Intellectuals gather to discuss ‘ideas worth spreading’ at first TEDx event at Elon University

By Marlena Chertock

MAY 5, 2011

Senior Tyler Reynolds wanted to plan an event on his own because he had never had that experience. On May 3 Reynolds’ planning came through in the first-ever TEDx event at Elon University where several speakers discussed various topics from 4:30 to 7 p.m. in LaRose Digital Theatre.

TED is a non-profit organization focused on “ideas worth spreading.” TED conferences occur all over the United States and world, where the best speakers are brought in front of a large audience and speak on a variety of topics in under 20 minutes, Reynolds said.

Continue reading Intellectuals gather to discuss ‘ideas worth spreading’ at first TEDx event at Elon University

Counseling Individuals and Families classes and Acting 3 classes partner up to practice skills

Sophomore Eliza Gibson counsels her acting partner, sophomore Katie Moran, during a mock counseling session on Oct. 6. Photo courtesy of Eliza Gibson.

By Marlena Chertock


They sat in a room in the Alamance Building, discussing emotions and goals. One student was videotaping the interaction. Another was acting out a pre-assigned role.This was the outside class work for the Acting 3 class and the Counseling Individuals and Families Human Service Studies class.

Judy Esposito, an associate professor of Human Service Studies, said she wanted her students to get real-life experience with counseling.

“For lots of reasons clients are reluctant and resistant, that’s what I want my students to realize,” she said. “That’s real life.”

Continue reading Counseling Individuals and Families classes and Acting 3 classes partner up to practice skills

Editor for News & Observer encourages writing with authority

By Marlena Chertock

May 4, 2011

Steve Riley is an editor at the News & Observer in Raleigh, North Carolina. He manages a team of investigative journalists. Photo by Marlena Chertock.

Steve Riley, an editor for the News & Observer in Raleigh, pushes reporters to write with authority. Riley manages a team of three investigative journalists and spoke to communications students at Elon University on May 4.

“Be very assertive, very confident in what you present,” said Riley, who has been in the newspaper business for 31 years. “A fair picture. But not necessarily a balanced picture.”

Continue reading Editor for News & Observer encourages writing with authority

News of Osama bin Laden’s death spreads, Elon University students celebrate, cheer in streets

Students gathered in Danieley Commons around 12 a.m. Students burned pictures of Osama bin Laden and chanted “USA.” Photo by Sarah Beese.

By Marlena Chertock

May 2, 2011

View coverage from The Pendulum of Elon students celebrations of the news of Osama bin Laden’s death here.

Around 12 a.m., after news of Osama bin Laden’s death spread on Twitter, other social media websites and cable news networks, students at Elon University began celebrating. They got in their cars, drove around honking their horns and waving American flags. They screamed, “USA” and “F*** Osama” out of windows. The celebrations lasted until 3 a.m.

Freshmen students Jane Ostrau, Erin Riley, Daisey Anderson* and Jackie Johnston* sat outside Carolina dorm around 12 a.m., watching cars honking horns and students screaming drive past.

They couldn’t stay in their dorm or go to sleep because it was so loud outside, Johnston said.

“I won’t be able to go to sleep after this,” she said.

Continue reading News of Osama bin Laden’s death spreads, Elon University students celebrate, cheer in streets

Math for Journalists: Summary of Chapters 5-8 of ‘Math Tools for Journalists’

Graphic by Marlena Chertock.

April 29, 2011

In these chapters of “Math Tools for Journalists,” Kathleen Woodruff Wickham goes over polls, surveys, math related to business and how to calculate taxes. These are essential concepts to be able to calculate and inform the public about.

Business news, taxes and polls and surveys include math and it is important for journalists to know how to use and calculate these numbers.

To read more about standards for financial accounting and reporting of information, visit the Financial Accounting Standards Board.

Continue reading Math for Journalists: Summary of Chapters 5-8 of ‘Math Tools for Journalists’

Seasonal workers at Elon University face inequalities

ARAMARK workers receive benefits, still have challenges

By Marlena Chertock

April 28, 2011

Kathryn Thompson plays with her one-year-old grandson, Josh, during her break at Acorn Coffee Shop. Thompson is a seasonal worker and is laid off during the summer. Photo by Marlena Chertock.

Seasonal workers can be found all around Elon University. They make your sandwiches, empty your trash and swipe your Phoenix Cards. They go on unemployment, have food stamps and have outstanding bills to pay. At least once a day, you will most likely have an interaction with people struggling to pay their bills and live off their wages. These people are facing the realities of seasonal work.

All ARAMARK employees are seasonal workers, whereas other departments at Elon University employ year-round workers, according to Director of Physical Plant Robert Buchholz.

Inequality is embedded in society.

It is seen in multiple ways, through health insurance costs, salary and the number of jobs workers hold.

At a time of national budget deficit, cuts in multiple sectors and talk of raising taxes, there are people struggling more than the typical American family. These people are seasonal workers.

Continue reading Seasonal workers at Elon University face inequalities

Twisting balloons, telling jokes: Elon student works as balloon artist

Chambers shows her pink motorcycle balloon. She often makes Nintendo characters and Disney princesses. Photo by Brian Allenby.

By Marlena Chertock

Updated April 28, 2011

The first time she tried to twist and shape balloons, she popped several. She even got balloon-cuts. But a year later, first-year junior Sam Chambers is working as a balloon artist for Balloon Distractions, a national balloon contracting company. She is now regional director in Raleigh for Balloon Distractions.

As a senior in high school, Chambers was always laid off during the winter as a hostess at a creamery, so she searched online for other jobs. She found an ad for Balloon Distractions on Craig’s List, which is how the company mostly advertises.

When she didn’t hear back from them for two months, she said she assumed she didn’t get the position. But then she received a call from her to-be trainer.

“During the interview they ask you to tell jokes, sing songs, be funny,” she said. “I really have to be able to think on my feet.”

Continue reading Twisting balloons, telling jokes: Elon student works as balloon artist

Visiting professor to help in creation of Jewish studies program

University of Haifa Professor of Jewish history Menahen Mor visited Elon University professor of philosophy Yoram Lubling to celebrate the Passover holiday together. Mor will be involved in the brainstorming process of the proposed Elon Jewish Studies program. Photo by Marlena Chertock.

By Marlena Chertock

April 22, 2011

A professor of Jewish history from University of Haifa in Israel joined Elon University last week, with plans to assist the university as it develops a proposed Jewish studies program.Menachem Mor spent the week with his friend Yoram Lubling, professor of philosophy at Elon. They wanted to spend the Passover holiday together, said Mor, who joined Elon Hillel for Passover Seder, a dinner that commemorates the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt.

“I was very impressed by the fact that it’s supported by the president,” Mor said of Elon’s Passover Seder. “It was a very impressive evening. It was a short version, but still, that’s enough.”

Continue reading Visiting professor to help in creation of Jewish studies program

Majority of Elon students surveyed feel environmentally aware on Earth Day

Out of informal survey of 158 students, 92 percent feel environmentally aware

Marlena Chertock

APRIL 22, 2011

Earth Day is on April 22 and has been celebrated for 40 years. Photo courtesy of

Did you turn off the lights in your room or recycle the soda bottle you just finished? Have you been environmentally aware today?

Today is Earth Day and some Elon students are celebrating the day accordingly. Others do not take personal action on this day or any day.

April 22 has been Earth Day for more than 40 years. The day was created to inspire and mobilize people and organizations to put their commitment to environmental protection and sustainability into action. Learn more about the history of the day here.

Out of an informal survey of 158 Elon students, 92 percent said they are environmentally aware, while 8.2 percent said they are not.

More students, 81 percent of those surveyed, believe their Elon education made a difference in their environmental awareness. Some Global Experience classes, one of the core requirements at Elon, are focused on aspects of the environment and there are several kinds of recycling containers around campus.

Some students are concerned about global warming and taking personal action, 68 percent of the students surveyed said they are while 32 percent said they are not.

Graphic by Marlena Chertock.

Students aren’t taking personal action because they don’t know how they can make a difference, they said.

“It won’t change in my lifetime,” senior Dontay Taylor said.

There aren’t a lot of everyday things junior Andy Hurst can do to make a big difference, he said.

Junior Katie Gale carpools with people but doesn’t know what other environmentally sustainable actions to take, she said.

“I feel like I don’t know what to do,” she said. “It’s kind of a daunting task to take on global warming.”

There are actions that students and community members can take. Actions aren’t always big or involving many people. Some are everyday actions people can do.

Graphic by Marlena Chertock.

There were similar actions students take to combat global warming.

On Thursday, April 21 the farmer’s market hosted by the Elon Community Church on Williamson Avenue returned as part of the Earth Week celebrations. The market will continue into the fall.

Many local and organic products are sold at the market, including a variety of protein options, locally produced cheese, eggs, baked goods and honey and handmade crafts.

The market is open every Thursday from 3 to 6:30 p.m. and is located on the corner of Williamson and Haggard avenues.

Earth Week is one way organizations and universities raise awareness of the environment, global warming and actions people can take to help.


Junior Sophie Nielsen-Kolding talks about environmentally sustainable actions she takes

Junior Katie Gale talks about global warming

Math for Journalists: Summary of Chapters 1-4 of ‘Math Tools for Journalists’

APRIL 22, 2011

In order to ensure accuracy, journalists sometimes have to use statistics, percentages and data. These include numbers — and numbers can scare writers who are so used to using words. But numbers are important in many stories. They help explain to readers. They help readers understand the issue or event or concept.

Numbers are precise, said Kathleen Woodruff Wickham, the author of this book. They also help to put issues into perspective.

Graphic by Marlena Chertock.


  • Percent increase/decrease: Percentage increase/decrease = (new figure – old figure) ÷ old figure

Convert to a percentage by moving the decimal two places to the right.

  • Percent of the whole: Percentage of a whole = subgroup ÷ whole group

Move the decimal point two points to the right.

  • Percent points: Distinguish between percent and percentage point. One percent is one one-hundredth of something.
  • Convert fractions to percentages: convert a fraction to a decimal by completing division, to convert a decimal to a percentage move the decimal point two points to the right

13/15 = 13 ÷ 15 = 0.87

  • Simple/annual interest: Percentages are often used to compute interest. The amount of money borrowed is called principal. Money paid for the use of money is called interest. The rate is the percent charged for the use of money. Amount of interest charged depends on the length of time borrowed money is kept.

Simple/annual interest formula: Interest = principal x rate (as a decimal) x time (in years)

  • Payments on loans: consumers usually make monthly payments on loans for home mortgages or cars. The term of the loan is how long the borrower has to repay a loan. The monthly payment and total interest paid can be calculated.

A = monthly payment

B = original loan amount

R = interest rate, expressed as a decimal and divided by 12

N = total number of months

A = [P x (1 + R)^N x R] ÷ [(1 + R)^N – 1]

More information: The ^N in the air beside brackets is to the power of, so multiply the result of the brackets by itself N

number of times.

  • Interest on savings: savings accounts and certificates of deposit generally pay compound interest

B = balance after one year

P = principal

R = interest rate

T = number of times per year interest is compounded

B = P(1 + [R ÷ T])^T

  • Salary increase: Original salary x percent increase = dollar amount of salary increase for first year

Original salary + salary increase = salary for first year of contract

First year salary x percent increase = dollar amount of salary increase for second year

First year salary + salary increase = salary for second year

  • Percentile: a percentile is a number representing the percentage of scores that fall at or below the designated score. It is based on the relationship to all other scores. If a test-taker scored in the 65th percentile then 65 percent of the people who took the test scored the same or lower.

Percentile rank = (Number of people at or below an individual score) ÷ (number of test takers)

Or turn the formula around to find out the number of people who scored at or below a certain point.

Number of people scored at or below that level = (Percentile) x (number of test takers)

  • Standard deviation: standard deviation is a figure that indicates how much a group of figures varies from the norm. A small standard deviation means the figures are consistently grouped around the mean. A high standard deviation can mean there are inconsistent results. Standard deviation is shown as data in a bell curve. It can be used as a unit of measure along the bell curve. The middle of the curve (the highest point) is the mean and the rest spreads out on either side. The steeper the bell curve the smaller the standard deviation (since more numbers are close to the mean). A more spread out bell curve represents a large standard deviation. Data can exhibit a typical distribution where 68 percent of the scores will fall within one standard deviation (either positive or negative), 95 percent will fall within two standard deviations and 99 percent will fall within three standard deviations.

Subtract the mean from each score in the distribution.

Square the resulting number for each score.

Compute the mean for these numbers. This figure is called variance.

Find the square root of variance.

  • There are many federal statistics that can be important for journalists to know how to find and generate.
  • Unemployment: every month the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) issues a report on U.S. employment. The employment rate is defined as the percentage of the labor force that is unemployed and actively seeking work. Labor force means anyone over the age of 16 who has a job or has looked for one in the past four weeks (except unemployed people who aren’t actively seeking work and people who are institutionalized, such as in prison). Being employed means the person did some work for pay in the week before the survey was taken or did at least 15 hours of unpaid work for a family enterprise. A group of 60,000 households is interviewed, called the Current Population Survey. This data creates the unemployment figures for each state and the nation. BLS adjusts some statistics to take into account seasonal employment changes. Visit

Unemployment rate = (unemployed ÷ labor force) x 100

  • Inflation and Consumer Price Index: inflation continuously affects the economy. U.S. inflation is measured by the CPI, which is a figure determined by the BLS. It shows the amount of inflation in any given month for eight major product groups (food and beverages, housing, apparel, transportation and recreation). CPI data are collected from 23,000 retail and service businesses each month. Information on rents is collected from about 50,000 landlords and tenants. CPI is reported in several ways. Sometimes it’s written as an index number (some number more than 100, shows how much prices have increased since the base CPI 100 was created in 1984). Or the change in CPI is reported as a monthly or annual inflation rate.

Monthly Inflation Rate = (Current CPI – Prior Month CPI) ÷ Prior Month CPI x 100

  • Annual inflation rate: Compare the current CPI with CPI of that month in a previous year.

A = Annual Inflation Rate

B = Current month CPI

C = CPI from same month in previous year

A = (B – C) ÷ C x 100

  • Adjusting for inflation: a historical figure is changed to represent how large it would be in current dollars. BLS has an inflation calculator on its website.

A = Target year value, in dollars

B = Starting year value, in dollars

AC = Target year CPI

BC = Starting year CPI

A = (B ÷ BC) x AC

  • Future prices: If you want to figure out how much something will cost a year from now, you can with the current rate of increase of the CPI, if the rate will remain the same. Find the annual interest rate and apply it to the original price and compound it.

C = Cost after one year

K = Original cost

I = Inflation rate

C = K(1 + [I ÷ 12])^12

  • Gross Domestic Product: GDP is the value of goods and services produced by a nation’s economy. It can gauge the direction of the country’s economy. When GDP increases, the economy is considered healthy and if it is decreasing the economy may be in a recession. The change in GDP is watched (rather than its level). GDP is often converted into “real” GDP, which holds prices of the measured items consistent to the prices they were in 1996. Real GDP shows changes in quantities of goods and services produced. GDP is reported quarterly and the rate of GDP growth is reported annually.

C = Consumer spending on goods and services

I = Investment spending

G = Government spending

NX = Net exports (exports minus imports)

GDP = C + I + G +NX

  • Trade balance: Trade balance is the difference between goods and services a country exports and imports. For the U.S. the trade balance has been a negative number for years, meaning that Americans are importing more goods than exporting. There are seven major categories for exports and imports (capital goods other than autos; services including travel, royalties and license fees and other private services; industrial supplies; autos and auto parts; consumer goods; food and beverages and other).

Trade balance = Exports – imports

It’s important for journalists to have math skills, to at least understand what the formulas are doing. Journalists are communicating information and data to the public, so they must understand what they are communicating.

Math problems:

1. Percent decrease:

Bill Gates is decreasing his donations to charity from $735,460 to $356,789. By what percentage is the donation cut?

$356,789 – $735,460 = -$378,671

-$378,671 ÷ $735,460 = -0.5148

So the donation was cut -51.5 percent.

2. Percentage of a whole:

The concession stand at the local movie theatre makes $25,000 a year. The entire movie theatre makes $899,897. What percentage of the entire earnings does the concession stand produce?

$25,000 ÷ $899,897 = 0.0277

So the concession stand produces 2.7 percent of the whole movie theatre earnings.

3. Percentile:

Delilah Vale received an overall score of 78 on his ACT test. 4,683 other students took the test. Vale’s score is equal to or higher than the scores of 1,754 other students. What is Vale’s percentile rank?

1,754 ÷ 4,683 = 0.3745

Vale’s percentile rank is the 37th percentile.

4. Simple/annual interest:

George Fink borrowed $4,530 from the Risky LenderBank to make a down payment on an apartment. He agreed to pay 8 percent interest, payable in one payment at the end of three years. What is George’s interest payment?

$4,530 x .08 x 3 years = $1,087.2

So his interest payment is $1,087.2.