When you’re reporting or writing about a cost-benefit study, it’s your job to extract the most important findings and decipher them for your audience, a group that’s probably not made up of analysts and economists. To the extent possible, you’ll also want to assess the quality of the research. The following materials can help you get a grip on basic cost-benefit concepts, as well as figure out what to look for in a cost-benefit analysis (CBA) and what to investigate further.
Writing about cost-benefit analysis is hard. Writing or reporting about it on deadline is even harder. How do you tease out a study’s most important findings to tell a story your audience will care about and grasp?
For starters, here are three mistakes to avoid when reporting on cost-benefit results:
- Don’t equate benefits and savings.
Interesting. When journalists gave their colleagues an “analysis assignment” about a recent criminal justice study, some of the questions sounded familiar, in a good way.
Journalist’s Resource, a project of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Society, promotes the use of “knowledge-based reporting” and considers news topics “through a research lens.” So when an editor wrote last month about a study of community prosecution in Chicago, we had a look at these “media/analysis tips” posted on the project’s website:
- What are the study’s key technical terms?