changing demographics along the course of the New York City Marathon.10 It draws particular contrasts between 2009 ACS and 1980 census long-form data (the premise of the story being that the route has not changed much since it was first adjusted to trek through all five boroughs in 1976, but the demographics have). The difference between 1980 and 2009 median household income is plotted along the marathon’s course, with high peaks in areas where median income has grown the most (e.g., Long Island City) and brief dips below ground level in areas that have become worse off (e.g., Mott Haven, in the Bronx). Similar above- and below-ground graphs along the marathon course are used to examine changes in foreign-born population and particular racial groups. Fessenden briefly mentioned that he also made use of ACS data in background pieces and maps for a series of stories in 2011 to commemorate the bicentennial of Manhattan’s street grid layout—again reconciling the current ACS numbers with historical census data and emphasizing the massive demographic changes in parts of the city.

Fessenden closed by briefly displaying another tract-level map using 5-year (2005–2009) ACS data to describe housing stability in the city; tracts are shaded based on the median year in which householders moved into the area (emphasizing in-moves since 2000 and collapsing all arrivals before 1990 into a single shading category). In this case, a reporter was dispatched to a particular tract in East Elmhurst, Queens, because that tract showed up as the single most stable tract in the city—an average tenure of greater than 30 years. Fessenden rued that this was a case “when the desk gets a little out ahead of you” because the map suggests the tract might be a bit of an outlier; neighboring tracts seem to have considerably more recent housing arrivals, on average. But the reporting did bear out remarkable stability—“and that is our other check,” he said by way of conclusion. Data like the ACS can support the reporting, and vice versa; Fessenden said that he and the The New York Times value the ACS because “there is so much more good in there than there is danger or negativity that we want it in the paper.”


Much of the closing discussion session for the first day of the workshop involved El Nasser and Fessenden being asked for additional comment on the presentation of margins of error.11 Terri Ann Lowenthal (see Section 7–D) asked the presenters to comment on Campbell’s assertion that the ACS promises more than it delivers with respect to the reliability of tract-level data—whether the journalists believe that the increased timeliness of ACS data (not being up to 10


10The marathon graphic is located at

11Campbell had to leave the workshop immediately after his presentation in order to be able to participate in another conference.

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