As Nate Silver explained in What the Fox Knows, his blog post manifesto about data journalism, “the plural of anecdote is data,” the aphorism of political scientist Ray Wolfinger, makes sense. “Data does not have a virgin birth,” Silver wrote. “It comes to us from somewhere. Someone set up a procedure to collect and record it.” Silver broke down the process by which anecdote becomes data into four steps: collection, organization, explanation, and generalization.

Collection and organization are the essential first two steps, and comparatively easier than the next two steps. However, this doesn’t mean collection and organization are always done well. As Silver noted, “the most problematic news stories are often those that leap ahead in the process, drawing grand conclusions from thin evidence.”

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