SPJ 2020 Journalism Conference • Sept. 12-13, 2020



Census data to provide journalists with an array of new story angles

By Billy O'Keefe

By Samantha Delgado
Journalists are about to hit the jackpot of potential stories when the U.S. Census Bureau releases data from the 2010 census in December.
On Monday, Burt Hubbard, editorial director for the Rocky Mountain Investigative News Network, led a seminar called “What The Heck Do I Do With All This Census Data?”
“In a relatively short period of time, we are going to be bombarded with a lot of information from the census,” said Hubbard. “So customize it to your area, then look more in depth at issues.”
Data for cities with more than 65,000 people has already been released, and the next chunk comes out at the end of the year. The December release will include all of the demographic information previously contained on the long form, which contains all social and economic data.

census.gov

census.gov

“It’s the same release, but everyone chooses to do their own stories,” Hubbard said.
Hubbard said stories that could be mined from this part of the release include poorest and richest neighborhoods, neighborhoods with the most children or seniors and the most highly educated neighborhoods.
Other story ideas Hubbard suggested were the fastest growing cities, counties and neighborhoods, diversity changes in neighborhoods, and areas with the highest concentrations of vacant housing.
On Dec. 31, the population numbers from each state will be made available, and will determine which states gain or lose congressional seats.
In January, the complete demographic profiles of cities and counties with 20,000 or more people based on three years of surveys will be available. From February to March the population counts, housing counts and racial/ethnicity counts will be released and the legislature will use it for redistricting.
Reporters can go to factfinder.census.gov and download numbers into a spreadsheet from the website.
Historical censuses are often combed by genealogists and historians, but journalists can find some fun and quirky stories, too.
Different stories gleaned from past census data include the gender gap in earnings and a profile on an Asian market that advertised in Spanish. Another story that census data turned up was the tale of a woman in Wyoming who never went to school, but taught herself to read from magazines. At one point, she took the GRE and passed with flying colors.




The EIJ News