Thursday, January 05, 2017

Post columnist, who knows the nation better than most, says news organizations need more bureaus

Chris Cillizza, a Washington Post political columnist who earned his stripes keeping up with local and state politics all over the nation, has a recommendation for journalism paymasters who worry that their newsrooms' surprise at Donald Trump's victory indicated that they are out of touch with the country: "News organizations should commit to opening at least five bureaus in midsize and smallish cities somewhere in the middle of America in 2017."

Why? "Unlike a reporter who swoops into a city or a state for a story for which, at most, they will spend three days on the ground, establishing bureaus in these cities would, over time, make these reporters part of the community in ways that would lend them truly valuable perspective and insight into how Americans live, work and think. . . . Part of the reason we collectively didn't see Trump coming is not because we didn't have enough people, but because we didn't have people in the right places."

Cillizza writes that he has "no set list," but offers examples: Omaha (population 444,000); Knoxville (185,000); Dallas (1.2 million); Missoula (71,000) and Columbus (787,000). "Trump carried all five states," Cillizza notes. "The states represent significant geographic diversity. They range from tiny (Missoula) to pretty darned big (Dallas)."

My friend Chris apparently picked Knoxville, city of my birth, to represent the South. Chattanooga or Tupelo might be more representative. And I'm sure many will quibble with the others. But there are scores of possibilities, and Chris has a good idea, so I hope some paymasters in the news business will see the value of it.

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