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Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Mixed News on Statehouse Reporting

Elisa Shearer and colleagues at Pew:

A new Pew Research Center study finds that 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 this study was conducted. The gain comes largely from two main developments: new nonprofit news outlets that are employing statehouse reporters, and a shift to more part-time statehouse reporting.

Indeed, although the total number of statehouse reporters has increased, fewer reporters are now covering state governments full time. Out of the 1,761 statehouse reporters identified by this study, just under half (850, or 48%) report on the statehouse full time. This means that they are assigned to the state’s capitol building to cover the news there on a full-time basis – either year-round or during the legislative session – reporting on everything from legislative activity to the governor’s office to individual state agencies. Being fully devoted to this coverage often provides the greatest opportunity to engage with the statehouse and produce stories that go beyond the basic contours of daily news. The remaining 911 statehouse reporters either cover the beat part time, are students/interns (whether at a university-run news service or at another news outlet) or are other supporting staff.

This is a notable change from 2014, when more than half of statehouse reporters were covering state government on a full-time basis. The total number of full-time statehouse reporters nationally has fallen from 904 in 2014 to 850 in 2022, while the number of reporters covering statehouses less than full time has risen markedly (from 688 to 911).