(NOTE–I see Goldy posted below about trying to raise scratch to send Josh to Olympia. I think that’s a fabulous idea.)
The Advance, the relatively new blog of the state House Democrats, notes an Andrew Garber article lamenting the shrinking pool of traditional reporters that will cover the session in Olympia. A key bit from Garber cited by the Dems:
During the past 15 years, the state population has increased by 25 percent and the amount of tax money spent by the state has more than doubled. Yet the number of print, television and radio journalists covering the state Legislature full time has dropped by about 70 percent.
It is a long-term trend that accelerated this decade and finally fell off a cliff this year because of plunging advertising revenue in face of the recession and a changing media landscape.
In 1993, there were 34 journalists covering the Washington state Legislature. By 2007, there were 17. This year, there may be as few as 10 full-time journalists, mostly newspaper reporters.
The Advance chimes in:
For those of us who work in the Legislature, we would add the point that reporters also keep each other honest. When fewer of them are trying to cover the same amount of news, it’s harder for them to make sure their facts are straight and their stories are objective.
So the seasoned, can’t-pull-the-wool-over-my-eyes Dave Ammons is no longer around to drill legislators about the nitty-gritty details of budgets and bills? The Columbian apparently won’t be sending Kathie Durbin up from Vancouver to be embedded in legislative life for the few months of session? How much does it matter? When we see this same trend across the country and in the D.C. press as well, what does it mean about the Fourth Estate’s ability to keep tabs on Congress and the White House?
I don’t know, smells like opportunity to me. And for once I mean that in an earnest rather than a snarky way. Out of destruction comes rebirth and all that, you know.
News gathering is hard work, at least if it’s done well. I’ve done a small bit of it in my time, in college and with an alternative newspaper here in Vancouver, and most folks are not going to do it without getting paid at least something. Plus there is no substitute for having eyes and ears on the ground.
Talking Points Memo is the exemplary national example of an internet site that does news gathering. Other members of this site, especially Goldy and Josh, certainly gather news. Not sure if the TPM model could be adapted to this state, but the need is clearly present.
The internet has paradoxically created the ability for interested citizens to seek out large volumes of information from multiple sources, including media outlets outside their home market, blogs and primary sources such as government documents.
But normal people still expect the news to be delivered to them, and as time progresses I hope we’ll see a move towards building a progressive infrastructure that can do some more grunt work news gathering. Opining is loads of fun, but we need both.