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Study: Number of full-time statehouse reporters has dropped significantly

A Pew Research Center study found that few U.S. television stations have anyone regularly assigned to statehouse coverage.
By Frances Burns   |   July 10, 2014 at 12:45 PM   |   Comments

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WASHINGTON, July 10 (UPI) -- The number of reporters covering U.S. statehouses full time dropped sharply in the past decade, a study released Thursday said.

The Pew Research Center report, "America's Shifting Statehouse Press," also found that more reporters covering state government work for nontraditional outlets, including nonprofit organizations, partisan groups and digital news agencies. In Texas, for example, the Texas Tribune, founded five years ago as a nonprofit digital outlet, has the largest statehouse bureau with 15 reporters.

Most television stations, 86 percent, do not have any reporters assigned to the statehouse, even part time.

"I do think there's been a loss in general across the country, and that's very concerning to me," Patrick Marley, a statehouse reporter in Wisconsin for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, told Pew. "We have scads of reporters in Washington covering every bit of news that Congress makes. State legislators have more effect on people's daily lives. We need to have eyes on them, lots of eyes."

Pew used data from the American Journalism Review, which surveyed statehouse coverage five times between 1998 and 2009, and from the Alliance for Audited Media. The alliance, which tracks 801 newspapers, found that only 30 percent assign at least one reporter to the statehouse for any significant amount of time.

Pew's own survey found there were 1,592 statehouse reporters in 2014, with 741 assigned there full time. Researchers who compared the AJR data to the recent figures determined the number of full-time reporters has dropped 35 percent since 2003.

The survey found that Texas has the largest full-time press contingent with 53 reporters and South Dakota has the smallest with just two. Only 6 percent of Massachusetts newspapers assigned a staffer to the statehouse, the lowest share in the country.

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