A National Journalism Network to Cover the 2020 Census

Mark Hansen, Columbia Journalism School, [email protected]

Mike Ananny, USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, [email protected]

Ben Livingston, Columbia Data Science Institute

Angela Woodall, Columbia Communication and Media Studies

NewsCounts hits the rails! Our "whistle stop tour" from Detroit to Oakland begins January 6. Check out our itinerary and contact us if you are along the route and want to participate.

We urgently need a robust national conversation about the serious and imminent challenges facing the 2020 Census, underscoring the important role it plays in the political, economic and civic life of the nation. To avoid a failed count, we need strong, fact-based reporting to fuel this conversation, and to perhaps point to potential solutions and opportunities. But these are complicated issues, requiring knowledge from local communities as well as subject area experts. We propose a national network of journalists, news organizations, professional bodies, technology companies, schools and universities that can create a national dialog about the census, and help ensure a successful count.

On April first, in years that end in zero, this country participates in a unique national moment. We exercise our constitutional right to be counted in the Decennial Census, a count that influences the structure of our political system through apportionment and the political districting, and dictates how $675 billion in federal funds per year are allocated to local cities and towns. It is a high-quality, independent source of information about life in the United States, a 10-year check on our progress as a nation. From urban planning and economic development to journalism and social science research, the census is a “basemap” of public life.

A failure to count properly and comprehensively, using scientifically sound, culturally engaging, and publicly defensible methods would harm how cities govern, businesses invest, researchers learn, and communities grow. To avoid this failure and ensure that the census continues as the cornerstone of public data collection in the United States, we propose creating a national network of:

These groups will form a new kind of community: a network of experts ready to act as sources and help reporters find fast, high-quality information; a toolkit of timelines and story prompts, to guide reporting before, during, and after the count; mentorship among census experts, quantitative and statistical scientists, senior reporters, and student journalists; and interdisciplinary researchers studying not only technical details of the census, but also its history and cultural meaning.

If you're interested in joining this effort, please complete the form below and we will follow-up as soon as the project begins.

Join News Counts