San Francisco Public Press to examine Census Bureau’s reliance on digital strategy

Renaissance Journalism has awarded a $10,000 reporting grant to San Francisco Public Press to investigate how the lingering digital divide might undermine Census 2020, the federal government’s massive effort to count every man, woman and child in the United States.

This year marks the first time that the U.S. Census Bureau will conduct the decennial count primarily online, creating a possible participation barrier for those without reliable access to the internet. Even in affluent and tech-savvy San Francisco, 10,000 people live in homes that lack internet access and 8,000 live on the streets or in temporary shelters.

To investigate the possible impact in the city, San Francisco Public Press plans to partner with the Community Tech Network, Senior and Disability Action, the Coalition on Homelessness and others who represent residents who lack digital services or who mistrust or are unfamiliar with web-based technologies. Through interviews and group conversations, journalists will identify the issues that they will encounter and whether the Census Bureau has back-up plans to alleviate the problems.

San Francisco Public Press, a nonprofit news organization, reports via the Internet, a quarterly print publication and a low-power radio station, KSFP-LP 102.5 FM.

State and local government agencies and community organizations say it’s vital to ensure an accurate census because the data is used to allocate federal funds and determine California’s political representation in Congress. Census data translates into $76 billion in federal funds to the state annually. Community organizations have expressed fear that the poor, non-English speakers, racial and ethnic minorities, children and other so-called “hard-to-count” groups may be missed by the census.

Earlier, Renaissance Journalism announced five grants to Bay Area news organizations for additional reporting projects zeroing in on the equity implications of Census 2020.

* Bay City News Foundation, the nonprofit behind and the Bay City News wire service, will focus on the census and emerging Southeast Asian and Pacific Islander communities in the Bay Area.

* El Timpano, a grass-roots reporting lab, will encourage census participation in East Oakland’s Latinx immigrant population by bringing a “community microphone” to popular community-gathering places, such as libraries, busy street corners, schools, churches, and transit plazas, so that people can share—in Spanish— their stories and concerns about the census.

* KBBF 89.1 FM, a bilingual public radio station based in Santa Rosa, will reach out to Latin American migrant workers, by providing informational radio features in Spanish, as well as in two or three of the most widely spoken indigenous languages, such as Mixteco and Triqui.

* Radio Bilingüe Latino Public Radio will collaborate with the grassroots nonprofit Asociación Mayab of the Bay Area to produce reports, creative productions and talk shows on the views and experiences of Bay Area Mayans about the Census.

* YR Media (formerly known as Youth Radio) will address the well-documented undercount of minors and children by empowering their students to create a “peer-to-peer informational campaign that mobilizes youth as community messengers who will educate one another, and their families.”


Renaissance Journalism’s census reporting grants are supported by Silicon Valley Community Foundation, The Nathan Cummings Foundation and Ford Foundation.