My Two Census

Formerly the non-partisan watchdog of the 2010 US Census, and currently an opinion blog that covers all things political, media, foreign policy, globalization, and culture…but sometimes returning to its census/demographics roots.

Posts Tagged ‘journalism’

MyTwoCensus Editorial: The Mainstream Media Has Failed America

Monday, March 29th, 2010

Americans have once again been failed by the mainstream media. As I have expressed, MyTwoCensus.com is essentially a one-man operation. Yet, I still manage to file more than my fair share of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to obtain significant amounts of information from the Census Bureau (and I am subsequently dragged around in circles as it takes months to actually obtain the data I request…Thanks for the transparency that you promised when you were elected, Mr. President!).

Sadly, I am essentially the only journalist who is pursuing such information from the Census Bureau, as evidenced by my tracking of FOIA requests. Local, regional, state, and national news organizations should have reporters covering the 2010 Census beat, at least during this busy time. 99% of the stories written about the 2010 Census (my humble non-scientific estimate) are fluffy pieces that remind individuals to be part of the enumeration process. Most of these articles read like press releases from the Census Bureau — because in many cases they are simply a collection of tidbits from Census Bureau press releases that are hastily thrown together. That neither traditional media organizations, new media organization, nor government watchdog non-profits and think tanks have taken investigating 2010 Census operations seriously is a major travesty, and the effects of this failure will soon be evident.

Without sounding like Clark Hoyt of the New York Times or the Ombudsman of the Washington Post, I understand that in the past week I may not have had 100% accuracy in my stories. I attribute this to many factors:

1. There is an excessive amount of information flowing in to me right now, and it is difficult to analyze it all in real time.

2. The government has been extremely unhelpful in answering my inquiries within a short amount of time.

3. The government has been lying, exaggerating, and spinning the 2010 Census to create a false image about its current rate of success, while also failing to provide solid data from the 2000 Census to use as reference points.

4. In the midst of the aforementioned problems, I have at times found it more effective to throw out information onto the Internet and let my readers correct me, since other individuals may have more knowledge than me about specific issues. I then go back and correct what is wrong. This is a method that has been used by Silicon Valley blog TechCrunch for many years now with great success. In the future, I will specifically ask for readers to verify or disprove information if I am not 100% sure of its factual accuracy.

That said, the readers of this blog have proven themselves to be an extraordinarily intelligent and insightful group of people. And without you directing me where to go, I would not have been able to make as much progress with this blog during the past 13 months as I have. I hope that this active citizen and government employee participation continues so we can achieve the best results possible for America.

Note: If any readers are interested in volunteering for this site to help me obtain and sort through more information during these busy times, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

MyTwoCensus Editorial: If scandal proves true, the Census Bureau’s violation of the First Amendment is inexcusable!

Friday, March 12th, 2010

Today it was alleged that the Census Bureau’s advertising partner, GlobalHue, directed newspapers across the country to face a loss of Census Bureau advertising dollars if they didn’t write six (presumably positive) articles about the Census Bureau’s efforts. If this proves true, it is an example of governmental coercion and extortion, in that the First Amendment of the United States Constitution guarantees freedom of the press. In democratic (lowercase d) regimes, the government doesn’t mandate media editorial content. (We’re not living in Iran, North Korea, Cuba, or Venezuela, and for that we should be thankful…)

Yet again, history has shown to repeat itself as similar illegal activities took place between the government and the media industry in 2000. In the age of Obama’s government transparency, why have we reverted back to the 1960s — to a time before Ralph Nader authored the book Unsafe At Any Speed — when newspapers feared retribution from auto company advertisements if they ever wrote anything negative about automobiles?

The claims that came to light today fully validate all the work that MyTwoCensus.com has done, but it also makes us wonder: Has the proliferation of fluffy 2010 Census-related stories from other media sources (which may now be directly tied to this scandal) masked problems and deficiencies in 2010 Census operations? Have publishers held stories that were critical of the Census Bureau, for fear that essential advertising dollars would disappear in this age of media industry uncertainty?

MyTwoCensus Editorial: Press Conference Is A Farce Because Of Tech Failure

Friday, December 18th, 2009

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…