Some weeks ago, I was "randomly picked" to participate in The American Community Survey -- an extensive list of questions dealing with housing, finances, transportation and citizenship.
At first I ignored the U.S. Census Bureau/ Commerce Departments invitation to go on line and answer the questions thinking it might be a scam. It is not. The Federal Government wants to know and makes it plain "your response is required by law"
Following a couple follow up appeals by mail to go online to to complete the form I received a paper copy of the survey which had ten pages of questions that had to be answered. Failure to answer would result in a $5, 000.00 fine and if you made up answers the government could hit you with a $10, 000 dollar fine.
No one I knew had ever heard of the American Community Survey and most were shocked to see the questions they asked. (We'll go into those in my final report).
So being a reporter I decided I needed an interview with someone at the Census Bureau/ Commerce Department for the Armstrong and Getty Show.
That's when the fun really began.
The staffer at the 800 number given on the Census Departments letter you were supposed to use if you had any questions wound up giving me a wrong number for a person I could interview.
A call back to the 800 number got me referred to the Census Public Information Officer in Maryland who asked me to put my interview request and questions about the survey in writing and e mail it to him. I did. He shut me down saying they didn't have a SME available for an interview. SME it turns out means Subject Matter Expert. But he did send me written responses to the sample questions I sent him.
Then a week ago an actual census department person showed up at my door and left her card.
I called and asked her an interview. She referred me to her regional boss who referred me....yes back to the Census Bureau Public Information office in Maryland.
This morning (Friday March 8) I talked with her about an interview and questioned why the Public Information Office didn't have someone to do interviews about the survey they promoted as a way for the public to have input into how tax dollars are spent.
She'll call me back Monday with an answer to the interview.
Look for more updates.
On an entirely different note:
You may have heard my top of the hour newscasts for Armstrong and Getty . I lock them out using a different adjective each hour:
I'm Marshall Phillips ...those are your Sacramento headlines...and now another AUDACIOUS ... hour of the Armstrong and Getty Show..
Now I need your help--do you have any great adjectives for the next hour of the show.
Shoot me your ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org