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Friday, January 26, 2024

Goodbye, DC Bureaus

 Many posts have dealt with news mediaNewspapers are struggling and online publications also have problems.

Cameron Joseph at The Columbia Journalism Review:
On Tuesday, the Los Angeles Times laid off 115 people, more than 20 percent of its total staff. If those cuts went to the bone, in Washington, DC, it was more like an amputation: four of the bureau’s nine reporters were let go. Personally, this was a gut punch. I’d been freelancing for the paper for much of last year, helping the Washington bureau cover a gap—it already lacked a full-time congressional reporter—and now friends of mine had lost their jobs. But I’m not just mourning for them. As the San Francisco Chronicle’s Shira Stein noted, these latest cuts leave just herself, two people from McClatchy, and the five people at the LA Times as the only journalists covering DC for California-based newspapers. That’s eight print reporters covering the entire federal government—for a state of thirty-nine million people. That’s still better than much of the country. Most states don’t have a single reporter covering Washington on the ground anymore.

The Tampa Bay Times, Omaha World-Herald, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Columbus Dispatch, Denver Post, and Salt Lake Tribune all had Washington correspondents until recently, just to name a few. They’re all gone, casualties of layoffs or off to national or insider publications with more functional business models. Their desks in the Senate have been handed over to trade publications or national outlets or left as places for reporters without permanent desks to squat for a day while they cover Congress. It’s bleak everywhere. Fully 130 local newspapers closed in 2023, according to a study by Northwestern University’s Medill Journalism School—an average of more than ten a month. Two-thirds of newspaper journalism roles have been wiped out since 2005—forty-three thousand total jobs. The industry is in free fall almost across the board: cable news organizations are laying people off in an election year (when they usually expand), NPR recently made cuts, and even the mighty Washington Post just completed a large round of buyouts. But if the LA Times—the largest, most powerful paper not on the Eastern Seaboard—can’t maintain a serious presence in the nation’s capital, who can?