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COLUMN: The statehouse newspaper reporter is an endangered species

Friday, May 28, 2010 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 11:32 a.m. CDT, Friday, May 28, 2010

Is the statehouse newspaper reporter a dying breed? Not necessarily — but the number of newspaper reporters based in state capitol bureaus across the nation is dwindling quickly.

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Last spring, the American Journalism Review published a study where results showed a decrease of more than 30 percent over a six-year period in the number of newspaper reporters covering state capitols full time. This survey was released while I was reporting in Jefferson City so it seized my attention and I continued reading similar reports published in other media.

The cuts affect Missouri's statehouse press corps as well. Several newspapers have cut entirely or reduced their statehouse bureau staffs, including The Joplin Globe and The St. Joseph News-Press.

The statehouse reporter may represent a comparably small portion of the journalism industry, but that role must survive. Democracy does not exist if the government — federal, state and local — is not held accountable by reporters who know the system and know how to report on it.

A month ago, I remembered the study and reports while I was searching for an idea for my capstone project. I doubted many people realized the importance of the statehouse newspaper reporter, so I contacted several reporters in the Jefferson City press corps and asked them to make a case for why the beat should live on.

This is their story.

 


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