Newspaper cuts reduce government coverage

Only 3 state newspapers have a full-time reporter on Beacon Hill
35 percent decline since 2003. SHNS photo.

STUDY: Newspaper cuts have drastically  diminished state capitol coverage

6  percent of Massachusetts newspapers assign any reporters to the statehouse

A new study published by the Pew Research Center found a continuing decline in the number of full-time reporters assigned to state capitols to report on government.

According to the report, less than a third of U.S. newspapers assign any reporters to the statehouse with Massachusetts bringing up the rear where only 6 percent of the state’s newspapers have a reporting presence on Beacon Hill.

Just since Gov. Deval Patrick took office, many regional newspapers have eliminated their State House bureaus with only the Boston Globe, Boston Herald and Springfield Republican maintaining a full-time presence under the Golden Dome.

35 percent decline since 2003

As newspapers, which account for 38 percent of the capitol reporters, have seen a 35 percent decline in representation at state capitols since 2003, Pew reported that non-traditional outlets such as for-profit and non-profit digital organizations, ideological outlets and “high-priced publications aimed at insiders” and staffed with veteran reporters have sprung up to fill the void, making up 17 percent of the capitol press corps, but not fully making up for the loss of newspaper reporters.

The chart on right is courtesy of the Pew Research Center.

Massachusetts is not in the top 10

In Massachusetts, Pew counted 15 full-time statehouse reporters, seven part-time reporters, nine students and one “other” assigned to the State House for a total of 32 reporters. In addition to the Globe, Herald, Republican and State House News Service, only the Associated Press, WLLP-TV in Springfield and WGBH radio maintain full-time government reporters based out of the State House.

Pew found a “strong association” between the population of a state and the length of legislative sessions with the size of the press corps in the capitol. Of the 10 most populous states, only Georgia and North Carolina did not crack the top 10 largest statehouse press contingents. Of the 10 states with the longest duration of sessions, Massachusetts and Maine were the only two states that didn’t rank in the top 10 in the number of full-time statehouse reporters.

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