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Cronkite Hosting McCormick Reporting Institute on Census

June 13, 2011

In partnership with the McCormick Foundation, the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University will produce a McCormick Specialized Reporting Institute training session focusing on census coverage.

The two-day summit, which starts Friday, will bring together the nation’s top census reporters, academics and experts from the U.S. Census Bureau, the Bureau of Justice Statistics and the Pew Research Center for discussions on how journalists can use a wide range of demographic, economic and other data collected by the Census Bureau.

The sessions will be distributed through the Poynter Institute’s News University and the Cronkite School’s podcast and website for use by all journalists later this summer.

The Robert R. McCormick Foundation, a nonprofit organization based in Chicago that funds programs aimed at building a more active and engaged citizenry and strengthening a democratic society, is sponsoring a series of specialized reporting institutes around the country, including the one at the Cronkite School.

“Tapping into the treasure trove of data emanating from the census takes extraordinary expertise,” said McCormick Journalism Program Director Clark Bell. “We expect journalists across the nation will benefit from the creative ideas produced at this workshop.”

Cronkite Dean Christopher Callahan said: “By bringing together experts and journalists, the McCormick Foundation and the Cronkite School hope to improve the quality of public understanding and discourse.”

Steve Doig, the Cronkite School’s Knight Chair in Journalism who is leading the census training effort, said demographic and economic data gathered by the U.S. Census Bureau impacts ordinary Americans in ways most people don’t realize. It ranges from “head counts used for redrawing political boundaries to the detailed workings of every sector our economy and the flow of imports and exports to and from America,” Doig said. “But few journalists have discovered, much less used, most of this wealth of data.”

The workshop, titled “McCormick SRI: Going Deep with Census Demographic and Economic Data,” will focus on “how good stories can be found in each of these interesting data sets,” Doig said.

Speakers include D’Vera Cohn, senior writer for the Pew Research Center; Brian Boyer, news applications editor at the Chicago Tribune Media Group; Paul Overberg, database editor at USA Today; and Rob Gebeloff, database projects editor for The New York Times, among others.

Another McCormick reporting institute was held earlier this month at the Cronkite School. “Covering Public Pensions” brought together 22 competitively selected fellows from 15 states and the District of Columbia. That session was produced by the Society of American Business Writers and Editors, which is based at the Cronkite School.

Warren Watson, executive director of SABEW, said it’s important for journalists to understand the complexities of pension reform and legislation.

“It's a real honor for SABEW and the Cronkite School to be hosting such a topical and
critically important program,” Watson said. “Reporters need to have special topic expertise in this area.”