Journalist's Toolbox Business Part IV: Covering Inflation
June 7, 2022
Tools for Covering Inflation
Editor’s note: This is the fourth and final installment of a series of newsletters about tools for covering business.
In our last newsletter, we talked about tools such as Keepa, Google Shopping and CamelCamelCamel for covering retail.
But anyone who has watched TV news, scrolled a Twitter feed or — god forbid — picked up a newspaper in the last few months knows, inflation has been a huge story that doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon.
But how do you make sense of it all? How accurate is the Consumer Price Index? What are the three types of inflation, and which are we dealing with today? How do I use formulas and online tools to convert prices for inflation? Where do I find a price for a gallon of gasoline for 2008?
Consumer Price Index database
Here are some resources that can help:
The Consumer Price Index impacts many things: rent, cars, food, utilities, Social Security increases, child support, etc. Mint.com explains the three types of inflation and how to calculate it:
Mint: Inflation and Inflation Rate Formula
This page from Intuit explains the CPI and inflation in simple terms. It also gives mathematical formulas for calculating inflation if don’t want to use the online calculators listed below.
Bureau of Labor Statistics: Consumer Price Index Home Page
Click on the data tools page at the top to find historical price data, tables, graphics and much more.
BLS: CPI Inflation Calculator
Convert prices for decades ago into current dollars. Practice with $4.12 for June 2008 (price for a gallon of gas then) and see what it is today.
West Egg Inflation Calculator
A good alternative to the BLS inflation tools to calculate increases in prices over the years. Use it to fact-check the BLS calculator and vice-versa.
BLS: Consumer Price Index Database
Look up historical prices for select products
dMarie Time Capsue Almanac
This almanac lets you type in a date to get product prices and pop culture information from that date. (Average price of bread, gas, car, home, etc.)
Google Public Data Explorer
Create quick CPI graphics using BLS data. Use IMF, World Bank and other data for more business graphics
Google Dataset Search
Search for data on various products and industries over the years in the Consumer Price Index. Here are some searches to get you started:
US footwear consumer price index
Retail price breakdown of Nike Air Jordan shoes 2015
2. Background on covering inflation
These articles will get you up to speed quickly on how to cover inflation.
The Journalist’s Resource: People Trust Inflation Forecasts from the Fed More Than Traditional News Stories
3. Journalist’s Toolbox Resources
These Toolbox pages contain dozens of tools for covering retail and inflation:
Like what you see in this newsletter? You can tip me on Swapstack!
Learn More: Training Videos
Playlist: This video playlist covers how to use online tools for covering business. It runs up to two hours, so you can watch each part of the five-video series individually off this list.
Around the Web
Prison Journalism Toolkit
This guide from the Prison Journalism Project features dozens of resources for covering prisons, including a collection of datasets, a glossary of prison terms and much, much more. Read more in the Journalist’s Toolbox’s Prison Reform page.
Data & Society: The Oxygen of Amplification
Better practices for reporting on extremists, antagonists, and manipulators.
Google Journalists Guide
Launched in April, this site helps journalists learn about the best digital tools and resources from Google and beyond, to help you find, verify and tell engaging stories. Take a course to discover newsgathering, data and visualization, and specialist topics.
Cool Tool Tuesday
Don’t forget that at 1 p.m. CT each Tuesday, we feature a new resource on #cooltooltuesday, like you see in our Around the Web section of this newsletter. Be sure to check it out and retweet it. Here’s a video of some of my past faves:
In Quotes …
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