On Monday, December 14, Dr. Robert M. Groves, Director of the Census Bureau, attempted to hold a press conference about the status of the 2010 Census. However, after only a handful of questions were asked during the Q&A time, the phone line for the conference call mysteriously died. I, like many other journalists, could see from my phone that I was still connected to the call, meaning that the audio from the Census Bureau’s end had simply gone dead. I called back in to the conference call and was re-connected to the event. Once connected, the phone line again remained silent. This was particularly annoying because prior to the glitch I was in line to ask a question, as were dozens of other journalists from across the country. I waited on the silent line for 15 minutes before realizing that this gaffe had effectively cut short Dr. Groves’ press conference, which is only the second one of this type (other than monthly operational briefings) he has given since taking office in July.
After this incident occurred, I e-mailed the Census Bureau’s public information office to inquire about how I could ask Dr. Groves my questions and and why the line went dead. I received the following reply, “Stephen — unfortunately the line went dead for everyone. We don’t have a transcript and are researching how to get one. Do you have specific questions we can answer?” Since replying to this e-mail, I have had no response from the Census Bureau.
In the year 2009, failures of simple technology like are completely unacceptable. It is our hope that such operations issues are not indicative of the way that the 2010 Census will be run on a day to day basis. Making matters worse were the Census Bureau’s failure to apologize to the journalists who were dropped from the call and failure to provide a full transcript of the event, particularly after the audio breakdown.
We are still waiting for the transcript, an explanation, and an apology…