority’s national philanthropy,

Meg Gunson smiles as Sweet Signatures takes ths stage.

Autism Speaks, and the Theta Nu chapter of Alpha Xi Delta raised over $10,000 in the 2015-2016 school year. A large portion of this money comes from the turnout at the annual pasta dinner, where students flood the door as soon as it opens at 5 p.m.

In addition to the food, the sorority invites Acapella groups and other forms of entertainment to come in and perform while people eat to add to the experience.

“I love Xiti Dinner,” says sophomore Alexa Schmitt, “it’s definitely my favorite event we put on all year. It’s an awesome time for the entire school to come together, eat some pasta and have fun with friends.”

Sorority president Brittany Coppla, a junior and long-standing fan of Xiti Dinner, had this to say when asked about why she was excited for the event.

“Xiti Dinner is an incredible time for all of our sorority to come together and raise money for an incredible cause, and it’s a great way to share what we care about with the greater community. We have lots of students come out to the dinner, but it doesn’t stop there; we have local members of the church and community come out too, and it’s great to see so many people putting their money and time to the cause that’s so close to our hearts.”

The girls had an excellent turnout last night, and the total amount of money they raised will be announced in the coming days.

“All I can say is that I can’t wait until next year’s Xiti Dinner,” Schmitt says, “pasta, music and friends? I can’t think of a better combination.”

Colleges Against Cancer Gears Up for Annual Relay for Life

As the school year dwindles to its close, another of Elon’s most cherished and long-

One of Colleges Against Cancer’s executives, posing behind the instagram frame to raise awareness.

standing events, Relay for Life, is quickly approaching. The event is a 12-hour long team marathon put on by Colleges Against Cancer to raise money for the American Cancer Society.

The way the event works is this: teams of students sign up for the event, raise money to promote it and then arrive on the day of the event and walk laps around the track for the twelve hours allotted. Unlike Elonthon, however, people are encouraged to rest when they choose not to walk – only one person from each team is absolutely required to walk at all times, so that students can enjoy the event together without having to worry about how weary their bodies will be in the aftermath of the event.

Jordan Burk, the entertainment chair for Relay for Life, had this to say when asked about the event, how it pertained to her life, and why she was excited about it this year.

This year’s theme for the event is “Cirque Du Soleil” – the executive team plans to decorate the venue to reflect the carnival-esque theme.

“I’m super excited to raise as much money as we can for American cancer society,” says Burk. “We’re really hoping to beat our goal of $100,000 this year and I think we definitely can do it.”

“People should expect tons of food trucks throughout the night, entertainment from acapella groups, dance teams, comedy and fun games such as bingo and trivia,” she explains.

The event will be held on the Belk track from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., and students are free to come and go as they please, so long as folks from their team are present throughout. The Colleges Against Cancer team is using this final week to solidify registrants and get more people to come out and participate.

Zach Stromeyer of CAC wears all purple to show his support.

Alexa Lowey, another executive member of CAC, said that, “honestly, we’re finalizing everything this week logistically and just trying to get as many people to register as possible. We have to watch the weather because if it rains we can’t be outside on the track. So just figuring out last minute things but it’s definitely still keeping us busy.”

The event this year is projected to raise more money than ever before and have a larger registrant base than in years prior, and they invite anyone and everyone to at least come out and see what’s going on.

“And personally,” says Burk, “I relay for my dad who passed away from brain cancer just before my 10th birthday, but also for all of the survivors and people still fighting. Cancer doesn’t sleep during this difficult battle, but neither do we at Relay.”

Math Tools for Journalists, Chapters 5-8

By Hannah Benson

From covering the political race between mayors in your local city to including in your article the sum of a company’s losses in the last year, journalists must embrace the (pretty digestible) formulas that come with covering businesses, politics and government in the modern day.

Polls and Surveys

Part of being a reporter who receives all of the poll and survey updates (and is expected to write aTYPES OF.pngbout them) is being able to understand the validity of these studies on public opinion.

When figuring out how reliable a poll or survey is, it’s important to understand the process of random sampling — that disqualifies polls in which people are self-elected as participants of the survey, these are seen as unethical.

From Census sampling where everyone in the population is included, to cluster sampling by zip code or systematic random sampling, pollsters use a variety of methods to select participants and collect information to determine data.

The margin of error of a study reveals how accurate the data collected is compared to standard norms for studies like it. It is cited as a percentage and based on the number of people polled to create the sample. Thus, the more people surveyed in a study, the more accurate the data and the smaller the chance is for error.

Confidence level is the percentage at which researchers and experts are confident of the accuracy of their research in the study they have conducted. The levels usually fall at 90, 95 or 98 percent. Always report this figure in the story to allow readers to make their own judgment on the reliability of the survey or poll. Doing so is an ethical and reasonable practice, you owe your readers this.

Example problem 1

After a random poll was conducted on about 400 residents to find their opinions of two candidates for mayor, results show that 44 percent were in favor of candidate A, 51 percent were in favor candidate B and 5 percent said they would write in a candidate or not vote.  The confidence level was 95 percent. Is it safe to say that candidate B is trailing ahead of candidate A and leading the poll?

Margin of error for sample size of 400, 95% confidence level: 4.9

44 + 4.9 = 48.9

51 – 4.9 =  46.1

With the margin of error at 4.9, the results could be potentially 48.9% to 46.1%, in favor of candidate A. Thus, it’s not safe to say that candidate B is leading the poll.


One of the most important pieces of information about a company (especially a company in which readers are shareholders) is whether it’s making money. A profit and loss statement, or P&L, tells us just that.

Gross margin = selling price – cost of goods sold

Gross profit = gross margin  x  number of items sold

Net profit = gross margin – overhead

Assets = liabilities + equity

Assets are all of a company’s real estate, cash, equipment for production, etc. Liabilities are money the company owes, and a company’s equity is what it is actually worth after everything.

Example problem 2

You just started your own home-based small business. Right now, you have $12,400 in assets and $3,350 in liabilities. How much equity to you have?

Assets – liabilities = equity

12,400 – 3350 = 9050

Currently, your small business has $9,050 in equity.

Stocks and bonds

Stocks allow many individuals to become shareholders within companies, each share being a very small portion of ownership, but regardless a portion of the entire corporation.

A bond is a loan from an investor to the organization selling the bond. Investors earn a set interest on the bond, which is usually a low-risk investment. The bond’s face value is how much the investor will receive at maturity. Sometimes investors sell bonds on the market before they have fully matured, as in the example below:

Current yield = (interest rate  x  face value) ÷ price

Example problem 3

You paid $925 for a $1,250 bond. With a 5 percent interest rate, what is your current yield?

(.05  x  1,250) ÷ 925 = .0675 or 6.75%

Two years later, you buy a bond with the same face value and interest rate, but pay $1,100. What, then, is your current yield?

(.05  x  1,250) ÷ 1,000 =  .057 or 5.7%

Property taxes

Property taxes are measured in mills, a unit that is 1/10 of a cent ($0.001).

Mill levy = taxes government collects ÷ assessed valuation of all property in taxing district

Example problem 4

Your town’s budget is $840,300 for the upcoming year. If the sum total of the assessed value of property is $102,450,800, what will the tax rate be?

840,300 ÷ 102,450,800 = .0082 or 8.2 mills

That means $8.20 per $1,000 assessed valuation.

Assessed value = appraisal value  x  rate

The appraisal value depends on the type of property and its use (commercial, business, residential, etc.), location, quality of construction, amenities, square footage and other characteristics of the property.