Friday, October 10, 2008
The Future of Statehouse Reporters
The Thicket reports that Statehouse Reporters are an endangered species. In a recent survey of state legislatures, 56% of respondents said that their local newspaper did not maintain a capitol bureau. In the past 10 years, there has been an 11% increase of newspapers using part-time reporters to cover the legislature. Of responding newspapers, 20% have cut their news hole for legislative coverage by 20%. Even though almost of the newspapers responding said that they are devoting the same or more coverage to the legislature, they are doing so with fewer reporters.
The same survey notes that there has been an explosion of bloggers covering the legislature, both as independents or affliated with a newspaper.
The New York Times came out with this story a few days ago about the exodus of statehouse reporters in Albany. While it seems more related to cutting costs than lack of interest, it is distressing to those who believe that journalists should serve as public watchdogs in the seat of power. As a Columbia University School of Journalism dean said, "it deprives journalism of one of its sources of legitimacy: to be that watchdog. And it’s not as if we’re functioning in a transparent environment. People are working hard to conceal stuff.”
Hawaii newspapers do a good job in covering the Legislature; we'd hate to see an exodus of reporters from the capitol, especially during the intense session period from January to May. Right now, The Honolulu Advertiser, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Stephens Media, and the Associated Press all maintain capitol bureaus.