Readers love numbers. So do editors. Even some reporters. And if you don’t, you should develop a taste for them. Data can help fill out a story, show a trend that can support a thesis, and even contradict spin that is as rampant as what you find in a children’s top factory.
A great source of numbers is governments. At the state or federal level, there is massive data available that can translate into comparisons over time, fodder for graphics, or illuminating statistics. Virtually every department, at least at the federal level, has a group that maintains data bases and publishes information.
But what if you’re working on stories with an international reach? Something constant across continents is that other governments, as well, need data and have businesses and consumers seeking it. Here are some sources I’ve found (generally in English).
The National Bureau of Statistics of China is a central site for a lot of information. The country doesn’t have a stirling reputation for trustworthy data, as in many have the expectation of some degree of posturing and manipulation. But absent third-party information, this is a must.
The data is grouped by the time frame over which it’s released—monthly, quarterly, annually—or either as census or “other.” You’ll need to dig more because it may be that a given topic might have information reported at different frequencies.
Japan has a Statistics Bureau Home Page in English, with such topics as population and households, labor and wages, and business activities.
You can count on the EU to maintain the necessary attention to bureaucracy and recordkeeping. The region’s site is called eurostat and govers .
The data is extensive and well organizated. You can browse by theme, download data, get right into the database, or even get access to experimental data. There are reports, books, leaflets, and other publications galore, including news releases.
Various EU members also have their own sources of data. Germany has Statistisches Bundestamt, or the Federal Statistical Office of Germany. France has the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (Institut national de la statistique et des études économiques – INSEE). Norway, Statistics Norway, with data going back to 1876. Basically, search for a country name and the word “statistics”.
Central and South America
Again, search for a country and the word “statistics” and you can find quite a lot: the English homepage for Brazil’s Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatistica, Argentina’s National Institute of Statistics and Censuses, and Mexico’s National Institute of Statistics and Geography.
None of this is exhaustive. Any government that wants to do business with the rest of the world will likely have data available, and often in English.