For more than a year, C-SPAN has aired “America by the Numbers,” a weekly hour-long segment on Washington Journal. The U.S. Census Bureau partnered with C-SPAN to create this program highlighting key statistics from the federal government’s 14 statistical agencies. In all 38 programs have aired.
The focus is on topics in the news – women in the workforce, manufacturing and trade, unemployment, child care, health, education, agriculture, energy and other issues of concern to America. Each program features a government analyst presenting the trends and an outside expert who provides interpretation. Viewers can call to ask questions of both guests and submit inquiries via email and Twitter. These features allow for an interactive dialogue about the statistics behind issues in the news.
This program helps to fill a void. Many Americans are unaware of the role that federal statistics play in their daily lives. The program educates the viewers about the numbers to watch in measuring the nation’s progress and also promotes statistical literacy.
The program grew out of an agreement that former Census Bureau Director Dr. Robert Groves reached with C-SPAN for a program on statistics. The U.S. Census Bureau’s C-SPAN team plans every weekly program, collaborates on content and logistics with the other agencies, helps expert staff prepare, and generally serves as the liaison for all parties involved – all the while meeting the rigorous demand of a weekly deadline to provide 45 minutes of high quality content. In addition, the team has taken steps to promote the program extensively to outside stakeholders.
Agencies participating so far, aside from the Census Bureau, include the Bureau of Economic Analysis, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Bureau of Justice Statistics, National Agricultural Statistics Service, Energy Information Administration, Bureau of Transportation Statistics, National Center for Education Statistics and the National Center for Health Statistics.
- To fill a void in current media coverage – giving the media an opportunity for direct contact and dialogue with statistical agencies in a visible way.
- To build statistical literacy in the public, so that they become more knowledgeable about the data that influences their lives and more discerning in its interpretation. Most Americans are unaware of the role statistics play in major public issues and their daily lives.
- To highlight the use of federal statistics in administering government programs, formulating policy and supporting business growth. These statistics provide Americans with information about how their government is doing.
- To promote public access to the government’s treasure-trove of online statistics.
“America by the Numbers” (ABTN) helps promote statistical literacy among the public – helping the average American learn more about the science of numbers and the science behind the numbers. ABTN publicizes statistics from the Census Bureau and other agencies, an unprecedented means of informing the public on a national scale about the key statistics (poverty, employment, etc).
The Census Bureau is the liaison between C-SPAN and the other federal statistical agencies and coordinates the schedule and production of each segment. To our knowledge, this television series presenting federal statistics on a recurring weekly basis is unprecedented. This collaboration gives Americans greater insight into how their government functions. The collaborative process of working together on a weekly and monthly basis with 14 U.S. federal agencies is innovative in itself, but the processes, standards and communications techniques used to coordinate a news media project of this magnitude are also unique. Innovative social media tactics are detailed to promote each segment’s slides ahead of the segment (when possible) via social media to allow the audience to make even more informed call-in questions during the segment. Promotion occurs through Twitter and Facebook (using a special segment hashtag and using cspan and agency social media handles) as well as regular subscriber lists.