For generations of journalists, covering the statehouse has been a prestigious beat. It typically came with a desk in the building, and ample access to lawmakers. It was not an assignment for a novice. You worked your way up to it, and you had to be good. Bringing down a governor, exposing corruption—all in a day’s work. The statehouse is where reputations were made and politicians ran scared, knowing multiple news organizations could be on their case.
But that era is ending, a casualty of newspaper economics and a changing society. On a good day, state news is under-covered, especially compared to its importance. While multitudes of reporters in Washington chronicle the gridlocked Congress, the number of full-time reporters covering 50 statehouses has fallen to roughly 300, down from 500 in 2003, according to the Pew Research Center.
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