Lisa Olivia Fitch | 3/17/2010, 8 p.m.
Millions of official 2010 Census forms arrived in mailboxes this week, and the U.S. Census Bureau, with help from media like the newspaper you are reading, is anxious to complete an accurate count of everyone living in the United States, and avoid a repeat of the undercount fiasco of 2000.
"The Bureau is 'relying on trusted voices of the community' to get the word out' on the importance of completing the form," said New America Media (NAM) Associate Editor Jacob Simas.
"If you talk to any Census Bureau representative, they say that line," Simas added. But it might be a lot less than the reality. "We've called them to task. It's incumbent upon the Bureau to follow through."
According to Simas, NAM organized more than a dozen briefings in 2009 between the U.S. Census Bureau and representatives from 600 ethnic media representatives in key markets, specifically to ensure that the ethnic media--the fastest growing sector of American journalism--would be included in the Bureau's advertising efforts.
"But more than 45% of the ethnic media who attended our roundtables have not received advertising dollars," said Simas.
The U.S. Census has been described as the pre-eminent civil rights issue of 2010, with its results being used to decide how many members of Congress will represent each state and how much government funding will be received in local communities for schools, hospitals and senior centers.
"Communities of color are the ones who stand to benefit the most from the Census, but historically we have been undercounted," wrote NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous in a recent e-mail to members.
NAM Executive Editor and Director Sandy Close, representing the country's largest national collaboration of 2,000 ethnic news organizations, flew to Washington D.C. last month to participate in a congressional hearing chaired by Congressman Lacy Clay, (D-MO): "The 2010 Census Communication Contract: The Media Plan in Hard to Count Areas."
"A small investment in those micro-media outlets that serve the hardest to count communities; an investment that lets these media shape the messages to their own audiences - would have a tremendous impact," she told the Congressional Committee on Information Policy, Census and National Archives.
"Their hunger to participate in the 2010 campaign is intense," Close said of the minority media: "From giants like Univision, Asian language dailies, BET and Clear Channel stations to veteran Black and Spanish-language weeklies, upstart radio and TV Stations, to niche of the niche print and online outlets serving Burmese, Ethiopian, Arab, Russian, Mixtec, Punjabi and Samoan populations."
Close told the committee that the 2010 Census advertising buy is an unprecedented investment in ethnic media, which reaches more than 60 million ethnic adults in the U.S.
These media have seen a 16% growth in audience over five years in contrast to the meltdown of audiences for mainstream media.
"Those media embedded in local communities are essential for inclusive messaging," she said. "They get the Census, they get their community's stake in a complete count, and they get their own."
During one of the NAM briefings last year, a representative from El Tiempo in New Orleans said that because of the 2000 undercount of the local Hispanic community, Coca Cola dropped his paper from their national ad campaign.