Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Illinois papers closing, cutting statehouse bureaus

Financial pressures on the newspaper industry continue to shrink statehouse news bureaus that have long brought localized and occasionally groundbreaking coverage to their readers, many of them rural.

The latest example is the Rockford Register Star, which closed its Springfield bureau on Monday, "dumping bureau chief Aaron Chambers, who is generally considered one of the best reporters under the dome," Rich Miller writes on The Capitol Fax Blog.

“Frankly, I made a choice between the bureau in Springfield and local news in the Rock River Valley,” the paper's home base, Executive Editor Linda Grist Cunningham said. “It’s a loss, but losing another local reporter would have been worse.” The paper, which at last report had a circulation of 56,000, was bought by now-troubled GateHouse Media from Gannett Co. Inc. in April 2007. GateHouse also owns the State Journal-Register in Springfield, but the Rockford paper's story made no mention of using its sister paper for statehouse stories.

Miller adds on the blog, "The Champaign News-Gazette closed its bureau earlier this year, putting Kate Clements Cohorst out of a job. The [Chicago] Tribune eliminated one of its Statehouse positions on Friday, laying off the incredibly hard-working Jeff Meitrodt, who was recruited from New Orleans not long ago. And, as of yet, the AP has not filled the vacancy created when Ryan Keith was hired by the State Journal-Register. So, that’s two bureaus and four reporting slots gone from the Statehouse this year alone, and it’s only August." Miller's post had 59 comments as of this posting. (Read more)

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