Labor Secretary Tom Perez and I met recently with more than two dozen journalists to discuss ways in which BLS can improve the information we provide about the economy and how we provide it. I speak frequently with reporters, and so do many staff members at BLS. It’s part of our mission at BLS to be accessible and provide good customer service to help data users understand the data and analyses BLS produces. Typically when we speak to reporters, we’re providing them with information. The discussion Secretary Perez and I had with journalists was different in the sense that reporters were actually providing us with information. BLS has technical and user advisory committees with whom we meet on a regular basis to get advice about our products and procedures. BLS gains many valuable insights from those committees, but this was our first roundtable discussion with members of the media, and I’m really excited about it.
Members of the media are essential distributors of statistics from BLS and other federal statistical agencies. Although it is increasingly easy to get information about the labor market and economy directly from BLS through our website or Twitter feed, most people don’t get their information that way. More often they get it through a broadcast, web, or print news source. Journalists multiply the reach of BLS every time they cover a story that uses our statistics. I truly appreciate how journalists show their audiences the value of an objective data source like BLS. Journalists play a vital role in informing their audiences about subjects such as labor force participation, unemployment, or price changes, but journalists also can teach their audiences how to use data properly and what to trust along the way.
This group of journalists provided a number of really excellent suggestions about how BLS can improve the public’s understanding about the economy. Some of these suggestions might involve new surveys, additional questions in existing surveys, or tapping into data sources that don’t involve surveys. In many cases, however, the types of information these journalists suggested were things that BLS already provides, but we need to do a better job of increasing awareness about these data sources or making them easier to use.
Secretary Perez and I found this discussion to be extremely helpful, and I look forward to further discussions about how best to implement some of these ideas so that we can provide the public with data that are accurate, objective, relevant, timely, and accessible.