Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Four months in, Illinois Capitol coverage project is booming

Illinois newspapers were so understaffed that most of the state capitol press corps disappeared, so the Illinois Press Foundation launched a collaboration to help papers team up to share coverage and content. Four months later, Capitol News Illinois is doing well: "Nearly 300 papers around Illinois have already reprinted its content, and several editors say its coverage has become an invaluable fixture in their papers," Mari Cohen reports for Columbia Journalism Review.

The program's success "suggests that in the face of existential threats to the news industry, turning to collaboration—and away from traditional notions of competition—can pay off for local news," Cohen writes.

It is also a hopeful sign for political journalism. A Pew Research Center study found that Illinois went from 12 full-time statehouse reporters in 2009 to five in 2014, the sharpest such decline in the nation. That was especially troublesome in a state known for political corruption. The lack of reputable coverage was compounded when partisan and ideologically driven outlets tried to fill the void and provide coverage to Illinois papers. "Capitol News aims to offer a rigorous nonpartisan option," Cohen reports.

CNI, which has three reporters and a full-time intern, "roughly doubled the number of full-time print newspaper reporters working at the statehouse," Cohen reports. The project receives funding from the Chicago-based McCormick Foundation and the Illinois Press Association, parent of the foundation. All CNI content is free to IPA members.

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