Twenty-five reporters and editors from across the nation attended the Census 2020 Coverage Convening, hosted by the Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy. The convening also welcomed a learning track for 31 city officials who will work closely with 2020 Census outreach and support efforts in their respective municipalities.

From the Atlanta market, Marshall Latimore – editor of The Atlanta Voice – and Jeremy Redmon — a reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution who covers immigration, refugees, politics and the military – were selected to attend the convening, along with Rashad Taylor, who represented the City of Atlanta.

“The Census 2020 Convening was a highly informative set of sessions that not only prepared me and other journalists to cover the 2020 Census but also introduced us to an incredible set of resources and perspectives to consider as we tackle this large feat during a highly contested election season,” Latimore said about the workshops.

Over several focused sessions, including ones titled, “The 2020 Census: Why It Matters and What’s At Stake,” “Census Disinformation 101,” and “Hard-to-count Populations,” the journalists and city executives engaged in a full-day of programming designed to help prepare journalists to cover the United States’ first digital census and to encourage city leaders to share outreach strategies.

Further, both groups got an opportunity to network and probe former Census Bureau leaders, Harvard faculty members and researchers, and veteran journalists.

Highlights from the convening included an opening session led by former US Census Bureau Director John Thompson, who gave a thorough and in-depth analysis of what journalists should expect over the next 24 months. 

Thompson’s presentation also discussed the number of modernizations that will be implemented by the Census Bureau for the first time with the upcoming census, including an emphasis on getting citizens to self-respond online and via telephone. 

Even though self-response was offered via the Internet in the 2010 Census, now — for the first time — the bureau is offering the Internet as the primary self-response option for most households beginning with the 2020 Census, Thompson said. The 2020 Census is also the first time citizens will be able to self-respond via telephone.

In response to concerns to the Bureau’s heavier emphasis on self-response online and via telephone would negatively impact the infusion of employment opportunities created with each Census, Thompson assured that the Bureau would still hire as many enumerators, particularly for the non-response follow-up window.

“The Census is still going to hire a lot of people,” he explained. “We’re talking 400,000 to 500,000 people. They typically hire in communities with low-response rates — the self-response option was put in place so that more adequate, focused resources would go to the non-response follow up efforts. Those are where the hires come into place.”

In fact, Thompson said the bureau may have challenges in finding people to hire, considering the current low rate of unemployment. He contrasted it with high rates of un

In another session, “Hard-to-count Populations,” its facilitators Beth Lynk, director of Census Counts Campaign for The Leadership Conference Education Fund, and Angela Manso, director of Policy and Legislative Affairs for the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials’ (NALEO) Educational Fund, revealed a number of disparities in enumeration that has led to major undercount, and, in some cases, overcount of some respondents.

One of the most alarming conclusions from past censuses was that very young children are most likely to be excluded from the Census count, Lynk said. 

In fact, the 2010 Census missed 2.2 million very young children and double counted 1.2 million, for a net undercount of 1 million children, according to a 2016 report published by Child Trends and the NALEO Educational Fund titled, “The Invisible Ones: How Latino Children Are Left Out of Our Nation’s Census Count.”

The report also revealed that the undercount rate for very young Latino children was 7 percent and 6.3 for African American children.

Manso and Lynk’s presentation also shared a number of studies conducted by groups around the country to engage with specific hard-to-count populations of the best practices to elicit high response rates from their peers, including Hispanic, Asian American, African Americans, Arab Americans, Native Americans, and others.

Programming concluded with an interactive session facilitated by independent nonprofit research institute Data & Society on Thursday morning in which the city officials and journalists were divided into groups and guided through a crisis scenario putting to use the information and tactics they’d learned over the two days.

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