The U.S. census is a formidable task in the best of circumstances.
And now, with the COVID-19 pandemic clouding public life in uncertainty, both collecting and reporting on census data seems downright daunting. But despite our unpredictable days, there are both tried and true stories and new innovations surrounding the census that make it a valuable —and tenable— topic to cover.
Over the course of these four webinars, senior writer/editor D’Vera Cohn of the Pew Research Center will lead a deep dive into how we as journalists can continue to cover this decennial event and extrapolate valuable data and stories, even amidst the backdrop of one of the largest public health crises of the modern era. She will be joined by historian and The American Census: A Social History author Margo Anderson and former U.S. Census Bureau Director John Thompson, who will share their knowledge of previous censuses and predictions of what’s to come. Webinar participants will have the opportunity to ask questions during each live training.
May 5: Historian Margo Anderson and D’Vera Cohn provide historical context for our U.S. census, including what’s changed, what’s stayed the same and what past crises may tell us about today’s challenges.
May 12: Former U.S. Census Bureau Director John Thompson will help explain current census procedures, how they have changed against our current backdrop and how reporters can continue to track and report on data.
May 19: The first statistics from Census 2020 will be used to divide seats in Congress among the states, rebalancing political power. The next set of numbers will be detailed data about race, age and more, offering a lens into how communities and the nation are changing. We’ll swap ideas about how to write about a range of topics with the new data and look at examples of past census coverage.
May 26: We’ll be joined once again by John Thompson to look at the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2020 initiative to use other government records to fill in missing census data and construct a new file with citizenship status of every U.S. resident. We’ll also cover the still-in-flux plan to employ a “differential privacy” algorithm to blur the accuracy of census statistics in order to improve confidentiality of responses and how to use the Bureau’s own metrics to assess the quality of the census data it releases.
Broadcast dates: May 5, 12 19 and 26 at 3 p.m. Eastern
Course learning outcomes
By the end of this course, you will be able to:
- Explain the history of the U.S. census and how that past may inform census-taking during our current crisis
- Understand adjustments being made to census collection in the wake of COVID-19 and how to report this info
- How to track and synthesize census data into stories relevant to readers
- How to integrate other government records to fill in census data gaps
Who should take this course?
Journalists who are tasked with reporting on the U.S. census or who may use data gleaned from the census, including those who cover economics, politics, government and health.
Pew Research Center
Distinguished Professor Emerita
U.S. Census Bureau