Between 1998 and 2009, American Journalism Review conducted five tallies of newspaper reporters assigned to the statehouse full time. Each tally since 1998 showed decline. The most precipitous drop occurred between 2003 and 2009, coinciding with large reductions in overall newspaper staffing prompted by the recession and major changes in the news industry. To gauge the loss of reporters through 2014, Pew Research went back to the 2003 AJR list and examined statehouse staffing levels at newspapers that were accounted for in the last two AJR tallies—2003 and 2009 and in our 2014 accounting.1 Those papers lost a total of 164 full-time statehouse reporters—a decline of 35%—between 2003 and 2014. That percentage is slightly higher than the decline in newspaper newsroom staffing overall. According to the American Society of News Editors, full-time newspaper newsroom staffing shrunk by 30% from 2003 through 2012 (the latest year for which data are available).
- Less than a third of U.S. newspapers assign any kind of reporter—full time or part time—to the statehouse. According to the Alliance for Audited Media, only 30% of the 801 daily papers it monitor send a staffer to the statehouse for any period of time. In Massachusetts, whose capital is the largest city (Boston), just 6% of the state’s newspapers have any reporting presence at the statehouse—the lowest percentage of newspaper representation of any state.
- Fully 86% of local TV news stations do not assign even one reporter—full time or part time—to the statehouse. Of the 918 local television stations identified by BIA/Kelsey and Nielsen, just 130 assign a reporter to cover the statehouse. Overall, television reporters account for 17% of the total statehouse reporting pool and considerably less (12%) of the full- time mix.
- About one-in-six (16%) of all the reporters in statehouses work for nontraditional outlets, such as digital-only sites and nonprofit organizations. They also account for 17% of the 741 reporters who work at the state capitols full time. The largest statehouse bureau in the country, with 15 full-time staffers, is operated by the five-year-old Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, digital-only outlet. And in New York, the third most populated state, the largest bureau (with five full-time reporters) belongs to Capital New York, a commercial digital outlet founded in 2010.
- Students account for 14% (223 in all) of the overall statehouse reporting corps. Most students work at the statehouse part time and for short tenures. Many of these students (97) work for legacy outlets—newspapers, TV or radio stations, or wire services—while the other 126 work for outlets ranging from school newspapers to nonprofit news organizations.