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New Study Finds Decrease in Reporters Covering State Government, Despite Increase in Media Presence

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BOSTON — A new study finds that the number of full-time reporters covering state government across the country has decreased, despite an increase in media presence at state capitols.

According to a recent poll conducted by the Pew Research Center, the total number of reporters assigned to the 50 state capitols to inform citizens about legislative and administrative activity has increased by 11% since 2014 (the last time the poll was conducted).

However, the poll also shows that far fewer reporters are covering state government as a beat reporter full-time, with just under half of the 1,761 statehouse reporters recorded in the poll covering state government full-time.

This data reflect a decreasing trend in local journalism across the country, as many local newspapers have been shut down or merged into larger online media outlets. These trends make coverage of news affecting specific communities or localities in a particular state much more difficult to access.

The poll also states that other factors of these trends are new nonprofit news outlets which employ statehouse reporters, and an overall shift to more part-time statehouse reporting.

Additionally, the poll states that full-time coverage of state government as a beat reporter often provides the best opportunity to engage with the state legislatures and produce news stories that go beyond the surface level content provided by daily news.

In Massachusetts, the number of reporters covering the Massachusetts State House has increased from 32 to 43 since 2014, and Massachusetts was one of few states that experienced an increase in the presence of full-time journalists since 2014, from 15 to 17.

In addition to the 17 full-time reporters, there are 13 part-time reporters, 11 students, and 2 other types of reporters covering news and events at the Massachusetts State House.

Nonetheless, the nationwide decrease in employment at newspapers has continued, with a 51 percent drop from 2009 to 2019, or 71,000 employees to 35,000; according to another poll conducted by Pew Research Center in April 2020.

Coverage of state government has become more important than ever for the survival of grassroots journalism, especially as major corporations buy out many local newspapers, and partisan politics and biases dominate the mainstream U.S. political sphere.

Local journalism is vital to our communities. As other publications shift focus toward regional journalism, WestfordCAT continues to provide high-quality hyperlocal reporting to our town, free for everyone to read. So  we have a small favor to ask. Every contribution, no matter how big or small, helps us sustain our journalism and keep our community informed. Please consider supporting WestfordCAT for as little as $1 on PayPal.

Alex Svenson
Alex Svenson
Alex Svenson is a senior at Suffolk University and a reporter for WestfordCAT and NECN. He primarily covers local government meetings in Westford and updates from MA Rep. Arciero and U.S. Rep. Trahan. He also covers breaking news stories with a focus on police, crime, and social issues. When not reporting, Alex enjoys sports, music, films, and traveling.