Le recenti trasformazioni nel territorio dei media hanno portato a grossi cambiamenti, in America, per quanto riguarda la stampa locale collegata a Washington. Secondo i dati raccolti dall’ufficio stampa del Senato tra il 2009 ed il 2014, il numero di reporter dei giornali locali accreditati dal Senato per coprire le news sul Congresso è diminuito dell’11%.
Le testate che danno un impiego a questi giornalisti non sono concentrate in un’unica area degli Stati Uniti, ma si trovano sparse lungo il paese. Inoltre, 21 dei 50 Stati, come si legge su Pewresearch.org, non ha alcun quotidiano locale con il relativo corrispondente che possa seguire da Washington le questioni relative al Congresso.
Se questi 21 stati tendono ad avere una popolazione esigua, e quindi delle delegazioni congressuali più contenute, ci sono delle eccezioni come per esempio l’Arizona e l’Indiana. Questi ultimi, che possono contare su una delegazione formata da 9 membri, non possono contare su un quotidiano locale con un proprio corrispondente da Washington.
Ci sono altri modi, comunque, con i quali la stampa locale può accedere ad una copertura regionale su Washington. Dagli archivi Sec del 2014, l’anno in cui l’ufficio stampa del Senato pubblicò l’elenco dei quotidiani, il gruppo McClatchy era presente con giornali di sua proprietà diffusi in 14 stati con 36 giornalisti accreditati. Gannett, invece, poteva contare su proprie testate in 30 stati e 18 reporter accreditati al Campidoglio.
Malgrado questo declino, infine, c’è da tener presente che alcuni quotidiani hanno ristabilito la propria presenza a Washington. E’ il caso di alcune stazioni radiofoniche, come per esempio Alaska Public Radio e St. Louis Public Radio. Anche un numero ristretto di siti di digital news fa lo stesso, come il Texas Tribune, il MinnPost ed il Connecticut Mirror.
Recent shifts in the media landscape have meant big changes within the Washington press corps – including a
decline in the number of Washington-based reporters who work for local newspapers. Between 2009 and 2014, the
number of D.C.-based reporters for local newspapers around the country who are accredited by the Senate to
cover Congress declined by 11%, according to data from the U.S. Senate Press Gallery, which accredits Capitol
Papers that do employ these reporters – who are tasked in part with interpreting the decisions and policies
of Washington for readers back home – are not clustered in any one part of the country, but rather are spread
out around the United States. But 21 of 50 states do not have a single local daily newspaper with its own
dedicated D.C. correspondent accredited to cover Congress.
While these 21 states tend to have smaller populations and thus small congressional delegations, there are
notable exceptions. Arizona and Indiana (both with a nine-member delegation) have no local paper with its own
dedicated D.C. correspondent.
There are other means by which a local paper can access regional coverage of Washington, however. Here, the
Washington bureaus of large newspaper companies play a key role. For example, according to SEC filings from
2014 – the year the Senate Press Gallery list was published – McClatchy owned papers in 14 states and had 36
reporters accredited by the Press Gallery, some with regional assignments. Gannett owned papers in 30 states
and had 18 reporters accredited to be on the Hill. The specifics of these regional assignments are not listed
in the Press Gallery.
But additional research suggests that while some of these correspondents at corporate bureaus focus on a
specific state (for instance, one of McClatchy’s D.C. correspondents covers immigration, labor and North
Carolina), others are spread across multiple papers in several states (one Gannett correspondent describes
her beat as encompassing Tennessee, South Carolina, Alabama, Virginia and North Carolina).
Traditionally, news organizations around the country sent their own reporters to Washington to keep tabs on
their elected lawmakers and find out how readers would be locally affected. But declining revenues and budget
cuts have forced changes to this approach. For those whose job it is to translate Washington for communities
outside the Beltway, the trend is troubling. “It is only the regional media outlets that keep close ongoing
tabs on lawmakers, politicians, lobbyists, issues, interest groups from discrete geographic areas, and as the
number of regional reporters has dwindled, that watchdog function has absolutely been watered down,” said
Todd Gillman, Washington bureau chief for The Dallas Morning News.
Another 14 states have just one D.C.-based correspondent from a local newspaper, according to the 2014
Gallery. And that list includes Washington state, with a sizable congressional delegation of 10 members,
whose lone D.C. correspondent has since left The Seattle Times with the closure of the paper’s Washington
That leaves a total of 15 states with multiple local newspaper reporters (two or more) stationed in D.C. to
cover Washington on residents’ behalf. Massachusetts, a state with a nine-member delegation, stands out here
for having eight D.C.-based newspaper reporters accredited to cover Congress, all of whom work for The Boston
New York and California are both large states with major media markets. While they are listed as having
dozens of D.C.-based newspaper reporters, the numbers include not just reporters covering local delegations,
but also national and political affairs for papers such as The New York Times or Los Angeles Times. For this
reason, the numbers here may actually overstate the extent to which these two states are served with
localized coverage of the federal government.
Amid the declines, there are a number of newspapers that have reestablished a Washington presence. A few
public radio stations, such as Alaska Public Radio and St. Louis Public Radio, support a D.C. correspondent.
And a handful of young digital news outlets, such as The Texas Tribune, MinnPost and Connecticut Mirror, now
do the same. But for now, at least in sheer numbers, they are not enough to fully replace what has been lost
over the years.