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Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Filling a State News Void

 Elahe Izadi at WP:

With funding from foundations and a variety of donors, States Newsroom formed two years ago to attempt to fill a void in what many government watchdogs and civil-society experts believe is one of the biggest manifestations of the local journalism crisis — the dire shortage of reporters covering state government.

On Monday, States Newsroom will announce plans to nearly double its presence, from its current 25 states to about 40 over the next two and a half years. It will open its next five outlets in Nebraska, Alaska, Arkansas, South Carolina and Kentucky. It’s also launching “News from the States,” a new online clearinghouse to showcase all their affiliates’ reporting.

The number of newspaper reporters dedicated to covering statehouses has been declining for decades, dropping by 35 percent between 2003 and 2014 and outpacing overall newspaper job losses over that time, according to Pew Research Center survey. And that was before the more recent blows to the newspaper industry, with nearly 6,000 journalism jobs and 300 newspapers vanishing between 2018 and early 2020, according to a University of North Carolina study, even before the pandemic worsened their economic picture.

Enterprising activists, interest groups, bloggers and trade publications have attempted to fill the gap by monitoring the machinations of lawmakers and regulatory agencies. Nonprofits have also increasingly stepped up, sometimes in collaboration with corporate media, such as the Associated Press’s partnership with Report For America, which partially funds salaries for reporters at local news organizations. ProPublica expanded its local reporting network to pay for journalists at seven organizations to focus squarely on state government.