Journalists can’t do everything, and it’s easy for media critics to enumerate all the things that modern reporters must be. I’m not even full of my own medicine: I’ve never taken a macroeconomics course, and I know that my reporting has at times been less substantive as a result.

But statistics is too pressing a global language for journalists to neglect. Statistically untrained journalists are watchdogs without olfactory cells; they’ll catch wrongdoing when it’s visible, but they lack the skill to sniff a sour deal.

Justin D. Martin is a journalism professor at Northwestern University in Qatar. Follow him on Twitter: @Justin_D_Martin