Census works to repair image

greenspun.com : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Census works to repair image after mailings go out with wrong addresses

by Genaro C. Armas, Associated Press, 02/28/00 WASHINGTON - Officials with the Census Bureau -- the agency charged with compiling accurate statistics on the population -- worked Monday to repair the bureau's public image after it sent out 115 million census mailings with the wrong addresse

02/28/00 -Bureau downplays mix-up

A printing glitch caused an extra digit to be printed before each recipient's street address, Census Bureau Director Kenneth Prewitt said. For instance, instead of reading "10 Main St.", the address would read "110 Main St."

The error only affected mailings sent to households reminding them of the upcoming head count, and they will get to the intended addresses anyway, the bureau insisted. The actual census surveys, which will be sent out in late March, have the correct addresses, Prewitt said.

"The problem is cosmetic rather than operational. In describing the problem as cosmetic, I do not intend to trivialize it. The public image of the census is nearly as important as the actual operations of the census," he added.

The mailings will still go through because a computer bar code imprinted on them, which Postal Service scanners read to sort mail, contains the right address, allowing carriers to deliver them to the proper homes, according to officials at the Census Bureau and the Postal Service.

Still, Prewitt acknowledged the mistake creates a public relations problem. Bureau officials are putting out new ads this week urging residents to open the census letter when it gets to their home.

Quality-control checks by the printer, Freedom Graphic Systems of Milton, Wis., and government officials did not catch the mistake, he said.

Freedom Graphic Systems had a $5.9 million contract with the Government Printing Office to produce the mailings, and it was unclear if any money would be refunded, said Anthony Allighen, government projects coordinator at the company.

"At this point, I don't think anybody has gone that far yet," he said.

The error was first discovered last week by postal workers in New England, officials said. Until then, Census operations had been relatively glitch-free.

On Monday, officials noted they were ahead of schedule in attracting 1.7 million qualified applicants to fill more than 860,000 temporary jobs -- mostly workers who will go door-to-door this summer to get information from people who did not mail back their surveys.

This is the first time the bureau is using an informational mailing in advance of the questionnaire to publicize the census, which occurs every ten years.

Congressional overseers differed on how the public would react to the error.

"The Census Bureau sends an advanced notification letter with the hopes of raising public awareness that the Census is coming, and oddly enough, this error may help dojust that," said Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., ranking member of the House Census subcommittee.

Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Dan Miller, R-Fla., said he has asked the General Accounting Office and the Commerce Department's Inspector General's Office to evaluate the long-term implications of the error


See previous articles


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), February 29, 2000

Moderation questions? read the FAQ