Tuesday, January 12, 2016

D.C.-based reporters for local newspapers still dwindling; many states lack any such reporters

From 2009 to 2014 "the number of D.C.-based reporters for local newspapers around the country who are accredited by the Senate to cover Congress declined by 11 percent, according to data from the U.S. Senate Press Gallery, which accredits Capitol Hill journalists," Kristine Lu and Jesse Holcomb report for the Pew Research Center. (Pew map)

The number of states without a dedicated D.C. reporter has probably grown. Pew said 21 states lacked such a reporter in 2014, but last year The Courier-Journal of Louisville, owned by Gannett Co. Inc., closed its Washington bureau though its two senators were Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and presidential candidate Rand Paul.

Gannett and some other media companies still cover Washington with reporters assigned to more than one state delegation. Gannett, which owns papers in 30 states, had 18 D.C. reporters when Pew did its survey. Since then it has abolished Gannett News Service and created the "USA Today Network," which includes many of the former GNS reporters, such as Maureen Groppe, who is technically a USA Today reporter but writes for Gannett papers in Indiana and Michigan.

McClatchy, which had 36 D.C. reporters and owns papers in 14 states, recently reassigned D.C. reporter Curtis Tate to cover stories for papers in Wichita, Belleville, Ill., and Lexington, Ky. Tate's reporting on oil trains won an award from the National Press Foundation. Another McClatchy reporter "covers immigration, labor and North Carolina," Pew notes, but most such reporters "are spread across multiple papers in several states (one Gannett correspondent describes her beat as encompassing Tennessee, South Carolina, Alabama, Virginia and North Carolina)." Community Newspaper Holdings Inc. recently hired a D.C. reporter, Kery Murakami.

Of the states that lack a Capitol Hill reporter, most "tend to have smaller populations and thus small congressional delegations," with the exception of Arizona and Indiana (both with a nine-member delegation). "Traditionally, news organizations around the country sent their own reporters to Washington to keep tabs on their elected lawmakers and find out how readers would be locally affected. But declining revenues and budget cuts have forced changes to this approach."

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