Thursday, May 28, 2015

Biggest threat to future of journalism is the decline of local political coverage, Bob Schieffer says

The biggest threat to the future of journalism is the decline of local political coverage, outgoing CBS anchorman Bob Schieffer told NPR's Diane Rehm in an interview on Tuesday.
Schieffer said, "Unless some entity comes along and does what local newspapers have been doing all these years, we're gonna have corruption at a level we've never experienced. . . . Because there's nobody—so many papers now can't afford to have a beat reporter. For example, many papers don't have a city hall reporter anymore. They send somebody to cover the city council meetings, but to cover city hall, you have to be there every day, and you have to know the overall story, not just report whatever happens on a particular day."

Schieffer's remarks prompted Chris Cillizza of The Washington Post to note the concern about shrinking coverage of statehouses and Washington. A Pew Research Center study found that less than 33 percent of newspapers assign a reporter to cover the statehouse and only 14 percent of local television stations have a part-time or full-time statehouse correspondent.(Pew graphic)

Citing The Courier-Journal's elimination of a D.C. correspondent after almost 150 years, Cillizza writes, "The elimination of a reporter covering, say, Washington for a major Kentucky paper means that that job almost certainly won't be coming back. And that means one less set of eyes watching what happens in Washington and relating it back to the people of Kentucky."

Cillizza continues, "As Schieffer notes in the Rehm interview, no one knows what local pols are up to better than the people covering them day in and day out. Sure, national media swoops in on occasion when some local story gets huge—but the reason those stories get on the national radar in the first place is because of the spadework of local reporters."

The hidden cost to readers is that politicians are very much aware that local newspapers are unable to cover everything, Cillizza writes. "Not only are there fewer eyes watching politicians, legislation and the like but also the pols are all-too-well well aware of that fact. More things are tried—in a bad way—by politicians because they know there is a far smaller chance of them getting caught or even called on it."

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