State Capitol Beat Reporting

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State Capitol Beat Reporting

  1. 1. State Capitol Beat Reporting It’s a thin line between reporting and democracy
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  3. 3. In The Beginning  ’60s, ’70s, ’80s-era politics make state capitol reporting popular  Open-government reform, papers had statewide presence  Investigative/Watchdog journalism  “In the ’60s and ’70s you could stay on top of a lot of American politics and government by having great Washington Bureau” – Robin Toner, chief of correspondents, New York Times  Newspapers were flourishing  Morning/afternoon publications  Readership still high  Big advertising = Big budgets
  4. 4. In The Beginning  State capitols were well covered  Statehouse reporters among the elite  1981 – Albany’s Legislative Correspondents Association had 59 members from 31 news organizations (Peters, 2008)  Committee once decided who would get seats inside main New York capitol press room versus seating in outer offices (Peters, 2008)  1970s-1980s – All 20 of Iowa’s state capitol press seats full during crucial votes (David Westphal)  Mid-1980s – Detroit capitol press corps had as many as 25 newspaper reporters alone (Layton & Walton, 2008)
  5. 5. The Beginning Of The End  Newspaper readership begins steady decline, ad dollars go with it  Industry began to plateau  Readership – along with circulation numbers – actually started dropping in 1970s, further decrease in late 1980s and 1990s (Shaw, 1989; Koch, 1998)  Afternoon newspapers thing of the past  Even TV, radio see declining audience  Shift in coverage of hard-hitting news to soft, lighter news, hyper-focused (Jost, 2006)
  6. 6. Trends In Recent Years  What used to be a lucrative business, tough competition for well-rounded, informative local/ state/ national news coverage is weakening (Steiger, 2007)  Newspapers being bought out by larger media conglomerates, companies merging  2007 – News Corp. led by Rupert Murdoch, took over Wall Street Journal and its publisher, Dow Jones & Co.  2007 –Sam Zell, a real estate entrepreneur, bought out the Tribune Co., taking over Los Angeles Times  Newsrooms are shrinking  2005 – Roughly 2,000 positions slashed at newspapers across the nation (Jost, 2006) 500 positions at the New York Times Co.  75 positions at the Philadelphia Inquirer  25 positions at the Philadelphia Daily News 
  7. 7. What Does That Mean For State Capitol Reporting?  As newsrooms, budgets get cut so does the statehouse press corps  Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors: membership declines from 380 in 2006 to 250 in 2008  AJR: Full-time state capitol reporters fall from 543 in 2000 to 510 in 2002 ACRE reports in 2007, number down to 407   Iowa: 20 press corps reporters drops to 3-4  New York: New York Sun, Staten Island Advance, Post- Standard, Daily Gazette of, Times Herald-Record all removed statehouse reporters from Capitol since 2007 (Peters, 2008) Albany’s legislative Correspondents Association: Falls to 51 members  from 29 organizations in 2001, to 42 members from 27 organizations in 2008  Detroit: 25-member press corps drops to 15 in 1998 (Layton & Walton, 1998)
  8. 8. What Does That Mean For State Capitol Reporting?  California: LA Times/Sacramento Bee cut back  Dan Walters sees 25-33 percent shrinkage in state capitol press corps in last few years  Sacramento Bee: 1/3 shrinkage  According to Walters, 12 would be magic number for the Bee’s Capitol bureau
  9. 9. FT = Full-time reporters Current Figures: Session help? = Does paper add one or more full-time staffers for legislative session? AJR Status = Is staffing up, down or unchanged since 2003? ILLINOIS--Down  CALIFORNIA--Down  Paper / FT / Session help? / Status Paper / FT / Session help? / Status Chicago Tribune / 2 / Y / Down Los Angeles Times / 7 / N / Up Chicago Sun-Times / 1 / N / Unchanged San Francisco Chronicle / 2 / N / Down Gatehouse Media / 3 / N / Down Orange County Register / 1 / N / Down Daily Herald / 2 / N / Unchanged Sacramento Bee / 10 / N / Unchanged Rockford Register Star Ga / 0 / N / Down San Diego Union-Tribune / 2 / N / Unchanged Pantagraph / 0 / N / Down Press-Enterprise / 1 / N / Unchanged News-Gazette / 0 / N / Down Fresno Bee / 1 / N / Unchanged Record (Stockton) / 0 / N / Down NEW YORK--Down  Bakersfield Californian / 0 / N / Down Paper / FT / Session help? / Status Ventura County Star / 1 / N / Unchanged New York Times NY / 3 / N / Up MediaNews Newspapers / 3 / N / Down Daily News / 4 / N / Up Gannett News Service / 1 / N / Unchanged Newsday / 1 / N / Down Copley News Service / 0 / N / Down New York Post / 2 / N / Unchanged Buffalo News / 1 / N / Unchanged Watertown Daily Times / 1 / N / Unchanged FLORIDA--Down  Syracuse Post-Standard / 1 / N / Unchanged Paper / FT / Session help? / Status Staten Island Advance / 0 / N / Down Herald/St. Petersburg Times / 5 / Y / Down Daily Gazette / 0 / N / Down Sun-Sentinel / 1 / N / Down Times Union / 3 / N / Up Tampa Tribune / 1 / Y / Down Ottaway News Service / 0 / N / Down Palm Beach Post / 1 / N / Down Gannett Newspapers G / 3 / N / Unchanged Orlando Sentinel / 1 / N / Down Record / 0 / N / Down Fla. Times-Union / 1 / N / Down Post-Journal / 0 / N / Down Daytona Beach News-Journal / 1 / N / Down Tallahassee Democrat / 3 / N / Down
  10. 10. What Does It All Mean?! “There are fewer and fewer people and the amount of information they are collecting and the quality of it has gone down so much that people don’t really know what’s going on up in the Capitol.” – Hannah-Beth Jackson, former assemblywoman
  11. 11. What Does It All Mean?! “The day to day coverage of what’s happening is being covered to a certain extent. What’s missing is the time doing that investigative stuff, where the icing is.” – Dan Walters, Sacramento Bee columnist
  12. 12. Statehouse Reporting And Democracy  Relationship with the public:  Agenda-setting  People often consider topics covered by the media to be important in American politics The more state politics is covered, the more  heightened that perception is (Cooper, 2007) “The press may not be successful much of the time in telling people what to think, but it is stunningly successful in telling its readers what to think about.” – Bernard Cohen
  13. 13. Statehouse Reporting And Democracy  Relationship with public officials:  Politicians use media to learn what the public’s wants, needs (Herbst, 1996)  Politicians use media to further their agendas (Cook 1998)  Method of communication  Connect with the constituents
  14. 14. Statehouse Reporting And Democracy  Symbiotic Relationship:  Lawmakers need media to achieve policy goals (Cook, 1989; Kedrowski, 1996)  In turn news media need lawmakers, have influence in the policy process  The Muckraking Model by Molotch, Protess, and Gordon (1987)
  15. 15. Statehouse Reporting And Democracy “The appetite for content is as strong as its ever been, particularly with Schwarzenegger in that role and particularly with the state in a financial crisis.” – Dan Walters, Sacramento Bee columnist “In a democracy where people make choices, it’s important they make good choices or well-informed choices” – Hanna-Beth Jackson, former assemblywoman “It’s discouraging, because there’s just so much power in the state government … (If newspapers aren’t reporting) it deprives journalism of one of its sources of legitimacy: to be that watchdog. And it’s not as if we’re functioning in a transparent environment. People are working hard to conceal stuff.” – Evan Cornog, associate dean at Columbia University School of Journalism
  16. 16. The Future of Statehouse Reporting  Non-profit organizations  Pew Center on the States  Public Policy Institute of California
  17. 17. The Future of Statehouse Reporting  Internet outlets  The Capitol Morning Report (CA) Published weekdays,  legislative play-by- play Subscription-based   Capitol Alert Free, update  frequently  Pension Tsunami Niche news about  state’s pension issues

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