Insight News

Feb 12th

New American Media tells Congress to use the nation's ethnic media more effectively to increase accuracy of the 2010 census count

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WASHINGTON-The US Census Bureau is missing opportunities to provide
reporting instructions to diverse communities in the United States by
failing to fully utilize the ethnic media that can reach more than 60
million adults in those communities, according to testimony from New America
Media (NAM) in Congress today.

Sandy Close, NAM's executive director, called the 2010 Census advertising
program an "unprecedented investment" in ethnic and community media, having
identified 3,000 media outlets across the country. But she cautioned that
many key media outlets were left out, including 47% of those that attended
roundtable sessions organized by NAM and the Census Bureau last year to
learn how they could help with the count.  She noted that several prominent
African American papers had been excluded.

"Many are frustrated - they don't know why they fell through the cracks.
Some are bitter. All very urgently want a role - even if small - and
believe, as I do, that together they can move the needle those extra
percentage points," said Ms. Close, testifying before the Oversight and
Government Reform's Subcommittee on Information Policy, Census and National
Archives. Her organization represents more than 2,500 ethnic media outlets
across the country.

The roundtable discussions organized last year included more than 600 ethnic
media representatives in 12 cities from coast to coast.  The ethnic media
participating included media giants like Univision, Asian language dailies,
BET and Clear Channel stations to established black and Spanish language
weeklies, upstart radio and TV stations, as well as niche print and online
outlets serving Burmese, Ethiopian, Arab, Russian, Mixtec, Punjabi and
Samoan communities.

"Their hunger to participate in the 2010 Campaign is intense-you could cut
the exuberance at these gatherings with a knife," Ms. Close testified.  "For
many media, it was the first time they'd come together as a media sector in
the same city. They get the Census: they get their community's stake in a
complete count, and they get their own."

In citing the importance of an accurate Census count not only on federal
dollars, but private ones as well, she noted the experience of Juan Carlos
Ramos of the El Tiempo Hispanic newspaper in New Orleans. Mr. Ramos said the
2000 Census undercounted Hispanics in New Orleans and as a result Coca Cola
dropped New Orleans, and his paper, from their national ad campaign.

Many ethnic media outlets are frustrated by being excluded from the Census

"From our first briefing in March of 09 until our last one in early
December, ethnic media attendees also expressed a uniform anxiety over the
lack of transparency in the decision making process of the Census ad buy,"
Ms. Close said, adding that she has received correspondence from ethnic
media outlets across the country not been utilized.

Moreover, there was also criticism that some of the communications vehicles
chosen by the Census Bureau are not having the desired impact. She quoted
Joe Orozco, of Hoopa Radio in northern California, lamenting that the Census
spent the "the biggest chunk of money to reach American Indians" on
billboards that don't have much of an impact on isolated reservations like
his. "Most of us don't do a lot of freeway driving," she quoted Mr. Orozco
as saying.

Ms. Close said that hundreds of ethnic media like Hoopa Radio want to inform
and mobilize their communities to participate in the Census.  As the Census
Bureau recognizes the regions with the lowest response rates, she
recommended that the government fund a program similar to a NAM project
launched to reach American Indian and indigenous communities in California.

The Save our Services campaign for Census 2010 replicates an approach that
NAM has pioneered through numerous social marketing campaigns over the last
decade. It relies upon local ethnic media outlets to design their own
messaging campaigns and earned media components.  Under this program, Hoopa
Radio received a small grant of $2,000 that will help pay to develop a PSA
that will grab listeners' attention with a message that says:  "If we don't
let ourselves be counted, they'll say no one lives here and take away our
water rights."

Ms. Close cited reasons why the Census Bureau should utilize the ethnic
media more. She noted that a survey by San Francisco State's Renaissance
Center last year found that 68 percent of ethnic media leaders described
their primary goal as service to the community, with less than a third
listing making a profit as their goal. In addition, she said that while
mainstream media audiences have sharply declined, there has been a 16
percent growth in the ethnic media audiences over the last five years.

"Even a modest investment of $2 million in those outlets that have been left
out or, like Joe Orozco, believe they have more effective ways to message to
their audiences could increase the response rate dramatically in some
regions between the crucial period between April 15 and the end of July,"
Ms. Close said. "More important, it would acknowledge that not just the
primary ethnic news outlets but the entire ethnic media sector has an
indispensible role to play in how government communicates with the

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