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McCormick, Cronkite Offer Census Online Training

August 7, 2011

In partnership with the McCormick Foundation, the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University is offering free online training for journalists reporting on the U.S. census.

The McCormick Specialized Reporting Institute, “Going Deep with Census Demographic and Economic Data,” offers videos, slide presentations and other materials to help journalists and others understand the wide range of demographic, economic and other data collected by the Census Bureau.

The site captures presentations by 17 top journalists, data experts and census subject area specialists. Each session is approximately 40 minutes long and consists of professionally edited videos and accompanying slide presentations time stamped to match the videos.

Presenters include journalists from The New York Times, USA Today, the Chicago Tribune and The Orange County Register as well as experts from the Census Bureau, the Pew Research Center, ASU, Duke University and the University of Minnesota.

“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.”

The Cronkite School developed the innovative training program under a grant from 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.

Offering the training online was a way to broaden access, said Cronkite Associate Dean Kristin Gilger. “With a traditional training workshop like this, you could reach 20, 30 or 40 people,” she said. “This way, we can reach thousands of people anywhere on the globe with this important and timely information.”

The sessions also will be distributed through the Poynter Institute’s News University and a Cronkite School’s podcast collection on iTunesU.

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 reporters know about this cornucopia of information and how it can be used for stories.”

Specific topics covered include employment and unemployment, county business patterns, income and poverty, jails and prisons, wholesale and retail trade, manufacturing and services, foreign trade, government finances and housing.